YEREVAN, July 15. /ARKA/. Armenian foreign minister Edward Nalbandian said today the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan are likely to meet later this year in another effort to find out a solution to the long-running Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Speaking at a news conference, Nalbandian said he discussed this question at a July 13 meeting with his Azerbaijani counterpart in Vienna, Austria.
Nalbandian recalled that the presidents were to meet earlier this year but because of Azerbaijan’s fault the meeting did not take place. He said now the sides realize that such a meeting is necessary, ‘and we are working hard to secure that it take place this year."
The Armenian minister denied Azerbaijani media allegations that during the Vienna meeting it was stated that "for making progress in the negotiations Armenian armed forces must leave the so-called occupied territories of Azerbaijan."
"Neither during one-to-one meeting of foreign ministers nor in the presence of the OSCE Minks Group co-chairs such a question was discussed. We agreed at the meeting the text of a statement for media. Unlike Armenia and the OSCE which announced the agreed text, Azerbaijan decided to present its own interpretation of what we discussed," Nalbandian said.
The conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh broke out in 1988 after the predominantly Armenian-populated enclave declared its secession from Azerbaijan as the latter declared its independence from the Soviet Union and removed the powers held by the enclave's government. The Armenian majority voted in 1991, December 10, to secede from Azerbaijan and in the process proclaimed the enclave the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh. Full-scale fighting, initiated by Azerbaijan, erupted in the late winter of 1992. International mediation by several groups including Europe's OSCE’s failed to bring an end resolution that both sides could work with. In the spring of 1993, Armenian forces captured regions outside the enclave itself. By the end of the war in 1994, the Armenians were in full control of most of the enclave and also held and currently control seven regions beyond the administrative borders of Nagorno-Karabakh. Almost 1 million people on both sides have been displaced as a result of the conflict. A Russian- -brokered ceasefire was signed in May 1994 and peace talks, mediated by the OSCE Minsk Group, have been held ever since by Armenia and Azerbaijan. -0-