Armenia Karabakh Accept OSCE Peace Proposal

YEREVAN (RFE/RL–Noyan Tapan)–Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh announced Thursday their overall acceptance of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s new proposals to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Senior Armenian and Nagorno-Karabakh officials said on Thursday they have officially approved the plan as a "basis" for further discussions despite unspecified "reservations."

On Monday–during a meeting with Armenian broadcaster–President Robert Kocharian called the new proposal "healthy," citing that the OSCE-proposed plan did not envision Karabakh as an autonomous entity with Azerbaijan.

In explaining the proposal’s main point of creating a "common state," Kocharian stressed that the OSCE in no way envisioned Karabakh within Azerbaijan.

"Azerbaijan and Karabakh agree to live together in areas with distinct borders–independent laws and independent principles," explained Kocharian–adding that Karabakh would have only horizontal relations with Azerbaijan.

The president stated that the new OSCE proposal resembled the principles set forth in the Bosnian peace proposal–whereby matters of territorial integrity and the right of self-determination have been combined.

"Deep down inside–they realize that there are not many alternatives to peace," said Kocharian commenting on sentimen’s by Azerbaijan–despite that country’s rejection of the proposal. He stressed that while the government may have rejected the plan–the Azeri population was overwhelmingly for this plan.

Kocharian also stated that through this proposal–Karabakh was being recognized as an official side to the conflict–a reality which had not existed in prior proposals.

Most importantly–however–Kocharian pointed to the international community’s willingness to secure a comprehensive resolution for the Karabakh conflict. He attributed this to the current foreign policy principles of Armenia and the government’s constant insistence that the Armenian people were not willing to resign themselves from the Karabakh question.

Kocharian also explained that the proposal envisioned the return of the six regions surrounding Karabakh–which once served as Azeri firing posts wreaking havoc on the Armenian population of Karabakh.

He stated that neither Armenia nor Karabakh ever claimed that those lands belonged to either party. In the matter of the humanitarian corridor–Kocharian explained that the plan was meticulously addressed in the plan–which envisioned a special status for the area.

Kocharian explained that once the plan was accepted in principle–there would be room for discussion on specific areas.

He concluded by saying that it would behoove Azerbaijan to accept the proposal–since they would lose nothing in the process.

Meanwhile–Naira Melkumian–the foreign minister of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic urged Azerbaijan to follow suit and drop its objections to the plan that offers the two entities to form a "common state."

"We have accepted the [OSCE Minsk Group] co-chairs’ new proposals as a basis for resuming peace negotiations," Melkumian told RFE/RL . But she added that in a letter addressed to the Minsk Group–led by the United States–Russia and France–Stepanakert expressed a "number of reservations." Melkumian said the reservations concern guarantees for the Armenian-populated enclave’s security and future status as well as its "economic development after the conflict’s settlement."These issues need additional clarification," she said.

A very similar position was also unveiled the same day by Armenia’s Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian at a news conference in Yerevan. Oskanian spoke after a meeting with the American–Russian and French ambassadors. He declined to elaborate.

Karabakh’s Melkumian made it clear that the Karabakh Armenia’s would not make any more concessions than the current peace proposals call for. "Azerbaijan must give up certain illusions regarding the settlement," she warned. "This document is not final. It enables the parties…to assert their positions during further talks."

The Armenian side has been pushing for an "unconventional" settlement of the decade-long dispute.

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