Melkoumian Meets with State Department Officials

Editor’s Note: Below is a news report on Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Foreign Minister Naira Melkoumian’s visit to Washington as reported by Radio Free Europe. Melkoumian’s itenarary was arranged by the Armenian National Committee of America–which will provide a detailed report of the diplomatic mission in our Weekend Edition. YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–Among a series of interviews and meetings–Nagorno-Karabakh Foreign Minister Naira Melkoumian met with members of the Congress and State Department in Washington.

Melkoumian urged US legislators and officials that the peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict should be based on a principle of equal compromises.

Radio Liberty reported that at a news conference covering the results of the mentioned meetings Melkoumian said–"I would like to refrain from detailed commen’s on these meetings. I am actually satisfied with the results of these meetings and I see that the United States is approaching a quick and fair solution. We are at a point now when the problem may be settled."

She said that if Azerbaijan accepts that it bears equal responsibility for the conflict and recognizes Nagorno-Karabakh’s right to self-determination–the conflict may be solved quickly. "Azerbaijan is elated over the oil factor and believes that its path to victory is shorter than others," Melkoumian noted.

On Monday–Melkoumian met with US Special Negotiator Lynn Pascoe. A State Department official–speaking on the condition of anonymity–described the meeting as a positive one–adding–however–that there is still a long way to go before peace is established in Karabakh.

The same source said that the US hopes that following presidential election in Armenia–it will be possible to resume negotiations.

The source also said that the United States hopes that in April Armenia will have new leadership when Lynn Pascoe and the OSCE Minsk group is planning to visit Armenia–Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh to discuss new proposals with leaderships of these countries.

A representative of the US Department of State said the visit would completely hinge on the behavior of the new Armenian leadership.

In response to Melkoumian’s criticism of unequal compromises–a US official said that proposals made by the United States require compromises from Azerbaijan and Armenia too.

The source said that the benefit which all the parties will get after restoration of peace and stability in the region is more important than compromises.

He noted that the US Congress intends to earmark about $700 million under economic restructuring in the southern Caucasus region after the conflict is settled. Other countries are also ready to provide assistance.

Stressing that Karabakh also needs American investment–Melkoumian said that the Karabakh people’s diligence is the major guarantee of development of the republic. Melkoumian also said that Karabakh wants to become a bridge between Armenia and Azerbaijan and turn into a financial center like small European countries such as Monaco and Liechtenstein.

US Department of State official Barbara Larkin said in her letter to co-chairman of the congressional Committee on Armenian Issues Frank Pallone that the Department of State considers that Nagorno-Karabakh is imposing pre-conditions on its participation in the negotiations. However–Pallone said that Karabakh is refusing to participate in the negotiations as it is not recognized by Azerbaijan as an equal party.

In his Monday interview with Radio Liberty–President Arkady Ghoukassian of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic did not rule out the possibility of resumption of the negotiations–however–he stated that no one should expect any solution to be found as the talks were deadlocked. Ghoukassian felt that the negotiations may begin with discussion of minor issues.

"Karabakh stated that it will never accept a proposal to return to Azerbaijan’s control," Ghoukassian said. He stated that if Karabakh returns is again under Azerbaijan’s jurisdiction war will break out. "The international community must understand the existing realities–help the sides make compromises and deny Baku’s claims that Nagorno-Karabakh is an integral part of Azerbaijan," Ghoukassian said.

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