Oskanian Says No Inroads at Peace Talks

YEREVAN (Yerevan News Service)–Armenia’s Deputy Foreign minister Vartan Oskanian Tuesday held a press conference at the foreign ministry where he announced that the most recent Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Minsk Group Nagorno-Karabakh peace talks yielded no tangible results.

Oskanian stated that there were no changes in the discussion on the so-called Grand Political Agreement or a comprehensive accord for a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The deputy foreign minister explained that during the first three days of talks–discussions centered around the sides to the conflict and the three co-chairman–Troika–of the Minsk Group–while on the fourth day–the entire nine-member group met–following which the sides and the Minsk Group met jointly and addressed issues concerning humanitarian concerns–Lachin–Shoushi and the political status of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The humanitarian concerns centered on a directive by the troika on the release of all prisoners of war and hostages based on lists provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross. Oskanian said that this proposal was already being implemented.

Oskanian added that discussion on Lachin and Shoushi–which Azerbaijan has categorized as "occupied territories," did not yield any results. Armenia and Karabakh proposed that the Shoushi issue be completely taken out of the agenda and the comprehensive political accord.

The Armenian sides have rationalized that Shoushi is an indivisible part of Nagorno-Karabakh and that throughout the conflict–Azeris have abandoned the city–although they reserve the right to return after peace is established in the region.

Azerbaijan–on the other hand–demanded that Shoushi be granted special status and be monitored by international peace keeping forces. This proposal was rejected by Armenia and Karabakh.

There were no changes on the Lachin issue. Armenia emphasized the importance of Lachin as a security belt and proposed that it remain under Karabakh control until the end of the conflict.

Azerbaijan–however–categorized Lachin as an "occupied territory," but agreed that Lachin should be controlled by international forces during a troop withdrawal transition.

Oskanian expressed his frustration on the lack of general–or specific–discussion on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. He stated that Azerbaijan proposed that Armenia adhere to the now infamous so-called Lisbon "principles," at which time direct Azeri-Karabakh negotiations would be possible.

Oskanian stated that Armenia’s position of not negotiation without the participation of Karabakh–the issue was–once again–deadlocked.

The next round of talks was scheduled for the end April–prior to which the co-chairman would visit the region.

Oskanian stated that the talks were effected by simultaneous discussions in the Russian Duma (lower house of parliament) regarding the alleged illegal Russian arms sales to Armenia.

"I believe that it was not a coincidence. It was done deliberately in order to have an impact on the talks benefiting Azerbaijan," Oskanian asserted.

In response to a question regarding Levon Ter-Petrosyan’s chief advisor Jirair Libaridian’s efforts in the peace process–Oskanian stated that Libaridian was currently in Boston where he was recuperating from an illness.

The recent visit by Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Acting President Leonard Petrosian to Paris was also discussed. When questioned regarding Armenian Ambassador Vahan Papazian’s refusal to meet with the Karabakh official–Oskanian said that he did not have sufficient information to address the issue.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arsen Gasparyan was given the responsibility to address the matter–and he asked the Yerevan news agency correspondent to inquire at a late hour. The correspondent inquired but Gasparyan was not available for comment.

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