Mediators Say Karabagh Peace in Sight

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Minsk Group mediators arrived in Armenia from Stepanakert where they held talks on Wednesday with the leadership of Mountainous Karabagh Republic. Karabagh President Arkady Ghukasian was quoted by his press service as speaking of "great expectations" from the current stage of the peace process. But Ghukasian also told the mediators that the parties have yet to bridge their differences on key issues.

The American–French–and Russian co-chairs of the Group indicated on Thursday that they are edging closer to a resolution of the Mountainous Karabagh conflict–as they prepared to meet senior Armenian officials in Yerevan–the final leg of their latest tour of the conflict zone.

"Yes–there is a possibility of a Karabagh settlement in the course of this year," said Steven Mann–the US co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group. He added that an agreement will be signed "this year or within the next hundred years," indicating that the peace process has reached a make-or-break point.

Bernard Fassier–the group’s French co-chair–clarified that the conflicting parties are more likely to sign a framework agreement on "the basic principles" of the peaceful settlement. Both he and Mann stressed that the successful outcome of the negotiations is still not a forgone conclusion.

They as well as Russia’s top Karabagh envoy Yuri Merzlyakov are due to meet with President Robert Kocharian and Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian on Friday.

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