Oskanian Criticizes Azeri Stance on Karabakh Issue

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–Armenian foreign minister Vardan Oskanian held a press conference Monday and spoke about a recent meeting between President Robert Kocharian and NATO Secretary General Javier Solana in Brussels.

Oskanian said the meeting was successful in discussing bilateral cooperation between Armenia and NATO and addressing Azerbaijan’s speculations on NATO’s involvement in the Karabakh conflict. At a press conference called after the meeting–Solana emphasized that the Alliance had no intentions to make any active interference in the Karabakh settlement. Solana also stressed that NATO will develop equal relations with all three South Caucasus republics. NATO’s impartiality "will put an end to Azeri speculations," Oskanian stressed.

Oskanian said that some changes will be introduced in the OSCE Minsk Group proposal on the Karabakh settlement–but the main point of the document–its spirit of compromise and especially the absence of preliminary conditions will be retained.

The foreign minister said there have been no serious shifts in the Karabakh settlement–and it is still uncertain when the OSCE Minsk Group Cochairmen plan to visit the region and whether they are going to present a new peace plan or the old one.

Oskanian emphasized that Azerbaijan’s hard-line approach in regards to all provisions in the proposal greatly embarrassed the cochairmen. According to Oskanian–the cochairmen are afraid that this time the proposal will be rejected by Armenia and Karabakh. Oskanian also said that the Azeri president’s health condition also hinders the process of settlement.

Oskanian said that President Aliyev’s foreign policy advisor Vafa Guluzade–who has become the "mouthpiece of Baku lately–tries to say something about Armenia’s domestic and foreign policies on every occasion."I don’t want to hurt anyone–but we’ve stopped taking these statement seriously," Oskanian said–adding that similar statemen’s tend to disorient the international community and are made in pursuit of political goals.

Oskanian said he met with Special Envoy of the OSCE Chairman in Office Andrey Kasprczik Sunday who reported the results of the front-line monitoring. Kasprczik concluded that all accusations of Azerbaijan are groundless and there is no evidence of similar violations and their scale.

Oskanian also reiterated that the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between Armenia and the European Union which went into force on July 1 will improve Armenia-EU relations and "expand the framework of cooperation and political dialogue." Oskanian stressed however that these improvemen’s depend on Armenia–"on how we develop our relations with the EU–on how these relations progress and on how strongly we desire to integrate into European structures and the European community."

Oskanian believes that Armenia is likely to become a full-fledged member of the Council of Europe early next year. Oskanian’s belief is based on the CE assessment of the parliamentary elections in Armenia.

The foreign minister also discussed his meetings with the US State Department and members of Congress during his visit to the United States. He noted a series of positive shifts in bilateral relations–including the Senate’s approval of a resolution on rendering aid worth a substantially increased $90 million. At the request of Armenia–$15 million will be earmarked for earthquake zone construction. Oskanian also noted the Senates recent vote to retain Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act.

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