Co Chairman Look Into New Position on Conflict

YEREVAN (RFE/RL/Noyan Tapan)–International mediators from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe arrived in Yerevan to discuss the new Armenian government’s position on resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The Russian–US and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group Wednesday held talks with Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian who reiterated Yerevan’s opposition to their most recent peace plan which calls for a phased solution to the decade-long dispute with Azerbaijan.

The plan–backed by Azerbaijan–says a withdrawal of Karabakh Armenian forces from six occupied Azerbaijani districts must precede a resolution of the disputed region’s status–which would be delayed until the last stage of the peace process. Armenia and the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic have rejected the "phased" plan–demanding a "package" deal whereby all sticking points are settled by a single peace accord.

The mediators’ visit to the region is the first since Robert Kocharian–who favors fewer concessions to Azerbaijan than his predecessor–was elected president in March. President Levon Ter-Petrosyan was forced to resign last February by Kocharian’s supporters–after provisionally accepting the OSCE plan.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting–Oskanian said the mediators brought no new proposals–as their visit is aimed at getting more detailed information about the new Armenian stance. Oskanian again called for a resumption of face-to-face talks between the sides to the conflict without any "precondition" considering Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan. He said direct talks between Baku and Stepanakert will help overcome the impasse. "The talks should begin with a clean page," Oskanian said.

Meanwhile–Yuri Yukalov–the Russian representative to the Minsk Group–confirmed that the co-chairs have yet to officially react to the change in Yerevan’s position. He told reporters that the goal of their visit is to "assess the new situation" in the region. The other negotiators refused to comment.

Yukalov said that the resumption of the talks was quite possible. He also noted that the question of who will be conflicting sides’ envoys at the negotiations has not been discussed.

Currently–Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s envoys at the Nagorno-Karabakh talks are holding posts of Foreign Ministers–while Karabakh representatives at the negotiations are the republic’s president and foreign minister.

The co-chairs were expected to travel to Karabakh Thursday and then back to Yerevan to meet with President Kocharian before proceeding to Azerbaijan Friday.

Wednesday marked the four year anniversary of the cease-fire maintained between Azerbaijan and Karabakh which was brokered by Russia and the CIS Inter-parliamentary Assembly.


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