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Azerbaijan: President Says Autonomy, Never Independence, For Nagorno

Washington, 31 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev says Azerbaijan is willing to grant what he calls the highest degree of autonomy, but not independence, to the predominantly ethnic Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.

He says the conflict with Armenia over the territory is the biggest obstacle to development in the south Caucasus region. Aliyez says Azerbaijan wants peace, but he says his country cannot permit what he called the creation of a second Armenian republic within Azerbaijan.

Aliyev spoke at Georgetown University in Washington yesterday as he began an official working visit to the U.S. capital. He is to have separate talks with President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on Friday.

Ethnic Armenians control Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenian forces have occupied seven provinces in Azerbaijan. Aliyev says Azerbaijan insists on the return of all its territory as a condition for settlement.