Azeri defence chief, US envoy debate Karabakh war remarks

7 Apr 04


Azerbaijani Defence Minister Safar Abiyev received US ambassador to
Azerbaijan Reno Harnish on 6 April. He shared with the envoy his
impressions of the visit to the USA which Abiyev completed last
week. Abiyev said he was satisfied with the results of the visit.

Harnish said that the visit benefited both Azerbaijani and American
interests. He then had an extensive exchange of views with Abiyev on
prospects for US-Azerbaijani military cooperation. Harnish said he
welcomed US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld's support for the
stage-by-stage settlement of the Nagornyy Karabakh conflict. He said
that soon [US Secretary of State for Caspian issues] Steven Mann would
be appointed US cochairman of the OSCE Minsk Group [mediating the
conflict]. Harnish hoped that this would provide a breath of fresh air
for the talks.

Next, the sides discussed ways to resolve the Azerbaijani-Armenian
conflict and preparations for NATO's Cooperative Best Effort-2004
field exercise, which will be held in Baku. Harnish said that he
wanted a lasting resolution to the conflict to be achieved through
peace talks. He recalled that upon return from Washington, Abiyev said
war could start at any moment.

Abiyev clarified his remarks which he had made several days ago. "The
domestic situation in Armenia is tense. Should the government lose
control over the domestic situation, a war may break out. Moreover,
they are trying to obstruct the construction of the
Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. I see all that and I warn the public. We
must always be ready to defend the territorial integrity of our
country," Abiyev said.