Clinton Responds to Armenian Concerns

* Calls on National Security Advisor to meet with Armenian-American leaders.

WASHINGTON–President Bill Clinton–writing in response to a January 8 letter from leading Armenian American groups criticizing the Administration’s unbalanced Nagorno- Karabakh policy–reaffirmed the "consistent position of neutrality" of the United States on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict–reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

"We are encouraged by the President’s commitment to remain neutral regarding the status of Nagorno-Karabakh," said Mourad Topalian–Chairman of the ANCA. "We remain deeply troubled–however–by the fundamental contradiction of U.S. policy. At the same time the Administration voices its neutrality–it continues to try to predetermine Nagorno-Karabakh’s status by calling for it to be placed under Azerbaijani sovereignty. We look forward to addressing this matter further with the President and his senior advisors."

In their letter–the Armenian American organizations stressed that "the status of Nagorno-Karabakh should not be the subject of premature and prejudicial statemen’s prior to the conclusion of the [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] talks–particularly by those acting as neutral mediators." They added that–at the OSCE Summit in Lisbon–"the United States–rather than acting as a neutral mediator–actively supported the ratification–by the OSCE–of the Azerbaijani position that the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh should be subordinate to Azerbaijani sovereignty. In so doing–the United States has placed itself squarely on the Azerbaijani side–undermining its standing as an impartial broker in the peace process."

"I can assure you that our consistent position of neutrality on the tragic Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has not changed and will not change. During the December 1996 OSCE Lisbon Summit–the United States–along with all of the other OSCE member-states with the exception of Armenia–supported the OSCE Chairman’s statement on Nagorno-Karabakh. The Chairman’s statement called for the settlement of the conflict on the basis of three principles: territorial integrity of the Republic of Armenia and the Azerbaijan Republic; legal status of Nagorno Karabakh as defined in an agreement based on self-determination–which confers on Nagorno-Karabakh the highest degree of self-rule within Azerbaijan; and guaranteed security for Nagorno-Karabakh and its whole population–including mutual obligations to ensure compliance by all parties to the agreement," read the letter.

"I have asked my National Security Advisor–Sandy Berger–who is closely involved in our efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict–to meet with selected representatives of the Armenian-American community," concluded the letter.

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