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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Caucasus Urged to Seek Path Of Peace




WASHINGTON -- NATO foreign ministers over the weekend urged Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia to resolve their political conflicts peacefully so they can tap great economic potential and not deteriorate into war like in Kosovo, U.S. officials said.


The presidents of the three Caucasus nations - Eduard Shevardnadze of Georgia, Heidar Aliyev of Azerbaijan and Robert Kocharyan of Armenia - met Sunday with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to try to start a healing process in the strife-torn region.


Albright convened the meeting in hopes of getting the countries to begin a process leading to regional cooperation, an administration official said.


There was general agreement that the region cannot reach its economic potential without resolving underlying political issues, the official said on condition of anonymity.


He added that all three welcomed a proposal by Albright for joint training in ridding the region of land mines.


Attending the meeting were Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine, and leaders of the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.


All were in Washington to attend NATO's 50th anniversary summit, which ended Sunday.


Armenia and Azerbaijan have been at odds for years over Nagorny Karabakh, an enclave located inside Azerbaijan but populated largely by ethnic Armenians.


A tense cease-fire has held since 1994, but no permanent settlement has been reached.


Azerbaijan sits on some of the world's richest oil reserves.


In Georgia, the central government has been involved in bitter conflict with mostly Moslem separatists in the Abkhazia region, which borders the Black Sea.


Albright expressed regret that Russia, which boycotted the summit because of its opposition to NATO's airstrikes in Kosovo, was unable to attend the meeting. She was hopeful that Russia will play a constructive role in bringing stability to the region.


Thousands of people in Armenia's capital, Yerevan, commemorated on Saturday the anniversary of a massacre of their countrymen.


Another 2,000 people rallied in New York's Times Square to remember the deaths and displacement of about 1.5 million Armenians in what was then Ottoman Turkey who died between 1915 and 1923 in genocidal violence.


The killing began April 24, 1915 after which the Turks began deporting Armenians from eastern Turkey to Syria. The deaths occurred during the deportation.


Turkey says 300,000 Armenians died in the deportation but rejects accusations of genocide.