President Meets With OSCE Minsk Group Cochairs

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–Armenian President Robert Kocharian held a meeting July 5 with Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Minsk Group Co-Chairmen Carey Cavanaugh of the US–Nikolay Gribkov of Russia and Jean-Jacques Gaillard of France–who were on a visit to Armenia.

The Armenian president pointed out that it was the first joint visit of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen to Armenia this year–and this time they arrived in the country by crossing the border from the Kazakh region of Azerbaijan. He highly appreciated the OSCE Minsk Group’s active participation in the Karabakh peace process.

During the one and a half hour long meeting the sides held a detailed discussion of the current state of the Karabakh peace process and the common approaches. The co-chairmen’stated their intention to carry out constructive work and render assistance in implementing the measures aimed at settling the Karabakh conflict. They presented the results of their meetings in Stepanakert.

Giving a positive assessment of the direct negotiations between the Armenian and Azeri president–the co-chairmen expressed their willingness to promote the dialogue.

The sides pointed out the importance of the measures aimed at creating an atmosphere of mutual confidence. Such measures may include both economic cooperation and contacts at different levels.

Attending the meeting were Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian–and Russian–French and American ambassadors to Armenia.

The sides stressed the need for confidence building measures as a guarantee of progress. The co-chairmen duly evaluated the direct contacts between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan and their practical significance to the resumption of the negotiating process and clarification of positions. They also discussed matters related to the upcoming visit of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office and Austria’s Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner to the region scheduled for July 16-17.

Armenian Prime Minister Andranik Markarian held a meeting with OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairmen–as well as with the ambassadors of these countries to Armenia.

Expressing confidence that the Karabakh peace process within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group is entering a more active stage–the co-chairmen’stressed that their countries consider the strengthening of peace priority tasks–which is regarded as guarantee of economic cooperation.

Highly appreciating the efforts made by Russia–the US and France towards the Karabakh settlement–the Armenian prime minister expressed optimism that these efforts will bring desirable results. He pointed out that as chairman of the Republican Party of Armenia and one of the leaders of the Unity bloc–he repeatedly presented the OSCE Minsk Group representatives the position of this political force on the Karabakh settlement. He gave assurances that this political force–which is the parliamentary majority–has not changed its approaches. Supporting the compromise solution to the problem–by means of peaceful negotiations–Markarian considers a territorial swap inadmissible. He gave assurances that any political force which has influence in the country is of the same opinion. Armenia will not make its territories of strategic importance a subject for negotiations. Moreover–the government is elaborating a program of social and economic development of the Meghri region and is determined to make the country’s southern gate more efficient.

The prime minister stated that Azerbaijan goes on rejecting the idea of common state–which was supported by Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. The Armenian side attaches high importance to the resumption of the negotiating process without any pre-conditions–which will make the OSCE Minsk Group’s activities extremely effective. Direct contacts between the Armenian and Azeri presidents may also promote these activities–considering the successful precedents of such contacts.

Informing the Armenian prime minister of the results of the OSCE Minsk Group’s co-chairmen’s visits to Baku and Stepanakert–Carey Cavanaugh made a high appraisal of the Armenian government’s position. He expressed optimism that practical work will also be carried out with Andranik Markarian as it was with his predecessors. According to him–the current Armenian prime minister is among the political figures who are able to unite the country’s political forces and the people in realization of the agreemen’s reached during the negotiations.

Prime Minister Markarian stressed the need for a compromise which would be conditioned by the current situation in the region–strengthen peace and would be acceptable to all the parties concerned.

Markarian pointed out that the negotiating process will be more effective if Nagorno Karabakh is directly involved in it. Any decision made by Armenia and Azerbaijan will be possible to realize if it is acceptable to the people and authority of Nagorno Karabakh.

The co-chairmen agreed that any decision will fail if the opinion of any of the parties is not taken into account.

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