Minsk Group Co Chairmen Issue Annoucement

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan–Armenpress)–The co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group Monday issued another statement regarding the Karabakh peace process–reiterating the group’s position that the principles proposed as a result of a two-year long negotiation process were the best package for the conflict resolution.

"On June 22 the Minsk Group Co-Chairs reported to the OSCE Permanent Council on the results of the past months of negotiations between the sides on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. They reported on their intensive mediation activities over the past seven months aimed at achieving agreement on the basic principles for a settlement. These included three visits of the Co-Chairs to Baku and Yerevan–three times together and several more times separately–two meetings of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Armenia and Azerbaijan–and two summits between Presidents Kocharian and Aliyev–first in Rambouillet in February and then in Bucharest in early June. In addition–a joint Mission of Representatives of the Co-Chair countries at the Deputy Foreign Minister level traveled to the region in May. Throughout their mediation efforts–the Co-Chairs stressed–as always–the belief of their nations and of the international community that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict can be resolved in no other way than a peaceful one. They also stressed the need for the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan to prepare their publics for peace and not for war," the annoucement read

"The mediation efforts of the Co-Chairs resulted in the proposal to Presidents Aliyev and Kocharian of a set of fair–balanced–and workable core principles that could pave the way for the two sides to draft a far-reaching settlement agreement. The principles are based on the redeployment of Armenian troops from Azerbaijani territories around Nagorno-Karabakh–with special modalities for Kelbajar and Lachin districts (including a corridor between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh)–demilitarization of those territories–and a referendum or population vote – at a date and in a manner to be decided through further negotiations – to determine the final legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh. Deployment of an international peacekeeping force and a joint commission for implementation of the agreement would be established–and international assistance would be made available for demining–reconstruction–and resettlement of internally displaced persons in the formerly occupied territories and the war-affected regions of Nagorno-Karabakh. Certain interim arrangemen’s for Nagorno-Karabakh would allow for interaction with providers of international assistance. The sides would renounce the use or threat of use of force–and international and bilateral security guarantees and assurances would be put in place. Regarding the vote to determine the future status of Nagorno-Karabakh–the Co-Chairs stressed that suitable pre-conditions for such a vote would have to be achieved so that the vote would take place in a non-coercive environment in which well-informed citizens have had ample opportunity to consider their positions after a vigorous debate in the public arena.

"Unfortunately–at their most recent meeting in Bucharest the Presidents did not reach agreement on these principles. The Co-Chairs continue to believe that the proposals developed through the past two years of negotiations hold the best potential for achieving a just and lasting settlement of the conflict. They strongly believe that it is now time for the two Presidents to take the initiative for achieving a breakthrough in the settlement process based on these principles–and they stand ready to assist the parties to conclude an agreement if the Presidents indicate they are prepared to do so. Although no additional meetings between the sides under the auspices of the Co-Chairs are planned for the immediate future–they will be ready to reengage if the parties decide to pursue the talks with the political will that has thus far been lacking."

Armenpress reported Wednesday that a senior Azeri official reaffirmed official Baku’s willingness to continue talks with Armenia on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution option based on the so-called "stage and package" approach.

Tair Tagizade–head of the Azeri foreign affairs ministry’s press office–told the Russian Itar-Tass news agency that Azerbaijan perceives the first stage of the peace process comprising of 8 to 10 elemen’s which include the pullout of Armenian troops from regions surrounding the borders of Nagorno-Karabakh–demining of the front-line–return of refugees–ensuring their security–and restoration of communications.

The second stage of talks–Tagizade said–must focus on defining the legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh within the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. He added that this is possible only after there is restoration of the ethnic composition of Nagorno-Karabakh to that of prior to 1988–ensuring the security of Armenian and Azeri communities of Nagorno-Karabakh in line with the Azerbaijani constitution.

Azeri Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov was quoted by the Turan news agency on Monday saying Baku has never agreed to a type of solution that would culminate in a referendum on the Nagorno-Karabakh status.

Azimov said Baku believes such a vote should instead take place on Azerbaijan’s entire internationally recognized territory. "That is reflected in the Azerbaijani constitution and the country’s leadership does not intend to revise its opinion," he said.

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