WASHINGTON (AP)–Azeri President Haydar Aliyev is seeking more help from President Clinton in settling his country’s dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Aliyev said in a speech Monday night that the countries that are supposed to be leading the group of nations seeking a settlement of the long-running conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia need to do more.
President Clinton was scheduled to meet Aliyev Tuesday.
Leaders of the United States–Russia and France all need to be more engaged in seeking a solution–Aliyev told the Paul H. Nits School of International Studies.
As Aliyev spoke–about a dozen demonstrators stood across the street–chanting and waving signs protesting his visit. They accused Aliyev–a former Soviet leader–of a 40-year record of human rights abuse–censorship and aggression.
Aliyev said in his speech that he is committed to democracy and free markets.
Central to US concern with the region is a planned pipeline to carry Caspian sea oil–being extracted by US and European oil companies–across Azerbaijan to the Black Sea at Supsa–Georgia.
Western nations are concerned that any escalation of conflict in the region will stall the pipeline the way the Chechen conflict has hindered the flow of oil through another pipeline across Russia.
Aliyev praised President Clinton’s support for making the Azerbaijan-Georgia pipeline possible.
"We will start construction of the Baku-Supsa main export pipeline very soon," Aliyev said. Aliyev praised President Clinton’s support for making the project possible. US and European oil companies have contracts to develop deep-sea oil fields in the Caspian Sea–which has massive reserves but offers limited means of getting the oil to world markets.
Aliyev pledged to continue a dialogue with Armenian President Robert Kocharian–while criticizing Russia for maintaining a military presence in Armenia.
"The conflict needs to be settled peacefully,” Aliyev said.
Aliyev said he supports giving Nagorno-Karabakh "the highest degree of status" within Azerbaijan–but he said Armenian forces must be withdrawn from the region and one million Azeris that were driven from the area must be allowed to return.
Nagorno-Karabakh cannot become a second Armenia–he said–adding–"The Armenian people already have a nation."
Aliyev said his main goal in carrying on a dialogue with Kocharian is to achieve peace. He said both he and the Armenian leader have indicated a willingness to compromise but have not been able to reach a comprehensive settlement.
Kocharian and Aliyev last met in Davos–Switzerland–in January and have scheduled another round of talks in Vienna under the joint supervision of the United States–Russia and France which head a large group of nations seeking a settlement in the southern Caucasus region.