Ghoukassian Rejects Autonomy Agrees to Horizontal Dialogue

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–There are good prospects for settling the Karabakh conflict within the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe–Karabakh President Arkady Ghoukassian said following his meeting with the OSCE Acting Chairman–Polish Foreign Minister Bronislav Geremek Tuesday.

At the same time he stressed that the conflict resolution process was between the immediate parties to the conflict and that compromises should be made among them at talks.

Ghoukassian said that Azerbaijan should no longer be under the illusion that "it is not the parties to the conflict that should seek a solution but the world community–in favor of Azerbaijan."

He added that "as long as Azerbaijan hopes for a great power or a group of great powers to solve all its problems–no settlement will be possible. That is why everything should be decided at talks."

Karabakh’s president pointed out that there were basic issues on which Karabakh could not turn its back–specifically referring to the physical connection with Armenia.

"Our independence is not a bargaining issue. We will not veer from the degree of independence which enables us to live the way we want. This–however–does not at all exclude our willingness to build equal relations with Azerbaijan in one or another realm–be that politics–economy–or–even in the military spheres," Ghoukassian said.

"We do not accept autonomy. We are not ready and will not discuss it. We are ready to discuss horizontal relations with Azerbaijan," said Karabakh’s president.

As to whether or not the examples of Andorra and New Caledonia are acceptable–Arkady Ghoukassian said that there wasn’t one particular settlement scheme which could be applied to Karabakh–but did not rule out the possibility of combining elemen’s from currently-existing proposals to achieve peace in the region.

President Robert Kocharian and Geremek signed a Memorandum on Mutual Understanding between the Republic of Armenia and the OSCE Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

Following the signing ceremony–Kocharian said that within the next few days Armenia and Karabakh would present their official positions on the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen’s new proposals.

"We are not enthusiastic about everything that has been proposed. Many problems require further discussion. However–the document can serve as a serious basis for the negotiating process," Kocharian said–adding that Armenia’s position was not a refusal. Geremek expressed optimism that Azerbaijan would accept the idea of a common state–and the proposal by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen would inaugurate negotiations between the three parties.

"I saw good will on the part of Karabakh–which I consider a positive sign," Geremek told journalists following his meeting with Ghoukassian. He stated that international organizations were unable to do anything without the cooperation between all parties. He expressed optimism that "the answer will be good" in Baku on Wednesday.

Kocharian also accepted an invitation by his Polish counterpart–Alexander Kvasnevsky to visit Poland. This was announced by Geremek during a press conference on Wednesday.

The Polish leader said that the current level of bilateral relations between Armenia and Poland could not be considered satisfactory. He said his country was greatly interested in the Armenian market–starting with the famous Armenian brandy and ending with other goods.

Geremek also told reporters that Kocharian would respond to the OSCE Minsk Group proposals by November 27.

He said if Armenia’s response was not positive–a decision on the matter would be taken at a meeting of the OSCE Foreign Ministers in Oslo. He also expressed optimism that the proposal on opening an OSCE office in Armenia would be approved during the Oslo meeting.

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