Karabagh Mediators to Launch New Peace Drive

NEW MINSK GROUP CO-CHAIR MEETS WITH ARMENIAN OFFICIALS BEFORE SEPT. 15 MEETING BETWEEN MEDIATORS.

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The new Russian co-chair of the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)–Yuri Merzlyakov–said that he and the US and French co-chairs of the Minsk Group will put the finishing touches on a peace plan at a meeting in Vienna on Monday. "I am not prepared to disclose the nature of those proposals. You can call them new or modified," Merzlyakov told reporters in Yerevan after talks with President Robert Kocharian–Defense Minister Serge Sarkissian and Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian.

Speaking about the importance of his visit to the region–Merzlyakov said that it helped him get acquainted with the positions of the two sides. "It was important to know their attitudes towards the Minsk group and the role of the co-chairmen. The Armenian president spoke well of the group’s activities during our conversation today," he stated.

"The parties’ attitude towards the proposals with which the co-chairs will arrive here in late October or early November will probably be decisive," he added. Kocharian was only quoted by his press office as saying that Armenia remains committed to a peaceful settlement of the dispute and is "ready for constructive negotiations."

The Russian negotiator arrived in Yerevan the day after meeting in Stepanakert with the leadership of Mountainous Karabagh Republic (MKR). He visited Azerbaijan last week. International mediators will visit Baku–Stepanakert–and Yerevan shortly after next month’s Azerbaijani presidential election with peace proposals that could prove "decisive" for the resolution of the MKR conflict–announced Merzlyakov.

The mediators are keenly awaiting the outcome of the October 15 presidential vote in Azerbaijan–which is expected to formalize the hand-over of power from ailing President Heydar Aliyev to his son Ilham.

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