Ghoukassian Wants Peace But is Not Afraid of War

YEREVAN (Armenpress)–"Everyone’s aim is to establish peace and stability in the region. Efforts of annexation of Karabakh to Azerbaijan will not bring the establishment of peace," said President of Nagorno Karabakh Arkady Ghoukassian–answering the questions of Portuguese reporters after his meeting with OSCE acting chairman–Foreign Minister of Portugal Jaime Gama. According to Ghoukassian–Karabakh’s independence does not mean that Stepanakert will separate itself from Azerbaijan.

"We understand that the development of countries separately is not possible in the region. After achieving independence–Karabakh is ready to cooperate with all countries in the region–firstly with Azerbaijan," he said.

Referring to the statemen’s of Azeri President Heydar Aliyev on resuming war in case of not solving the conflict as soon as possible–Ghoukassian said that the words of the Azeri president are blackmail. "This conflict may be solved during 50 years and one cannot talk about constructive approach and blackmail. We do not want war–but we are not afraid of it as well," stressed the president.

Mentioning that negotiations on the regulation of the Karabakh conflict might resume within the upcoming two months–Ghoukassian underlined the importance of the meeting with Gama–describing it as a wonderful chance to present Karabakh’s standpoint concerning all the issues of the regulation.

It was mentioned that the most important thing in the process of the regulation of the Karabakh conflict was the standpoint of the people of Karabakh. He did not exclude the fact that new proposals or new elemen’s of previously adopted approaches will be presented during the visit of the OSCE Minsk group co-chairmen to the region.

Ghoukassian underlined the fact that the Minsk group considers Karabakh as the third party to the conflict–which was also confirmed by the OSCE chairman. As he said–this fact will have its influence on the negotiation process with Stepanakert participating. He expressed hope that the process of regulation will be more efficient in 2002.

Referring to results of an Internet survey–according to which 52 percent of visitors said they were for the independence of Karabakh–Ghoukassian said that "it is logical and Nagorno Karabakh has serious grounds to desire and achieve independence."

Armenian President Robert Kocharian also met with the OSCE acting chairman Jaime Gama. According to the presidential press office–Kocharian praised the cooperation between Armenia and the OSCE–saying that relations have become more active and dynamic.

"European direction is one of the priorities in our foreign policy and we want to build a country based on democratic values and free market relations," the president underlined–saying that in this process Armenia expects contribution of the European structures and is ready for wide cooperation. In his turn–Gama considered the cooperation with the OSCE Yerevan office efficient–underlining the fact that all the programs have developed successfully.

During their meeting–they referred to regional problems–Armenia’s relations with neighboring countries–and the present phase of the regulation of the Karabakh conflict.

Gama said that the regulation of the Karabakh conflict still remains one of the most important directions of OSCE activities.

Re-assuring Armenia’s belief of a peaceful regulation of the Karabakh conflict–Kocharian said–"We realize the importance of the regulation of the problem for our country–as well as for the whole region." He particularly underlined the importance of the real wish and political will of the parties for the regulation of the problem.

He considered the present format of the OSCE Minsk group as the most efficient one–saying that this format has been put into action for already a long time and the participants are well aware of all the details of the regulation of the problem.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian–Gama said his discussions with the Armenian leadership focused on Armenia-Europe relations–the Karabakh conflict regulation and the activity of the OSCE branch office in Yerevan.

In response to a question on whether the OSCE might call on Turkey to lift its embargo off Armenia and establish diplomatic relations with Armenia–Gama said it was a very difficult question. "I am personally in favor of normalization of relations between the two countries. To the best of my knowledge–some preliminary steps are being made in this direction. Both sides should sit down at negotiations table to overcome their problems and draft a strategy for improvement of their relations," he said.

The international peace brokers from the OSCE Minsk group Rudolph Perina of USA–Philip de Suremain of France and Nikolay Gribkov of Russia will arrive in the Azerbaijani capital Baku on March 8–for another round of shuttle diplomacy in a new bid to help Armenia and Azerbaijan reconcile on Nagorno Karabakh. After discussing the conflict regulation with Azeri President Aliyev they will travel to a refugee camp.

Azeri Foreign Minister Vilayat Quliyev was quoted by local mass media as saying that the Minsk group co-chairmen are not arriving with "empty hands." He said the co-chairs will come up with new proposals–but the core of the new proposals will become known only during the talks.

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