EU Representative Meets with Kocharian, Ghoukasian

YEREVAN (Armenpress, RFE/RL)–The European Union representative to the South Caucasus, Peter Semneby, Monday held separate meetings with President Robert Kocharian and Nagorno-Karabakh Republic President Arkady Ghoukasian to highlight EU’s commitment to the Karabakh peace process. A statement by Kocharian’s press office said the two men discussed the "latest developmen’s" in the negotiating peace process but gave no details. The European Union hopes that that Armenia and Azerbaijan will keep up the fresh "momentum" in their efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict despite the upcoming Armenian parliamentary elections, a senior EU diplomat said late Sunday. "I hope, of course, that the momentum that we have seen building again in the peace process over the last few weeks will be maintained," the EU’s special representative to the South Caucasus, Peter Semneby, said before Monday’s talks with Armenian leaders in Yerevan. Semneby was commenting on President Robert Kocharian’s Friday statemen’s that all but ended hopes for the signing of a Armenian-Azeri framework agreement in the coming months. "Before the elections to the National Assembly, there will be no active negotiating process," Kocharian said. He claimed that "even the best" peace deal would be exploited by his political opponents ahead of the polls due in May. While in Yerevan, Semneby also met with Ghoukasian separately. The envoy indicated afterward that the EU would like to step up direct contacts with the Karabakh Armenia’s, saying that they are "very important."I regret that until now we have not had sufficient contacts of this kind," he told reporters. "The European Union’s greater involvement in the international efforts to end the dispute will be productive," he said, adding that the EU wanted to have such contacts with all parties to the conflict. Semneby also sought to tone down EU criticism of the December 10 referendum in Karabakh on a constitution that declares the disputed territory an independent state. The bloc as well as two other pan-European organizations joined Azerbaijan in branding the vote illegitimate. Ghoukasian on Monday rejected the criticism as "illogical."I think that the international community should on the contrary contribute to the democratic processes that are taking place in Nagorno-Karabakh,"That [international] reaction should not be construed as a negative attitude to democratic processes in Nagorno-Karabakh," Semneby said. "We realize that there is a high degree of democratic culture in Nagorno-Karabakh, which is a positive thing. "As for the referendum, it has other key aspects with which we can not agree. Namely, the fact that it predetermines issues, including the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, that need to be resolved during negotiations." In discussing the Karabakh conflict and international precedents, Semneby said that the Kosovo conflict resolution principles could not be applied to the Karabakh conflict since the Kosovo variant was. He pointed out that the one major difference was that the international community and the UN Security Council have been steering its resolution without stopping Serbia’s jurisdiction over the region. Semneby expressed hoped that indications of visible progress in the talks would continue into the next year. He said he planned to pay a visit to Nagorno-Karabakh soon to have a better understanding of the situation there. Semneby also met with Armenian Foreign minister Vartan Oskanian Monday to discuss Armenia-EU relations with a focus on implementing the Plan of Action for Armenia’signed within the frameworks of the European Neighborhood Policy. The foreign ministry said a special reference was made to forthcoming parliamentary elections due in 2007 May with an emphasis that the polls must comply with standards of free and just election. Oskanian was reported to reconfirm Armenian authorities’ pledges to conduct just elections and invite international observers. Oskanian was said to also brief Semneby on the results of his December 17 visit to Tehran.

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