Ghoukassian Meets With Azeri Journalists

STEPANAKERT (Noyan Tapan)–Prospects of settling the Nagorno Karabakh conflict were discussed during the meeting of representatives of a number of Azeri mass media with Karabakh President Arkady Ghoukassian held on Monday. The Azeri journalists’ visit to Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia was organized by the initiative of the OSCE.

According to the Karabakh President’s Press Office–the talk lasted an hour and a half–where Ghoukassian answered numerous questions regarding the current state of the peace process–Stepanakert’s readiness for mutual concessions–as well as prospects of the Karabakh’s social and economic development.

Ghoukassian stressed the need for signing a peace deal–because he said that that was the only reliable guarantee that hostilities will not resume. He stressed that war will not and cannot solve the existing problems. When asked if Armenia was going to return the Azeri territories–Ghoukassian said that Armenia does not control the territories. Armenia–he underlined–is responsible only for the fate of the people of Nagorno Karabakh and the entire Armenian nation. As for the actual land–the issue of their return is a matter for negotiations between Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijan.

Ghoukassian confirmed Stepanakert’s position regarding mediation in the settlement–stressing that the problem should be resolved under the umbrella of the OSCE Minsk Group. At the same time–he did not exclude the possibility of applying new and sometimes non-standard formats–and first of all immediate contacts between Azerbaijan and the Karabakh.

In connection with the problem of refugees–Ghoukassian said that their return should take place on a voluntary basis. He stressed that secure conditions should be created first for the return of refugees–which will become possible after a comprehensive settlement is reached.

Ghoukassian flatly denied the statemen’s by the Azeri mass media that Karabakh’s territory is allegedly used for international drug traffickers. "We are ready to allow inspections of any international organization," Ghoukassian said–reminding those present that the head of the Karabakh parliament had sent a letter to the Council of Europe expressing Karabakh’s readiness to allow access to an international team of inspectors to inspect the country regarding this issue.

Ghoukassian was happy with the meeting and expressed hope that contacts between representatives of the mass media of the conflicting countries will continue in the future. In his opinion–contacts like these promote the formation of a public opinion that will help come up with a comprehensive settlement of the conflict based on compromise.

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