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Armenia/Azerbaijan: Karabakh Negotiations Resume Next Month

Vienna, 11 March 1997 (RFE/RL) - Negotiations on resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute resume in Moscow at the beginning of April, when negotiators from Armenia and Azerbaijan confer with Russia, the United States and France

A three-day meeting beginning April 1 will be the first session since negotiationms process broke down in November last year. Russia, the United States and France are co-chairs of the negotiations, sponsored by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

An OSCE spokesman today tells RFE/RL that no new proposals for settling the dispute had been offered.

"Each side," he says, "remains firmly fixed in its old position. We have to find some way of energising the discussions to get them out of the rut."

Nagorno-Karabakh is an enclave inside Azerbaijan largely populated by ethnic Armenians. Fighting erupted in 1988 after the ethnic Armenians declared sovereignty. The OSCE arranged a ceasefire in May 1994, but has been unable to make progress towards a permanent political settlement.

The OSCE spoksman said the three co-chairs will meet in Paris Monday and Tuesday to discuss last week's visit to Armenia by the French negotiator Jacques Blot. On Wednesday, Blot will present a report to all nine members of the OSCE negotiating group, called the Minsk group. Representatives of neither Azerbaijan, Armenia, nor Nagorno-Karabakh will attend these talks, which OSCE describes as a "strategy meeting."

OSCE said Blot is also planning a visit to Azerbaijan before the negotiations in Moscow next month.

The OSCE tells our correspondent that Azerbaijan remains determined that Nagorno-Karabakh should remain under Baku's control. The most Baku was prepared to offer was a high degree of autonomy. Its position was re-stated by President Haidar Aliyev only last week. Azerbaijan's position was accepted by the OSCE summit in Lisbon in December. Only Armenia rejected it.

OSCE said Azerbaijan had also shown little interest in an Armenian proposal for direct talks between Baku and the ethnic Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh. The OSCE spokesman said Azerbaijan insisted such talks could take place, only if Nagorno-Karabakh acknowledged -- in advance -- that the territory should remain part of Azerbaijan.

The OSCE said the three co-chairs of the negotiations are planning a joint trip to the region in Spring. The chief American negotiator, Ambassador Joseph Presel, is also expected to visit Azerbaijan, Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh next month, directly after the negotiations in Moscow.