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armenialiberty: Karabakh Peace ‘Less Urgent’ For New Azeri Leader

By Emil Danielyan

Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliev sees less urgency in the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh than his late father and predecessor Heydar did, according to a senior official from the Council of Europe who met him this week.

Karabakh was among the issues discussed by Ambassador Pietro Ago of the Council’s governing Committee of Ministers during his delegation’s week-long tour of Azerbaijan and Armenia which involved meetings with the presidents of the two conflicting states.

“We told President Kocharian that we met with President Aliev and noted a change of attitude in the position of Azeri authorities,” Ago said at the end of the trip on Friday. “Nagorno-Karabakh is still considered [by Aliev] an extremely important problem. But [its settlement is not regarded] as urgent as it had been under his predecessor, and he will concentrate on internal problems like the economy and social affairs so that he could improve his own position and popularity in the country.”

The Italian diplomat said the younger Aliev, who succeeded his father as president of Azerbaijan last October, “hopes that a final solution can be found during his five years in office.” To that end he is willing to continue direct talks with Kocharian, Ago added.

The comments may be construed as giving weight to some observers’ belief that the politically inexperienced Azerbaijani leader lacks the confidence and clout at home to accept an unpopular compromise deal with the Armenians. They are also in tune with Aliev’s public statements that resource-poor Armenia should be more interested in Karabakh peace than his oil-rich nation.

As Ago spoke to reporters in Yerevan, Aliev wrapped up the second day of his high-profile official visit to Russia. “The level of cooperation between Azerbaijan and Russia has reached its highest level in recent years, despite the difficulties our countries have encountered in the region,” Russian President Vladimir Putin was reported to tell him in the Kremlin.

Karabakh was high on the agenda of his talks, with Putin promising a closer Russian involvement in the search for peace. “We are ready to search for a solution and step up our efforts in this area, we are ready to act as a guarantor of an agreement reached by the two
sides,” he said, according to AFP.

“We are hoping the Minsk group will come up with new ideas and approaches,” Aliev said, referring to the team of Russian, U.S. and French mediators. The remark reflected Baku’s disaffection with their previous proposals which it says failed to uphold Azerbaijani sovereignty over Karabakh.

Armenian leaders, for their part, have said that a breakthrough in the stalled peace talks depends on Aliev’s willingness to embrace peace agreements reportedly reached by his father and Kocharian almost three years ago.

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