Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev met in Kazan, Russia, to discuss Nagomo-Karabakh, a predominantly ethnic Armenian region of Azerbaijan, which, along with seven surrounding Azerbaijan territories, is under Armenian military control.
The local Armenian population declared independence from Azerbaijan in 1991 and formed the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. But it is not recognized by any country in the world.
War broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh and an estimated thirty-five thousand people died. The fighting and the expulsion of Armenians from Azerbaijan and Azerbaijanis from Armenia displaced more than a million people. Armenia and Azerbaijan have observed a cease-fire agreement since 1994.
Some one-hundred-thousand Azerbaijanis remain in refugee camps today, where conditions are often desperate. The U.S. is providing humanitarian assistance to ethnic Armenian residents of Nagorno-Karabakh and Azeris and others displaced to areas outside the region. U.S. aid includes housing, health care, and clean water.
The U.S. supports the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and believes that the future status of Nagorno-Karabakh should be decided through negotiation. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged both Mr. Kocharian and Mr. Aliyev to make the necessary compromises to achieve an accord. In addition, Ms. Rice urged president Aliyev to hold free and fair parliamentary elections this November in Azerbaijan. She also told President Kocharian she hoped Armenia would enact a package of constitutional reforms now before the parliament.
A permanent peace agreement in Nagorno-Karabakh would help bring stability to Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the Caucasus region. Democratic reforms could further improve economic and political prospects for both Armenia and Azerbaijan.
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.