YEREVAN (Reuters)–A top Armenian official has said his country’s dispute with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh must be solved as part of an overall package and not by tackling individual issues.
Presidential spokesman Vahe Gabrielian–speaking to Reuters on Monday evening–was responding to a weekend statement by Azeri President Heydar Aliev that Armenia had rejected his proposal for a settlement to the row over the territory.
"The position of Armenia is that the conflict must be resolved in a unified way–individual issues should not be taken out of the overall package," Gabrielian said.
Aliev said he had put a proposal in August to Armenian President Robert Kocharian–suggesting Azerbaijan could restore a rail link between the two countries’ capitals Baku and Yerevan in exchange for Armenia giving up seized Azeri territory.
Kocharyan has made no mention of a proposal–but described the talks as having potential for the future.
Periodic negotiations–mediated by Russia–the United States and France–have produced no deal in the dispute over the region populated by ethnic Armenia’s but lying within Azerbaijan. Gabrielian said Armenia had repeatedly offered to reopen the rail link–but that the offers had been rejected by the Azeris.
"It would be an important step on the way to recreating an atmosphere of trust," he said.
The war over Nagorno-Karabagh was the first ethnic conflict to erupt in the last years of Soviet rule in 1988–when the region’s Armenia’s broke away from Azerbaijan–which had run the area since the 1920s.
More than 35,000 people died and a million were made homeless in six years of fighting–with Armenian forces seizing large tracts of Azeri territory.
Aliev and Kocharyan are to meet again on October 7 at a summit of ex-Soviet republics in Moldova.