Armenia Says Azeris Must Compromise Over Conflict

LONDON (Reuters–Noyan Tapan)–Armenia’s foreign minister said Thursday that a decade-long conflict Nagorno-Karabakh conflict could only be resolved if Baku was willing to compromise.

"It all depends on Azerbaijan’s goodwill," Vartan Oskanian told a press briefing at the end of an official visit.

"If they would accept the idea of compromise–I think there will be a possibility to reach an agreement," he said–adding Armenia had made ample concessions over a peace plan drawn up by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

But he said he feared Azerbaijan was planning to use force to end a conflict which has already killed around 35,000 people.

"We really have a great deal of suspicion about their ulterior motives," Oskanian said. "They’re looking for a military option for the future."

He said Azerbaijan–which has about 7.6 million people–or double Armenia’s 3.8 million–and more than twice its land area–had sought closer military links with Turkey and might use its increasing oil wealth to build-up its army. He said the next step in the peace process was the planned visit of the OSCE chairman Knut Vollebaek in mid-April.

Oskanian also said he discussed relations with the European Union with British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook during his visit–and Armenia hoped eventually to join the 15-nation bloc.

"Armenia truly sees itself as a European country," he said.

The EU will be watching parliamentary elections due on May 30 for signs of how far Armenia has repaired its democracy–damaged by fraud-marred polls in 1995 and 1996 and given a lukewarm endorsement from foreign observers.

"The competition is so fierce that there’s always the temptation to go overboard in getting your candidate elected," Oskanian said.

On Wednesday–Oskanian also visited British Foreign Secretary Robin Cooke–with whom the latest situation of the Caucasus–as well as the peace process in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was discussed–the foreign ministry press said–according to Noyan Tapan.

Oskanian reiterated Armenia’s constructive willingness to resume peace talks–using as a base the latest peace proposal by the OSCE Minsk Group.

The meeting placed special emphasis on the upcoming Armenian parliamentary elections.

Oskanian also addressed the British House of Lords. In the more than one-hour speech Oskanian detailed Armenia’s political and economic policies and discussed ways in which Armenia aims to institute reforms.

A peaceful resolution to the Karabakh conflict was also discussed with House of Lords member and Britain-Armenia Friendship Caucus chairman Duke Shannon and Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords Baroness Cox presenting their views on the Karabakh situation. Eight other House of Lords members addressed the gathering.

Oskanian met with the British-Armenian community at London’s Navasartian Hall.

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