OSCE Report on Mountainous Karabagh Strikes down Azeri Allegations of Resettlement

(RFE/RL)–Armenia claimed a major diplomatic victory Thursday–when the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OCSE) denied Azerbaijan’s allegations that Armenia is encouraging and financing a massive resettlement of Armenia’s in the Azerbaijani territories around Mountainous Karabagh.

The Armenian Foreign Ministry released excerpts from a report drawn up by a fact-finding OSCE mission that toured those areas early last month. The report was officially submitted to the OSCE’s governing Permanent Council in Vienna earlier on Thursday and has not yet been made public by the organization.

"The Fact-Finding Mission has seen no evidence of direct involvement by the authorities of Armenia in the territories," concludes the report cited by the ministry. "There is no clear organized resettlement–no non-voluntary resettlement–no recruitment."

"Overall settlement is quite limited," the OSCE team was quoted as saying–adding that there are less than 15,000 Armenia’s living in all seven districts in Azerbaijan proper–and not between 30,000 and 300,000 as was claimed by Baku. "The Fact-Finding Mission has concluded that the overwhelming majority of settlers are displaced persons from various parts of Azerbaijan–notably–from Shahumian (Goranboy) Getashen (Chaikent)-now under Azerbaijani control–and Sumgait and Baku."

The Armenian Foreign Ministry welcomed the reported findings of the OSCE inspectors led by a senior German diplomat–Emily Haber. "Armenia appreciates the diligent–hard work of the Minsk Group co-chairs and the members of the Mission," the ministry said in a statement. "We believe that their detailed–first-hand–objective report clearly describes the situation on the ground in the region."

"Armenia believes that the most important accomplishment of the Fact Finding Mission Report is that it has laid to rest Azerbaijan’s charges," read the statement.

The OSCE inspection was organized as a result of a compromise agreement between the conflicting parties and the mediators. The deal prevented a vote in the UN General Assembly on an Azerbaijani draft resolution condemning the decade-long occupation of the Azerbaijani lands. The resolution was endorsed by many Islamic nations–but the United States–Russia and France warned that it would hamper their peace efforts.

Prior to the completion of the official OSCE report–French mediator Bernard Fassier–who was in Karabagh as part of the OSCE monitoring team in January–confirmed Karabagh’s stance that the borderlands have been settled sporadically and unevenly–and–in many cases–by itinerant refugees driven from Azerbaijan during the war years. Fassier noted–"In many areas there is no electricity and poverty predominates. I wouldn’t say people live. Rather–they are surviving in half-destroyed walls topped by a tin roof."

The OSCE team found that the vast majority of Armenian settlers live in the Lachin district that serves as the shortest overland link between Armenia and Karabagh. The Armenian side has ruled out Lachin’s return to Azerbaijan under any peace accord. A senior Karabagh official declared last month that Stepanakert will continue to populate Lachin. The Armenian Foreign Ministry statement said the area is "viewed differently in the negotiation process."

"This is so because Lachin is Mountainous Karabagh’s humanitarian and security corridor," it explained. "Without it–Mountainous Karabagh would remain an isolated enclave."

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