Karabakh Settlement Near Says Arzoumanian

YEREVAN (Reuters)–Armenian Foreign Minister Alexander Arzoumanian said on Wednesday a preliminary peace accord to end 10 years of conflict and tension with Azerbaijan might be reached by the end of the year.

"We are hopeful. We hope we can have some kind of breakthrough before mid-December," Arzoumanian told Reuters.

Levon Ter-Petrosyan–bowing to international pressure–reversed years of policy earlier this year–saying his country would have to compromise and neither independence nor union with Armenia were realistic for Karabakh.

Both Armenia and Azerbaijan have now accepted a framework for resolving the conflict which would guarantee Azerbaijan’s retaining of Karabakh while giving the region autonomy and de-facto independence.

Arzoumanian acknowledged Nagorno-Karabakh’s opposition but said intensive consultations were under way between Yerevan and Karabakh to find a mutually acceptable formula.

"During the last 10 days we have held very intensive consultations with them. I think the Karabakh leaders have some legitimate concerns. They would like to have real security guarantees," said Arzoumanian.

"We should now look for a way to put these two principles together – the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and self determination (for Karabakh). We can achieve some kind of de facto independence for Nagorno-Karabakh and de jure Nagorno- Karabakh is part of Azerbaijan."

Azerbaijan has signed billions of dollars in lucrative Caspian Sea oil contracts with foreign firms and Arzoumanian said the Azeris were successfully converting the economic clout into political influence abroad.

"Azerbaijan has played this oil card very skillfully. They link the oil contracts with the resolution of Nagorno-Karabakh."

Arzoumanian said organizations like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank–upon which Armenia relies heavily to ensure fragile economic stability–were likely to turn up the heat if there was no Karabakh agreement.

"They can create some problems for us…They can vote against us or postpone loans for a couple of months.

For Armenia a one month delay can be catastrophic. Obviously this is what is going to happen," he said.

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