OSCE Sees New Karabakh Peace Talks After Azeri Election

YEREVAN (Reuters–Itar-Tass)–New peace talks for the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will begin after the Azeri presidential election on October 11–the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said Wednesday–while Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian–once again–called for direct Karabakh-Azerbaijan talks.

"It seems to me more realistic to renew negotiations after elections in Azerbaijan," OSCE mediator George Veugier told reporters after meeting Armenian President Robert Kocharian. He gave no details of his talks with Kocharian.

The OSCE mediators–from the so-called "Minsk Group" of countries chaired by the United States–France and Russia–arrived in Yerevan on Wednesday after beginning their latest round of shuttle diplomacy in the Azeri capital Baku on Tuesday.

They also plan to visit Stepanakert.

A key to peaceful settlement of the Karabakh problem is the refusal of the conflicting sides from the idea of independence and autonomy of Nagorno-Karabakh–Oskanian told correspondents Tuesday–reported the Itar-Tass news agency.

He said Yerevan had abandoned the idea of Nagorno- Karabakh’s independence and its unification with Armenia–because it clearly understood that Azerbaijan would never recognize the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh or its being part of Armenia.

Oskanian said Armenian authorities expected a responsible move from Baku–which would abandon the idea of autonomy–understanding that Armenia would never agree to the autonomous status of Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan–the minister said–Itar-Tass reported.

Oskanian did not exclude the fostering of the free association principle as a means to expedite Azeri-Karabakh relations.

A decision on this and other issues can be taken only upon the completion of negotiations–"when all the three sides sign a final settlement document," he said–according to Itar-Tass.

Yerevan opined that the OSCE Minsk Group could still play a positive role in settlement of the conflict which must be settled by the conflicting sides–not the intermediaries–the minister said.

Armenia–Nagorno- Karabakh and Azerbaijan should show will and determination for the sake of peace.

The negotiations in Baku were held behind closed doors and neither the co-chairmen nor Azeri officials provided any information regarding the talks.

On Tuesday the co-chairmen met with Aliyev.

The OSCE delegation has changed. The Group has a new US Co-Chairman–Donald Kaiser–and the Russian delegation led by Co-Chairman Yuri Yukalov now includes ambassador Igor Studennikov. France is still represented by Georges Vaugier.

Kaiser said–the Minsk Group was determined to provide a fresh impetus to the peace talks.

Azeri President Haydar Aliyev’s foreign policy adviser–Vafa Guluzade–said on Tuesday the mediators were expected to present "slightly modified" proposals to end the conflict.

He was skeptical that the mediators’ latest mission–the first of its kind since May–would produce a quick breakthrough.

Armenian Prime Minister Armen Darbinian visited Baku for an economic conference last week–the highest-ranking exchange ever between the two countries–which have no diplomatic or trade ties–since they gained independence in 1991 after the break up of the Soviet Union.

But the Karabakh question was not discussed and his visit brought no tangible progress on resolving the conflict.

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