US Says Karabakh Efort to Go Forward

WASHINGTON (Reuters–Itar-Tass)–The United States on Wednesday vowed to pursue an initiative to end the 10-year-old conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh despite Tuesday’s resignation of its key Armenian ally–Levon Ter-Petrosyan.

State Department spokesman James Foley said the United States had been following events in Armenia closely and was "urging calm and strict adherence to constitutional and democratic norms."

"We have every hope that the Minsk Group process will go ahead," he said–referring to a group set up by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to tackle Nagorno-Karabakh under US–Russian and French chairmanship.

"Every responsible official in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh as well as in Azerbaijan must realize that the people of the region need a negotiated settlement based on compromise by all parties," Foley said.

He said the peace plan remained on the table–and although Nagorno-Karabakh had not yet accepted it "we are optimistic that we can continue to work with the parties to find common ground upon which to negotiate a solution to this tragedy."

Foley paid tribute to Ter-Petrosyan–saying he had "played an important role in modern Armenian history" and that Washington had worked successfully with him.

"We wish him well in his future endeavors and we look forward to working with his democratically chosen successor," he added.

Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze believes that by resigning from his post Levon Ter-Petrosyan took a courageous decision and "promoted in this way the preservation of stability in the country," said an official statement of the Georgian president–circulated Thursday.

Shevardnadze is positive that "the fraternal Armenia will find a way out of the current difficult situation and will make a substantial contribution to the Caucasian movement in defense of peace and accord among nations–in whose success the whole world is interested."

Governor of South Russia’s Stavropol territory Alexander Chernogorov who visited Armenia a short time ago for talks on the signing of new agreemen’s on cooperation between that Caucasus republic and his territory–in which a sizable Armenian Diaspora resides and Armenian capital has been invested in 10 joint enterprises–said he hoped that "the people of Armenia will make the right choice and the new leadership will pursue the same policy as regards the development of relations with Russia." He nonetheless expressed apprehension that the resignation of "experienced leaders" Levon Ter-Petrosyan and Babken Ararktsian might slow down the pace of development of economic and cultural relations between Stavropol and Armenia.

In France–the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Wednesday that compliance with democratic procedures stipulated by the Armenian Constitution–was the main concern at present. France–which–together with Russia and the United States–is a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk conference on Nagorno-Karabakh–attaches great importance to the continuation of the peace process aiming to find a final and fair solution to the Karabakh problem–the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Sources close to the Elysee Palace said France had not yet contacted the Armenian leadership since the resignation of Ter- Petrosyan but noted that his removal was "not good news." France maintains relations of privileged partnership with Armenia.

In Germany–Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel called for the consistent continuation of talks aimed at the settlement of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.

The headway made in the talks lately must not be called into question by a lengthy break in the negotiations–according to Kinkel.

The peaceful settlement of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh is a prerequisite for long-term stabilization of the situation in the Caucasus region and for the further development of democratic and market structures in Armenia– Kinkel said.

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