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Armenia/Azerbaijan: French Minister Leaves Yerevan Optimistic

Yerevan, 2 April 1997 (RFE/RL) - French Foreign Minister Herve de Charette, ending a short visit to Armenia today following an earlier visit to Azerbaijan, expressed optimism that ties between the Caucasian states can be improved.

France and the United States recently joined Russia as co-chairs of OSCE talks aimed at reaching a final settlement in Azerbaijan's mostly ethnic-Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. A ceasefire has held in the breakaway region since 1994, but a final settlement has not been reached.

Our correspondent quotes de Charette as saying that his visits were a mission of peace, confidence and hope and described his talks as very effective. The French Foreign Minister said officials in both capitals expressed a willingness to improve Armenian-Azerbaijani relations. He expressed confidence that together with Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, he can give a new impetus to reconciliation.

Yesterday in Baku, de Charette told Azerbaijan's President Heydar Aliyev that he had been sent by French President Jacques Chirac. Our correspondent quotes the Foreign Minister as saying it would be good if a political resolution to the Karabakh situation could be found this year in line with OSCE and UN resolutions.

Aliyev reportedly agreed with the statement and said he places great hopes on France and on Chirac personally in resolving the Karabakh situation.

Both sides affirmed their commitment to strengthening economic cooperation, especially with regard to Caspian oil. Aliyev said no one should doubt Baku's sincerity in pursuing closer ties with France. De Charette said France will supply Azerbaijan with 4,000 tons of grain as humanitarian aid this year.