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Armenia/Azerbaijan: Nagorno-Karabakh Talks Produce Few Results

Munich, 7 April 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Diplomats who attended last week's negotiations in Moscow on the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute say there were some encouraging signs which they hope to develop at another meeting later this month.

A spokesman said the Moscow meeting did not produce any concrete results. However it was accepted as the first round of a "new process of energetic negotiations" aimed at achieving positive results in the next few months. The next meeting is scheduled to be begin on April 28, possibly in Vienna.

The Moscow meeting was the first of all the participants since negotiations broke down in deadlock at the end of last year. It was attended by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh and the three co-chairmen of the negotiations, Russia, the United States and France.

Nagorno-Karabakh is an enclave inside Azerbaijan largely populated by ethnic Armenians. Fighting erupted in 1988 when the ethnic Armenians declared sovereignty. A ceasefire was negotiated in May 1984 but there has been little progress towards a permanent settlement.

A diplomat close to the negotiations said Nagorno Karabakhh told the meeting it accepted in principle the resettlement of Azerbaijani refugees who fled the region during the fighting. The diplomat stressed in emphatic terms that there was no agreement on this issue but said it was a step forward that Nagorno-Karabakh was apparently prepared to accept the principle.

Other diplomats said the three co-chairmen, Russia, the United States and France, were putting pressure on the parties to make progress. "The parties were told bluntly that things could not go drifting along without any progress for ever," a diplomat said. "All sides had to make an effort to achieve movement towards a real settlement."

He said the speeches by Armenia and Azerbaijan in Moscow represented maximalist positions. However it was hoped that coming meetings would persuade them to move closer to agreement.

Diplomats who attended the talks said there was no indication that Armenia and Azerbaijan planned bilateral discussions in the near future. The presidents of the two countries met at the CIS summit at the end of last month but this failed to produce any progress.

In the past presidential advisors from Armenia and Azerbaijan have held private bilateral discussions but diplomats said there is no sign of resumption of these. Armenia's presidential advisor has been in the United States for the past few months for family reasons.

Armenia and Azerbaijan exchanged ten prisoners at the weekend. Diplomats said this followed an appeal by the three co-chairmen at their meeting in Paris last month. However both Armenia and Azerbaijan claim the other side are holding other prisoners whose names have not been given to the International Red Cross.