The United States is watching the election process in Azerbaijan with great interest. We appreciate the progress made to date. As we have stated on many occasions, the United States strongly supports free and fair elections in Azerbaijan, .S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Julie Finley briefly outlined basic U.S. policies on several issues relating to the South Caucasus at a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna, Austria, September 1.
Secretary of State Rice spoke with President Aliyev about this just last week. We look for guarantees that those who campaign will be free of harassment and intimidation. We look for guarantees that parties and candidates will have equal access to the media. And we look for guarantees, that in the post-election period, the voters of Azerbaijan will see the honest results of their voting - in the cities, towns, and villages, she said.
The United States supports Georgia's territorial integrity and continues to support peaceful settlement of the South Ossetia and Abkhazia conflicts in Georgia, she said. The United States remain concerned that the situation in South Ossetia is tense. вЂњWe call on both sides to fulfill previous agreements to bring greater stability to the situation on the ground. We urge both sides to engage in a direct dialogue to restore confidence and begin discussions toward the resolution of the status of South Ossetia within Georgia. We believe that economic cooperation and confidence-building measures have an important role to play and are encouraged by progress in this regard. We urge the international community, and particularly the Russian Federation, to lend support to such efforts,вЂќ she stressed.
Finli noted that the United States supports fully the continuing work of the Minsk Group Co-Chairs to facilitate a peaceful, negotiated settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In her recent phone calls with Armenian President Kocharian and Azerbaijani President Aliyev, Secretary Rice encouraged each president to make the compromises necessary to reach such a settlement. The Minsk Group Co-Chairs have indicated a desire to brief the full Minsk Group in the near future on the progress of the negotiation process.