Upcoming Karabakh Referendum Cannot be Ignored, Says Russian Diplomat

YEREVAN (Yerkir)–Former Russian co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group Vladimir Kazimirov said Wednesday that the constitutional referendum to be held on Sunday in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic cannot be ignored by vested parties in the conflict resolution process, the PanArmenian.net reported. The Russian diplomat remarked that ignoring the results of the referendum would not benefit the process and urged the parties to calmly assess developmen’s and stay on track. "Certainly, democratic procedures in Karabakh are not ideal since Azeri residents of Karabakh cannot take part in them," said Kazimirov who faulted those who launched hostile and protracted conflict. "No one will think of not recognizing elections in Baku because Armenia’s did not take part in them," he added. He urged the sides to look at peaceful means to settle the conflict in the coming years. Referring to commen’s made by Azeri Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov about the status of Nagorno-Karabakh being the only remaining issue on the peace talks agenda that was unresolved, Kazimirov cautioned that the importance all principles in the deal must be considered separately. "The status of Karabakh remains the key issue. If the issue were resolved, it would pave the way for the resolution of more complicated problems," said Kazimirov who warned that "citing the Azeri Constitution is inappropriate. Everyone understand when and why the amendmen’s to the Constitution were made. Moreover, the history has recorded cases of referenda during the recent decades," Kazimirov said. This week, Armenia’s Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said the right to self-determination of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh must be respected in the context of the Karabakh peace process. On a related note, the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs will visit Madrid to brief the Spanish foreign minister on the progress of the Karabakh peace process, as Spain prepares to take over the rotating chairmanship of the OSCE. Meanwhile, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said it was not reasonable to set a precise date for ending the Karabakh conflict. Speaking to reporters in Brussels, the venue of the OSCE foreign ministers gathering, the Russian minister said an excessive publicity and promises to reach a final peace formula at a concrete date would hardly help the sides to move forward. Lavrov reminded that the conflict is being tackled first of all by the sides to the conflict, who are aided by the OSCE Minsk Group cochairmen from Russia, France and the US. Lavrov also said the experience of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict can be used to tackle other post-Soviet conflicts. "The approach, which is linked to the use of multilateral forums for political support for negotiation formats to resolve this or that conflict is a good example for other situations, including South Ossetia, Transdniester and Abkhazia," Sergei Lavrov told journalists, commenting on the OSCE chairman’s pledge to make strong progress in resolving the Azeri-Armenian dispute during 2007. He said the OSCE Foreign Ministers Council has adopted a statement on Nagorno-Karabakh ‘acceptable to both Armenia and Azerbaijan.’ "We are encouraged that negotiations in 2006, facilitated by the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group and supported by the OSCE Chairman in Office, have brought the sides closer to agreement on the basic principles for the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict," it said. The statement urged Presidents Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan and Robert Kocharian of Armenia to "redouble their efforts in the coming year to finalize these basic principles as soon as possible."

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