Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 152

In a televised appearance yesterday, Armenian President Robert Kocharian expressed appreciation for his Azerbaijani counterpart Haidar Aliev’s gesture to invite Kocharian to an international conference in Baku. Kocharian added that Aliev’s was “not an easy step to take in the current political situation in Azerbaijan”–a reference to the upcoming presidential election there. Kocharian stressed Armenia’s national interest in participating in the TRACECA project–the subject of the Baku conference, to be held on September 7-8 under the aegis of the European Union. He stopped short of clarifying whether he would attend himself or send a senior government delegation. No Armenian or Azerbaijani officials are known to have visited each other’s country since the outbreak of the armed conflict over Karabakh.

As could be expected (see the Monitor, August 5), the Azerbaijani opposition attacked Aliev for inviting Kocharian. Popular Front Vice-Chairman Fazil Mustafiev, Musavat leader Isa Gambar, Liberal leader Lala Shovket, and Democratic Party General-Secretary Sardar Jalaloglu (whose party represents the interests of Aliev’s expatriate rival Rasul Guliev) portrayed Aliev as condoning Karabakh’s “separatism” and “Armenian expansionism.” These four parties and Guliev form an anti-Aliev front in the presidential election scheduled for October. (Turan, August 5)