New EU Envoy Discusses Karabagh on First Trip to Armenia

YEREVAN (RFE/RL/Armenpress)–The European Union demonstrated its increased attention to resolving the Karabagh conflict on Wednesday when its newly appointed special representative to the South Caucasus singled out the issue during his first official visit to Armenia.

Peter Semneby said after talks with Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian that he believes this year is still "particularly auspicious" for resolving the conflict. "Indeed–there is a window of opportunity which we need to take advantage of," he told reporters.

Semneby–who arrived from Baku for a three-day visit to Yerevan–said the existing status quo hurts both conflicting parties and the region as a whole. According to him–neither of the sides should be trying to gain time–as no one will benefit from it.

He said delaying the resolution process will hinder Armenia’s economic development and could result in a military resolution of the conflict.

Semneby said that the EU is not pleased with recent threats made by the Azeri side about a military solution to the Karabagh conflict.

During the meeting–Semneby also said that his mandate will differ from the mandate of the former representative Heike Talvitie. He said that the EU intends to play a greater role in international efforts to broker a compromise settlement.

Still–the envoy made it clear that the EU believes the peace process should continue to be spearheaded by the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe–which is co-chaired by France–Russia–and the United States. "The Minsk Group is functioning very well," he said.

"The peace process is alive," Oskanian said for his part. "We believe that there are still possibilities for continuing and making additional progress in the process."

According to Oskanian–a lot now depends on the results of his Azeri counterpart Elmar Mamedyarov’s visit to Washington later this week. Mamedyarov is scheduled to meet the Minsk Group’s US co-chair–Steven Mann–and other American officials. Oskanian–who met those officials last week–will visit Moscow at around the same time.

"If they register a convergence of views–there will probably be a visit to the region by the co-chairs–which may be followed by a meeting of the [Armenian and Azerbaijani] foreign ministers," said Oskanian. "But all of this depends on the results of the upcoming Mamedyarov-Mann meeting."

Oskanian and Semneby also discussed issues relating to regional cooperation–Armenia-EU relations–and the development of Armenia’s Neighborhood Policy Action plan with the EU.

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