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    PRESIDENT OF AZERBAIJAN CRITICIZES ARMENIAN POLICY IN THE CAUCASUS

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    BAKU, February 5 (RIA Novosti) - Azerbaijan believes it is necessary and useful to develop regional cooperation, said President Ilkham Aliyev. He added that the only restriction for Azerbaijan in the Caucasus is cooperation with Armenia.

    "We come out, on the whole, for regional cooperation and peace in the Caucasus, and we are pursuing our policy proceeding from this," Mr. Aliyev said in an interview with RIA Novosti shortly before his Moscow visit.

    "We support regional cooperation but we cannot cooperate with Armenia," he pointed out. "This is because Armenia has occupied our territory for over ten years now. Armenia occupies seven regions and 20% of Nagorno-Karabakh." Mr. Aliyev pointed out that Armenian occupation is why Azerbaijan has the highest per capita number of refugees in the world - 1/8 of the country's citizens are refugees. "That is why if we want to liberate our territories, full-scale regional cooperation with the participation of Armenia is out of the question," Mr. Aliyev stressed.

    "But on the whole, we have achieved regional successes within the framework of the transport and energy," the president said. "We have developed projects with Russia, Iran, Turkey and Georgia. As far as cooperation is concerned, I believe the region has good positions." Azerbaijan participates in four regional organizations: CIS, GUUAM, Caucasus Four, and Organization of Economic Cooperation (OEC).

    GUUAM was founded in 1997 by Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova. In 1999, Uzbekistan also joined the organization but in 2002, it suspended its membership.

    The Caucasus Four includes Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. It was founded June 3, 1996. Caucasus Four summits are held at least twice a year.

    OEC is the successor of the Organization of Regional Cooperation of Asian Countries, which existed in 1964-1979. After the revolution in Iran, the organization disintegrated. In 1985, Iran, Pakistan and Turkey joined the OEC. In November 1992, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan joined the OEC.

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