10/02/2008, 00.00
AZERBAIJAN - TURKEY - ARMENIA

Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh a condition for Armenia's participation in Nabucco pipeline

If Armenia is more "flexible", and reaches an agreement with Azerbaijan, it could be involved in the pipeline that Europe wants to lay from the Caspian Sea to Austria. Turkey is highly active, interested in increasing trade in the southern Caucasus.

Baku (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Hopes are rising for an agreement by 2008 on the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, after the meeting of delegates from Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Armenia in New York on September 26. Although there have been no immediate results, there is growing speculation that Ankara and Baku are offering Armenia the possibility of participating in the Nabucco oil pipeline, if the conflict can be stopped.

Until now, Armenia has insisted on the independence of the region, most of the inhabitants of which are Armenian. But in November of 2007, mediators between the two countries proposed ending the conflict immediately and delaying a decision on the status of the area until a future referendum.

Elhan Shahinoglu, director of the Atlas political research center, tells the news agency Eurasianet that Azerbaijan can accept Armenian participation in Nabucco if the country is "fairly flexible" about Karabakh. This view is shared by the Turkish analyst Sinan Ogan, who on September 19 told the radio network Voice of America, immediately after U.S. vice president Dick Cheney's visit to Baku, that there is "serious conjecture about involving Armenia in the project": although Turkey and Azerbaijan "were against this at the beginning, the participation of Armenia now seems possible".

Turkish president Abdullah Gul, while repeating that Armenia must liberate as soon possible the Azerbaijani territory occupied after the war that ended in 1994, said on September 10 that this "would encourage very efficient economic cooperation in the region. Pipelines and transport communications would cover the entire Caucasus region".

The European Union is sponsoring the Nabucco oil pipeline project, from Baku on the Caspian Sea through Georgia and Turkey, continuing to Austria, to transport energy from central Asia while bypassing Russia.

The situation has become more complicated following the war in Georgia, and the cooling of relations between the United States and Russia, both of which are highly interested in the future status of the southern Caucasus. Experts maintain that Moscow is not in favor of a rapid solution of the dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, which would favor the normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia, and could involve Yerevan in the Nabucco project. But the experience of Georgia is prompting the sides to seek a rapid solution. This could emerge immediately after the presidential election in Azerbaijan on October 15, which all believe that current president Ilham Aliyev will win. (PB)

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