Oskanian Says Armenia Will Not Agree to Turkish Peacekeepers in Karabagh

YEREVAN (Armenpress/RFE/RL)–Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said during a press conference on Wednesday that Armenia will not agree to Turkish participation in peacekeeping operations in Karabagh.

Oskanian was giving the press conference with OSCE chairman-in-office–Belgian Foreign Affairs Minister Karel de Gucht–sho spoke of the need for the OSCE to prepare a peacekeeping operation in the conflict zone "as soon as possible."

Logistical aspects of such a mission have already been examined by OSCE military officials who toured areas in western Azerbaijan close to the Karabagh front-line last month. They arrived in Karabagh on a similar fact-finding trip last weekend.

De Gucht added that the OSCE can support the mission of peacekeepers but it does not have forces. Separate countries or alliances must send peacekeepers.

Oskanian said that it is still too early to speak about locating peacekeepers–but noted that some unspecified OSCE member states have already expressed readiness to deploy peacekeepers in the region. He refused to discuss the possible make-up of the multinational force–saying only that the Armenian side will block Turkey’s participation in the mission.

Another country that would likely be ready to commit troops for enforcing peace in Karabagh is Russia. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov admitted this during a visit to Baku on Tuesday. However–Russian participation may well be opposed by Azerbaijan–which has long accused Moscow of siding with the Armenia’s.

Karabagh’s President–Arkady Ghukasian–said that the issue of deploying international peacekeeping troops is not that important now.

"I know that this issue is being actively debated but it is not on the agenda today," he told reporters after meeting with the OSCE chairman-in-office Karel de Gucht in Yerevan.

"I do not think that a country or an international organization is able to force us to agree to deployment of peace-keeping troops," he said–adding that this is possible only if all the parties agree to it.

Ghukasian said Azerbaijan was always against the deployment of peacekeeping troops.

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