Minsk Group Co Chairmen Issue Statement on Peace

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–In a statement issued Thursday in Yerevan–the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen’said they have presented to the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan new ideas which they believe could bring closer the sides’ positions on resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. US special representative for Nagorno Karabakh–Ambassador Rudolf Perina–Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov and French co-chairman Philippe de Suremain said in their joint statement that the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan–Robert Kocharian and Haydar Aliyev–still bear the main responsibility for finding a compromise solution to the conflict.

According to the statement–the OSCE co-chairmen made clear in their meetings with the leaders of the conflicting sides that war rhetoric and calls for a military solution to the Karabakh conflict are not acceptable. They also said that a resumption of hostilities would have disastrous consequences not only for the two countries but also for the whole Caucasus region. The international mediators also said that majority of the population in both countries advocates a peaceful solution of the conflict.

The US–Russian and French co-chairs believe that Armenia’s and Azeris are partners in the common cause in the fight against international terrorism. This phenomenon has created favorable conditions for the parties involved to make greater efforts to speed up the settlement of the conflict. Stressing that the situation in the conflict region has become more stable due to the strengthening of the cease-fire regime–the international mediators warned that the situation of "No war–no peace" will keep Armenia and Azerbaijan out of the positive integrating processes that are now taking place in the world.

The OSCE Minsk Group Co-chairs left Yerevan Thursday.

The periodic visit of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs to the region of Nagorno Karabakh conflict took place November 3-8–2001.

The group met with Azerbaijan’s President Heydar Aliyev–Armenia’s President Robert Kocharian–Nagorno Karabakh’s President Arkady Ghoukassian–as well as other officials–media representatives and public organizations in both countries. The Minsk "troika" also met with the Muslim leader of Azerbaijan and the Caucasus Sheikh ul-Islam Hadji Allahshukur Pashazade and His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II.

The main purpose of the visit was to give a new impetus to the peace process and to support the Azeri-Armenian negotiation process within the framework of proposals earlier considered by the two with assistance from the Co-Chairs in Paris and Key West. The group offered some ideas for President Aliyev and President Kocharian to consider–which the mediators believe will help to bring their positions closer. The Minsk "troika" will continue working toward a peaceful settlement–with the understanding that the parties to the conflict continue to take the responsibility for finding mutually-acceptable solutions.

During their stay in the region–the OSCE delegates stated that calls for a military resolution of the Karabakh conflict–hinders effective implementation of their peace mission and is unacceptable. They believe that the conflict can be settled only by peaceful means–and the resumption of military actions would have catastrophic consequences not only for the two countries–but for the entire Caucasus region.

The Minsk group’s meetings with representatives of different social groups in the both countries confirmed that Azeris and Armenia’s oppose war and want peace and good relations with their neighbors. In this regard–the Co-Chairs commend the continuing commitment of the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia for a political settlement of the Karabakh conflict.

The Minsk troika is convinced that the cooperation among the Co-Chairs–who in the past have always addressed the Karabakh conflict as a cohesive team–has grown even stronger after the tragic events of September 11th.

This creates favorable conditions for the parties to increase their efforts for an early resolution of the conflict–particularly as continuing the current status of "neither war nor peace" could isolate Azerbaijan and Armenia from emerging trends of global unity.

The Co-Chairs welcomed the decrease in tensions along the borders–as demonstrated by the lower number of incidents and casualties in recent years. They urged the parties to further strengthen the cease-fire agreement.

In conjunction with continuing efforts to achieve a comprehensive peace settlement–the current situation offers real possibilities for confidence building measures in different areas. The delegates’ discussions with local Azerbaijanis and Armenia’s illustrated that average people support Minsk Group proposals that will alleviate the hardships caused by the conflict. The Co-Chairs hope that the leadership in Baku–Yerevan and Stepanakert will–in their turn–respond positively to these proposals.

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