Armenia Warns Against Changes in OSCE Peace Plan

YEREVAN (RFE/RL–Noyan Tapan)–A senior Armenian official said on Wednesday that mediators from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe should not make any changes in their latest Nagorno-Karabakh peace plan after its rejection by Azerbaijan.

"The [OSCE] mediators should try to bring Azerbaijan into line and not tailor the plan to Azerbaijan’s wishes," Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian told reporters. The plan–unveiled last November and overall backed by Yerevan and ethnic Armenian authorities of Nagorno-Karabakh–calls for the formation of a "common state" between Azerbaijan and the disputed enclave. Baku has said the plan is unacceptable because it does not guarantee its sovereignty over Karabakh which broke away from its rule in 1991.

The Russian–United States and French co-chairs of the OSCE’s Minsk Group are due to meet on February 15 in Vienna to discuss their further actions. Oskanian said Armenia fears that the mediators may demand more concessions from the Armenian side to accommodate Azerbaijan. "Whatever approaches the mediators adopt–they shouldn’t divert from the middle way they have opted for," he warned.

Oskanian said he expressed Yerevan’s concerns during recent meetings with his Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov and US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbot.

"By rejecting the plan–Azerbaijan has rejected a compromise solution," he said. Oskanian reiterated Yerevan’s calls for the resumption of face-to-face talks between the conflicting parties.

Oskanian also said that as a result of the foreign ministry’s vigorous activities in 1998–Armenia has made several important advances in the international realm–reported the Noyan Tapan news agency.

The most recent proposals made by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Minsk Group in the Nagorno-Karabakh negotiations–said the minister–signified progress as a direct result of Armenia’s activities. He explained that the last set of proposals were very close to what Armenia has been suggesting thus far. The co-chairmen of the Minsk Group–he said–were in sync with Armenia’s approach to the resolution of the Karabakh conflict–and most importantly they called for nor preconditions to full-fledged negotiations. This fact–explicated Oskanian–would allow the sides to the conflict to discuss all the issues in a liberal and unrestricted forum in order to reach a resolute understanding to the status of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.

Emphasizing Armenia’s activities in regional fora–he paid particular attention the country’s activities in the European Union and TRACECA Program.

Another point of particular interest over the last few months–according to Oskanian–was transportation agreemen’s reached by Armenia–Georgia and Bulgaria–which will offer an opportunity for far greater cooperation among the three countries. Oskanian said that this tri-partite cooperation will have military significance–in addition to readily facilitating Armenia’s Europe related foreign policy.

Oskanian very meticulously outlined policy issues within the Black See and CIS realms–adding that no real progress had been made in the Black Sea economic sphere–particularly regarding free trade zones.

Several important agreemen’s and deepening of bilateral relations also took place over the last year–said Oskanian. Among such developmen’s were bilateral agreemen’s and cooperative meetings with countries of the Far East–the Middle East–Europe–and South America.

The Foreign Minister added that 1999 will be an extremely active year–and the ministry will be engaged in further developing bilateral cooperation–agreemen’s–as well as expanding Armenia’s role in regional organizations–and defining Armenia’s presence in the New World Order. Also on the schedule for 1999 will be a number of international meetings–including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s 50th anniversary conference in Washington and several European conferences and celebrations.

According to Oskanian–President Robert Kocharian and he will plan several trip to the Middle East–and Persian Gulf countries–as well as a very significant visit to the People’s Republic of China. Eastern European countries will also be on the agenda as important pathways into European economic and political structures.

In conclusion–Oskanian announced that the co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group will meet in Vienna in February to plan the next steps to the Karabakh conflict negotiations. He expressed hope that the Minsk Group will not attempt to align the negotiations with Azeri deman’s–but to bring Azerbaijan to a mutually acceptable position to restart negotiations.

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