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NYTimes: Negotiators Visit Azerbaijan

NYTimes gives the details of the visit of the negotiators to the Azerbaijan on the Nagorno-Karabagh issue.

International negotiators seeking an end to the festering conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh held a cold, tense meeting Saturday under the hot sun in the no man’s land between the opposing forces.

Envoys from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe spoke with uneasy commanders from both sides at the front line where Azerbaijan’s troops face fighters from Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian enclave inside Azerbaijan.

Six years of fighting that killed 30,000 people and drove 1 million from their homes left the enclave under control of an unrecognized ethnic Armenian government and its forces.

Despite a 1994 cease-fire, hundreds of people have died every year in sporadic violence and by mines that mark a no man’s land around the mountainous region. The OSCE team is visiting Azerbaijan and Armenia, amid optimism that a final peace deal may finally be in sight.

Accompanied by Azeri commanders, the diplomats crossed the front near the town of Barda along a road where mines had been removed hours before. They met commanders of the ethnic Armenian forces in the middle of the strip, which is about two-thirds of a mile wide.

The negotiators — U.S. envoy Carey Cavanaugh, Russia’s Nikolai Gribkov and Philippe de Suremaen of France — attempted to assure both sides that the peace process was moving forward.

The commanders listened but stood stiffly and did not make eye contact.

“We are working hard so that you do not have to pay the ultimate price,” Cavanaugh said.

Gribkov told the commanders, “My wish is that you look at each other directly, not through your weapon sights.”

Later in the day, the delegation visited Agdam, a town that once had 50,000 residents but was emptied by the fighting. The only completely intact building is the mosque, now used to house about 30 cattle.

The town is outside Nargorno-Karabakh in a part of Azerbaijan that was captured by ethnic Armenian forces.

They also visited a refugee camp for people who had fled the conflict at Agcebedi in Azerbaijan.

The unresolved status of Nagorno-Karabakh has impeded economic development in both former Soviet republics, and Azerbaijan’s President Geidar Aliev and Armenian President Robert Kocharian have met 15 times over the past two years to seek a solution.

In April, they held four days of separate meetings in Key West, Florida, with negotiators who afterward said significant steps forward had been made.

Aliev again met Friday in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku with the OSCE negotiating team. The negotiators are to meet with Kocharian in the Armenian capital Yerevan on Monday.

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