OSCE Minsk Group in Yerevan and Stepanakert

YEREVAN (Armenpress)–American–French and Russian mediators from the OSCE Minsk group arrived in Yerevan after passing the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Nakhichevan to meet Armenian top officials in their ongoing efforts to negotiate a peace settlement to the long-lasting Karabakh conflict.

US Ambassador Carey Cavanaugh of the United States and Ambassador Jean-Jacques Gaillarde of France traveled from Turkey to Azerbaijan on Saturday December 9–where they met with Nikolai Gribkov of Russia.

On December 10–after meeting with Karabakh leader Arkady Ghoukassian in Stepanakert the three traveled to the Nakhichevan autonomous region–which is part of Azerbaijan but is surrounded by Armenian territory.

Speaking to reporters in Yerevan after concluding talks with Kocharian–US mediator Cavanaugh said they had productive talks with both President Kocharian and Karabakh leader Ghoukassian–who will meet with Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev on December 11.

"This will be the first time we have met with the leaders of Armenia–Azerbaijan and Karabakh in the course of 24 hours," Cavanaugh said. "We have looked into new elemen’s which could invigorate the peace process," he commented. Cavanaugh also added that they had first hand meetings with both officials and people in both Azerbaijan and Karabakh.–which only built their desire to work harder on the peace settlement.

"We have also discussed reported cases of cease-fire breaches along the line of contacts with President Kocharian and that innocent people and soldiers are being killed," Cavanaugh said. President Kocharian reportedly agreed that a measure should be taken to guarantee that such incidents do not continue.

The mediators were in Turkey last week–where they received a promise from Foreign Minister Ismail Cem that Turkey would lift its blockade on Armenia if the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute is settled.

On December 11–however–Ghoukassian emphasized that he was concerned over the long pause in the negotiation process regarding the problem of Nagorno Karabakh as well as over the scarcity of confidence building measures. . Furthermore–he noted that the approaches of all parties to the conflict over the preservation of the cease-fire regime coincide.

Pointing out the willingness of all the parties to the conflict to reach a peaceful settlement–the NKR President stated that–in contrast to other conflicts the OSCE focuses on–this is the only case when there are no direct contacts between the immediate parties to the negotiation process-the circumstance that–the Karabakh side believes–the Minsk Group cochairmen’should be primarily concerned about.

The NKR President’s Press Office quoted Ghoukassian as mentioning that in similar conditions Azerbaijan gets the opportunity to toughen its position–which is reflected in the public speeches of high-ranking officials in Azerbaijan. The Karabakh leader quoted the example of the political turmoil around the resettlement of refugees being pushed through different propaganda channels. In particular–Ghoukassian finds unacceptable any kind of speculation in the matter of ensuring the right of Armenia’s forcibly displaced as a result of the conflict to return to the territory of the NKR.

The cochairmen reiterated the necessity of measures aimed at strengthening mutual confidence. The sides agreed to specify the range of the problems the resolution of which will pave the way for an ultimate settlement of the conflict.

Also attending the meeting were NKR Foreign Minister Naira Melkoumian–Minister of Defense Seiran Ohanian–and other officials.

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