Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 12

Azerbaijani president Haidar Aliev has concluded his official visit to France on a sour note, quashing Paris’ effort to accede to the co-chairmanship of the OSCE’s Minsk group of countries, which mediates settlement of the Karabakh conflict. France’s accession to the post had been announced at the OSCE as a done deal only days ago. But on leaving Paris, Aliev declared that the appointment of France had not been cleared with Azerbaijan, and that Baku continues to support the U.S. for the position. French policy is excessively influenced by the Armenian lobby, Aliev stated after concluding talks with French president Jacques Chirac and Foreign Minister Herve de Charette. Disagreement on this issue, however, did not hinder the signing of a $2 billion contract with French companies to develop two Azerbaijani offshore oil fields. (See Monitor, January 15)

The U.S. remains in the running for that rotating co-chairmanship. Washington’s qualifications are clearly stronger in that it enjoys good relations with both the Armenian and the Azerbaijani side and is capable of counterbalancing Russia, the permanent co-chairman of the Minsk Group. The nine-country mediating group is unlikely to convene officially until this dispute is resolved. OSCE rules require a solution by consensus. The last negotiating round took place in November and was unsuccessful. (AFP, Turan, January 15-16)

Armed Confrontation in Tursunzade Resumes.