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Armenia/Azerbaijan: France To Send Team On Karabakh Dispute

Munich, 26 February 1997 (RFE/RL) - The three co-chairs of the deadlocked negotiations on the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute have agreed more preparations are necessary before negotiations can resume. The co-chairs -- Russia, the United States and France -- held a two-day meeting in Copenhagen this week to discuss what can be done to revive negotiations, which have been suspended since the end of last year.

Diplomats involved in the talks tell RFE/RL that it was agreed that France should send a team to the region next week to discuss the situation with all parties. The three co-chairs will then meet again, probably in Paris, to decide when to resume negotiations with Armenia and Azerbaijan.

France and the United States are the new co-chairs of the negotiations, along with Russia, which holds the post permanently. The French team to go to the region next week will be led by its chief negotiator, Georges Vaugier.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which sponsors the negotiations, arranged a ceasefire in May 1994, but has been unable to to convert it into a a permanent settlement.

Nagorno-Karabakh, populated mostly by ethnic Armenians, is an enclave inside Azerbaijan. Fighting erupted in 1988 after the ethnic Armenians declared sovereignty.

The OSCE Summit in Lisbon in December attempted to draw up the basic conditions for a settlement, but the conditions were rejected by Armenia, which considered them to favor Azerbaijan. The proposal was for Nagorno-Karabakh to remain part of Azerbaijan, but be granted the highest degree of autonomy. The proposed statement said unequivocally that the territorial integrity of both Armenia and Azerbaijan should be maintained.