Oskanian Cools Talk of Karabakh Breakthrough

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian Tuesday declined to explicitly endorse Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian’s upbeat statemen’s on prospects for a near-term resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Visiting Brussels last week, Sarkisian reportedly said he is confident that Armenia and Azerbaijan can reach a framework peace accord on Karabakh before the Armenian presidential election scheduled for February 19.
"I don’t think the presidential election should impact these negotiations," he told Reuters.
Commenting on the remarks, Oskanian only implicitly shared Sarkisian’s stated optimism and said he is not aware of all the details of the Prime Minister’s interview with the Western news agency.
"All in all, I too am optimistic about negotiations," Oskanian told journalists. "It’s good that the prime minister is also an optimist like me."
Oskanian acknowledged that President Robert Kocharian has a "more cautious" attitude on the possibility of a Karabakh breakthrough. "As they say, a pessimist is an informed optimist," he joked.
Kocharian stated in October that the conflicting parties are unlikely to agree on the basic principles for settlement proposed by international mediators, before next year’s presidential elections due in both Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Sarkisian was also quoted by Reuters as implying that the upcoming presidential election will not hinder an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace deal because he expects to win it. He stressed that peace proposals made by the OSCE Minsk Group are "coming with my consent."
Oskanian, however, questioned the veracity of this remark, suggesting that the Armenian Prime Minister only meant to say that he is familiar with those proposals.
The Minsk Group’s U.S., Russian and French co-chairs presented Oskanian and his Azerbaijani counterpart, Elmar Mammadyarov, with the final, modified version of their existing peace plan during an OSCE ministerial council meeting in Madrid on November 29. They are expected to visit Baku and Yerevan next month in an apparent last-ditch attempt to get the two sides to sign up to the proposed settlement before the 2008 elections.

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