Observer-Reporter – Sep 23, 1991
YEREVAN, U.S.S.R, (AP) -After a visit to the strife-torn Nagorno-Karabakh region, Russian federation President Boris Yeltsin said Sunday that Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed to talks over their bloody ethnic feud. The clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh have claimed hundreds of lives this year and the region remains one of the major flashpoints as Kremlin authority crumbles.
Yeltsin said he and Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazerbayev would mediate at talks Monday between representatives of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh. The talks, to be held in the Russian town of Zheleznavad, are aimed at laying the groundwork for an eventual peace conference.
Yeltsin’s two-day peace mission with Nazerbayev and Soviet Defense Minister Yevgeny Shaposhnikov coincided with Armenia’s overwhelmingly approval of an independence referendum Saturday.
Christian Armenia and Muslim Azerbaijan have waged a 3,1/2 year conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mainly Armenian, enclave inside Azerbaijan. The tensions go back centuries, but flared in 1987 when the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh expressed a desire to unite with Armenia.
Armenia wants the restoration of local government councils that were suppressed by Azerbaijan and controls over the presence of Soviet forces.
In Armenia, election officials said preliminary returns showed 94.39 percent of the republic’s 2.05 million eligible voters approved declaring independence. Official results were expected Monday, when Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrosian plans to announce independence in parliament.
Most of the 12 remaining Soviet republics have broken with the Kremlin, which has officially recognized the independence of the three Baltic states.
Thousands of Armenians raced through the streets of the capital in their cars early Sunday, honking their horns, waving the red, orange and blue Armenian flag out the windows and shouting “yes!”
Yeltsin stopped his limousine as it drove away from the Armenian parliament and stepped into a crowd of several hundred people who began to shout his name.
He told them he and Nazerbayev would make every effort “to stop the flow of blood.” The crowd responded with cries of “thank you, thank you.”
Several hundred-people have died in recent months in fighting between Armenian militants and Azerbaijani forces, backed by troops of the Soviet army and Interior Ministry.
There have been no direct talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia since the fighting began and other mediation efforts have failed.