Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 150

Azerbaijani President Haidar Aliev has invited Armenian President Robert Kocharian to attend an international conference in Baku on September 7-8 on the TRACECA (Transport Corridor Europe-Caucasus-Asia) project. The visit, should it take place, would be the first by a leader of either country to the other since the breakup of the USSR and the Armenian-Azeri war for Karabakh. Armenian state television acknowledged Azerbaijan’s invitation.

Kocharian’s senior political adviser Vahan Hovhanissian–who is a leader of the nationalist Dashnaksutiun party–came out publicly yesterday against a visit by Kocharian to Baku, citing security risks. Hovhanissian recommended that some other official go to Baku. He volunteered himself for the assignment.

Kocharian’s press office issued a statement accepting the invitation for Armenia and implying that someone below Kocharian’s level may take it up. The statement reaffirmed Armenia’s interest in becoming a participant in TRACECA. (Noyan-Tapan, international agencies, August 3-4)

The Baku conference is cosponsored by the European Union, TRACECA’s originator. Aliev’s gesture to Kocharian, in the runup to Azerbaijan’s presidential election, underscores the difference between the president’s and the opposition’s political handling of the Karabakh issue. The Azerbaijani opposition (which threatens to boycott the election) describes Armenia’s new president as a “war criminal” because of his record as president of Karabakh during the war.