OSCE Mission Inspects Karabagh Territories

STEPANAKERT (Combined Sources)–Officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) began on Monday–a first-ever international inspection of Armenian-controlled territories around Karabagh–aimed at investigating Baku’s allegations that they are being illegally populated with Armenia’s.

The fact-finding team–led by a senior German Foreign Ministry official Emily Habber–and accompanied by the French–Russian–and US co-chairs of the OSCE’s Minsk Group visited the Kelbajar district west of Karabagh before arriving in Stepanakert later in the day. They met there with Mountainous Karabagh Republic President Arkady Ghukasian.

"We have heard many interesting details and I am confident that those details will help us assess the situation correctly," Habber told local journalists afterward. Stating that their mission is technical and not political–she said the OSCE mission will spend ten days traveling around the territories and submit a report to the Minsk Group later on.

The fact-finding mission was sent to the region as a result of a compromise agreement between the conflicting parties and the mediators that prevented a vote in the UN General Assembly on an Azeri draft resolution that condemned the decade-long occupation of the seven Azeri districts seen by the Armenia’s as a vital buffer zone guaranteeing Karabagh’s security. The resolution was endorsed by many Islamic nations but the United States–Russia–and France warned that it would hamper their peace efforts.

Meeting with the OSCE officials–Ghukasian reaffirmed that his government is not encouraging the resettlement of Armenian families in those areas and said those Armenia’s who have moved there since the 1994 ceasefire are mostly former refugees from Azerbaijan. Ghukasian also urged the visitors to inspect Azeri-controlled areas of Karabagh that were formerly populated with Armenia’s.

He expressed hope that the mission’s report would contribute to forming a constructive environment for a peaceful settlement of the conflict–as well as conclusively dismiss the false claims of Azerbaijan.

The OSCE delegation held talks with Azeri officials in Baku before traveling to Karabagh via Armenia.

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