Azerbaijan Rejects New OSCE Proposals

BAKU (Reuters)–Azerbaijan Monday rejected new proposals by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to resolve the long-running Karabakh conflict–Azeri officials said.

OSCE mediators presented the new proposals at talks with President Haydar Aliyev in Baku–hub of the Caspian oil industry–the officials said.

But they said the plans were unacceptable because they did not guarantee Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity.

Aliyev’s foreign affairs adviser–Vafa Guluzade–said the proposals involved forming a "union state" between Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh.

He said they did not include references to Azeri territorial integrity–the core OSCE principle laid down at an OSCE summit in 1996.

"We regard these proposals very negatively–as we want to avoid any concepts which could be ambiguous. We reject this idea," Guluzade told reporters after the meeting with the mediators.

"Our position is firm. The territorial integrity of Azerbaijan–and Karabakh inside Azerbaijan. We don’t intend to back down from these principles," he said.

Guluzade said the proposals contained few specifics of how a "union state" might work.

A French OSCE negotiator said the idea had been to avoid use of terms such as "autonomy" and "territorial integrity" which had in the past "evoked polemics" from the rival sides.

Karabakh and Armenia have in the past rejected OSCE proposals to grant the region autonomy inside Azerbaijan.

They say this is nothing more than the status Karabakh had during Soviet times before it fought a war to break free of Azeri rule.

Azerbaijan wants to resolve the dispute soon–partly because it is flooded with hundreds of thousands of refugees from areas around Karabakh.

Despite the cease-fire–shooting is still common. The problem threatens Azerbaijan’s stability as it continues to sign oil contracts worth billions of dollars with foreign firms to develop its offshore Caspian reserves.

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