OSCE Mediators Present New Karabakh Proposals to Armenia

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Mediators from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on Tuesday presented to Armenia their new proposals on settling the long-running conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh–one day after Azerbaijan reportedly rejected them.

The Russian–US and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group arrived in Yerevan from Baku where unveiled the proposals calling for the formation of a "common state" between Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh.

Yuri Yukalov–Russia’s chief negotiator in the Group–told reporters in Yerevan that the idea envisages that "the two sides form a common state." He declined to specify–however–if the two entities would enjoy equal status as is demanded by the Armenian side.

Reports have quoted a key aide to Azeri President Haydar Aliyev as rejecting the proposals. Vafa Guluzade–the presidential adviser for foreign affairs–said on Monday that they do not contain specific provisions upholding Azerbaijan’s direct sovereignty over Karabakh.

But the Russian OSCE negotiator expressed his bewilderment over Guluzade’s remarks–saying that the mediators were not given an official reply in Baku. Yukalov said both the Armenian and Azeri leaderships found the OSCE proposals "very serious" and pledged to "thoroughly consider" them. He said the talks with Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian have proceeded in a "constructive atmosphere."

Russia’s Yukalov said on Tuesday that the new OSCE plan envisages a "common" and not "union" state as some media reports said. He said the same principle is at the heart of international efforts to end another bitter dispute in Georgia’s breakaway republic of Abkhazia.

"We are not inventing a bicycle. We are simply the first to try to fill up this concept with concrete content," Yukalov said. Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh insist that the disputed enclave’s future status may fall short of outright independence but should rule out its "subordination" to Baku.

The Minsk Group co-chairs are due to arrive in Stepanakert on Wednesday where they will meet the leadership of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. The Russian diplomat said they expect the conflicting parties to come up with an official answer to the new proposals "as soon as possible." Sources close to the Armenian foreign ministry told RFE/RL that the mediators might be presented with Yerevan’s "tentative" opinion on their return from Karabakh. "The presented proposals substantially differ from the previous ones…and involve a comprehensive solution to the conflict," Kocharian’s press service said.

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