Oskanian Dismisses International Uproar Over Karabakh Remarks

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian again dismissed international criticism for his recent remarks on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and said it disregards Yerevan’s peace proposals aimed at reviving the stalled negotiations.

Oskanian told reporters Friday that the international community’s negative reaction to his statement came under pressure from Azerbaijan–which he said wants to "distract attention from our serious proposals."

Oskanian had said last week that Armenia might consider recognizing the independence of–or re-unifying with–the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic unless Azerbaijan softens its stance over the next few years. His remarks were strongly criticized by Azerbaijan–as well as by two key peace mediators–Russia and the United States.

Armenian officials have complained that Oskanian’s words were taken out the entire context–which contained calls for resuming direct peace talks between all the parties.

"The emphasis should have been put on our very serious proposal to resume negotiations without any precondition," the minister said. "We gave Azerbaijan a chance to revive the peace process–but this is how it has responded."

In a related development–Oskanian played down the approval by a key US Senate committee of a bill that would effectively lift the ban on direct American aid to Azerbaijan. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday approved the Silk Road Strategy Act repealing Section 907 of the 1992 Freedom Support Act. Oskanian said it is still possible to prevent passage of the bill. He argued that some committees in the US Congress have approved similar initiatives in the past but eventually proved unable to secure their passage.

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