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posted June 28, 2001 11:14     Click Here to See the Profile for Vatandoost   Click Here to Email Vatandoost     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
BAKU, Azerbaijan, June 26 (UPI) -- U.S. Ambassador to Baku Ross L. Wilson has urged former Soviet republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia to invite Iran to the peace talks aimed at resolving their dispute over the Nagorno Karabakh region, reports said Tuesday.

Describing Iran's presence in the talks as "a sheer necessity," the envoy said it would contribute to the peaceful settlement of the conflict, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

The official Iranian news agency said the American head of the Minks Group, had also urged other members of the group to include Iran in the talks.

Formed in March 1992 by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the 11-member Minks group is jointly chaired by Carey Cavanaugh of the United States, Nikolay Gribkov of Russia and Phillipe de Syurmeign of France.

Wilson said the absence of diplomatic relations between Iran and the United States would not have a negative impact on the peace talks if Iran were invited.

The United States and Iran severed ties in 1979 after radical Islamist students stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took over 50 staffers hostage for 444 days.

Wilson said he hoped the Nagorno Karabakh crisis would be solved by the end of the current year.

An Azeri news agency, ANS, quoted the U.S. ambassador to Armenia, Michael C. Lemmon, as saying that the international community was opposed to military solutions aimed at settling the dispute.

The Nagorno Karabakh region is disputed between Azerbaijan and Armenia since the 1920s when Moscow allowed thousands of Armenians to settle in the region which is surrounded by Azerbaijan. Over 30,000 people were killed in the fighting between the two states from 1992 to 1994. Fighting continued until May 1994 when Russia brokered a cease-fire.

Later Russia joined other European nations and the United States in the Minks Group to help Azerbaijan and Armenia find a peaceful settlement to the dispute.

Iran borders both the states and also has close cultural and ethnic ties with the people of Azerbaijan.

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