Karabakh talks near collapse

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The Independent Online
ROME (Agencies) - International efforts to end the fighting in Nagorny Karabakh seemed close to collapse yesterday, with Italy on the brink of calling off the negotiations. Diplomats blamed the crisis on Azeri intransigence as Azerbaijan came under intense diplomatic pressure at 11-nation talks to accept Italian conditions for a ceasefire in the disputed enclave.

Italy, appointed as mediator in March by the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, was ready to stop the talks and publicly blame Baku unless the Azeris changed their stand, the diplomats said.

'It looks as though the Azeris are prepared to torpedo the negotiations,' a senior diplomat involved in the talks said. 'Their language is astonishing. They are calling the Armenians 'bandits' and vowing to fight to the last man . . . It is very disappointing. Italy is ready to stop the meeting if they go on using such language.'

Forces of the two former Soviet republics clashed in various regions of Nagorny Karabakh yesterday and on the border between the two republics.