AZERI OFFICIAL SEES 'POSITIVE' CHANGE IN U.S. STANCE ON KARABAKH
By Emil Danielyan

Radio Liberty, Czech Rep.
May 1 2006

The United Sates will be more sympathetic to Azerbaijan's position on
the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict after Friday's negotiations in Washington
between Presidents George W. Bush and Ilham Aliev, a senior aide to
the Azerbaijani leader said over the weekend.

"The U.S. president followed the [Karabakh] issue very attentively
and inquired about it," Novruz Mammadov, head of the foreign affairs
department in Aliev's administration, told Azad Azarbaycan television,
commenting on the talks. "I think that following the meeting, we
will observe certain changes in the U.S. position on the peace talks,
that's to say positive steps to resolve the conflict."

Mammadov did not specify what those changes will be, saying only
that Washington "will from now on provide Azerbaijan with strategic
support in all areas."

Bush and Aliev made scant reference to the Karabakh conflict as
they briefly spoke with reporters following their talks at the
White House. The U.S. president mentioned it in passing, saying that
"relations with Armenia" were on the agenda of the "candid discussion"
along with issues such as Iran's controversial nuclear program and
oil-rich Azerbaijan's "very important role" in energy security.

Aliev, for his part, said he briefed Bush on "the latest status of
the negotiations and expressed my hope that a peaceful settlement of
the conflict will happen and will serve to the peace and stability
in the whole region."

It is thus not clear if the two leaders reached any agreements on
U.S.-led international efforts to get the conflicting parties to cut
a framework peace deal on Karabakh before the end of this year. The
U.S., Russian and French mediators co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group
hope that Aliev and Armenian President Robert Kocharian will again
meet early this summer and try to achieve a breakthrough.

In separate comments made outside the White House, Aliev reiterated
that Azerbaijan will not compromise on its territorial integrity
for the sake of Karabakh peace. Other top Azerbaijani officials
have complained recently that the mediators are not pushing for
restoration of Azerbaijani control over Karabakh. "America should
understand ... that the Azerbaijani state will not only disagree
with a partition of the lands, but also prevent it," Deputy Foreign
Minister Araz Azimov said last month.

The Minsk Group's most recent peace plan, discussed by Aliev and
Kocharian in France last February, reportedly calls for the holding
of a referendum in Karabakh that would almost certainly legitimize its
secession from Azerbaijan. The peace formula seems largely acceptable
to Yerevan. But Karabakh's ethnic Armenian leadership has expressed
serious misgivings about the idea.

Armenia's Foreign Minister appeared to have tried to placate the
Karabakh Armenians during a two-day visit to Stepanakert late last
week. "I do not know what the political status of the Nagorno-Karabakh
Republic will be like, but I know for sure what it will not be
like. That is, Nagorno-Karabakh will never be part of Azerbaijan,"
Oskanian declared at a meeting with students of Karabakh State
University on Friday.