Oskanian Clarifies Iran Israel Mediation Policy

YEREVAN (BBC–RFE/RL)–Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said Thursday that the remarks he made during a recent visit to Israel about Yerevan’s readiness to act as a bridge between Israel and Iran’should be seen in the context the republic’s foreign policy principles of "complementarity and balance," the Armenian news agency Snark reported.

He said that Armenia’s regional policy was based exclusively on these principles. Oskanian said he felt sure his visit to Israel would not hinder Armenia’s efforts to step up cooperation with Iran or the Arab world–adding that he had received an invitation that day to visit Syria.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mahmud Mohammadi "expressed surprise" at Oskanyan’s remarks–describing them as "ill-considered," Iranian radio reported Thursday.

"All political experts are fully aware of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s viewpoints concerning the usurper Zionist regime. Remarks by the Armenian foreign minister demonstrate his lack of information about the Islamic Republic of Iran’s principled stances," the radio said.

Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arsen Gasparian said Wednesday that Oskanian’s commen’s to journalists during his visit to Israel had been taken out of context and distorted–Snark reported. He said it was "not the case that Foreign Minister Oskanian offered his mediation in order to settle relations between Israel and Iran–rather he did not rule out–in the event of such an appeal–that Armenia would carry out appropriate action."

Armenia’says it expects that mediators from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will bring "substantially revised" peace proposals on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict when they visit the region next week.

Oskanian also told reporters Thursday that the Russian–US and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group are likely to return to so-called "package" strategy–involving a single peace accord settling all contentious issues.

A senior Russian diplomat in Yerevan also said earlier this week the co-chairs will present "revised" proposals but declined to give details.

The last OSCE peace plan–rejected by Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh but backed by Azerbaijan–called for a phased settlement of the decade-long territorial dispute. It also envisaged an ultimate restoration of Azeri sovereignty over the Armenian-populated disputed enclave which broke away from Baku’s rule in the late 1980s.

"I am not aware of their content but I think it will be a package peace plan with new approaches and no preconditions," Oskanian said.

He added that the proposals will likely contain "unconventional" solutions favored by the Armenian side. Yerevan and Stepanakert insist that Karabakh be granted an "unconventional" status–which should rule out its "subordination" to Azerbaijan.

Also–Oskanian said the Council of Europe has proposed a new "compromise" format for hearings on Nagorno-Karabakh–which were originally scheduled for November 3 in Strasbourg but did not take place because of Azerbaijan’s objections.

Baku has said the ethnic Azeri minority of Karabakh should also be invited to the hearings as a separate conflicting party as was the case with the disputed region’s ethnic Armenian authorities.

According to Oskanian–the Council of Europe has proposed that the Azeri community–which fled Karabakh during the war in the early 1990s–can take part in the discussions as part of Baku’s delegation. Oskanian said the move is "largely acceptable" to Yerevan and added that the hearings were tentatively re-scheduled for December 16 in Paris pending Baku’s decision.

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