Retired US Diplomats Discuss Karabakh Settlement

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Two retired veteran US diplomats are touring Azerbaijan and Armenia in what they said was a "private effort" to promote search for peace on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Edward Djerejian–a former US ambassador to Syria and Israel–and Peter Rosenblatt–a long-time foreign policy maker–told reporters in Yerevan Monday that they visited Armenia and Azerbaijan to help the conflicting parties find a solution to the long-running Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

But they made it clear that the visit is not part of a mediation effort separate from negotiations sponsored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. "We try to support the ongoing negotiations under the [OSCE] Minsk Group framework," Djerejian said.

The two men were in Baku over the weekend–holding "very good" talks with Azeri Foreign Minister Tofik Zulfugarov and other top officials. They met his Armenian counterpart Vartan Oskanian on Monday–and were scheduled to meet President Robert Kocharian and Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsyan.

"We are not the new mediators. We are here as outsiders of the official channels to help facilitate the initiation of constructive and timely negotiations for the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem," said Djerejian. An American of Armenian origin–he is now the director of the James Baker Public Policy Institute.

"This is not a new negotiating initiative," said Rosenblatt–a member of the board of directors of the American Jewish Committee since 1998. In the words of Djerejian: "There is no hidden agenda here. We are truly people of good will with some experience."

Rosenblatt said that experience can serve as a "source of ideas." The two men added that their mission also involves "informing all [interested] governmen’s" about results of their discussions.

"We have conveyed to Armenian officials our appreciation of the Azeri position," Djerejian said. Djerejian made it clear that the existing OSCE peace plan on Karabakh–based on the idea of a "common state" between Azerbaijan and the Armenian-populated region–was not discussed in detail during the talks.

"The idea of a common state was not at all the focus of our discussions," he said–while refusing to give details. The plan was largely accepted by Armenia and Karabakh but rejected by Azerbaijan. The former American diplomats were also expected to meet leaders of Nagorno-Karabakh in Yerevan.

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