Madrid Basis of Karabakh Negotiations not UN, Says French Ambassador

BAKU (Combined Sources)–The UN General Assembly Resolution Supporting Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity does not correspond to the basic principles of the Nagorno-Karabakh Settlement Process, The newly appointed French Ambassador to Azerbaijan, Gabriel Keller, told reporters in Baku on Thursday.

The OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs demonstrated a united position in voting against the resolution because "there are irregularities between that [resolution] and the Madrid Proposals," he said.

The UN resolution only "advances one side’s position and doesn’t contain all elemen’s of the negotiations," Keller said.

On March 14, the United Nations General Assembly passed a controversial resolution referring to Karabakh as an internationally recognized part of Azerbaijan. The Azeri drafted resolution was adopted with 39 votes. The United States, Russia and France, the three co-chairs of the Minsk Group, voted against the resolution, citing its one-sided and unconstructive nature. Most Council of Europe countries also abstained from the vote.

The Minsk Group, which has been mediating the conflict since 1997, presented the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan with a set of basic principles for the continuation of negotiations in Madrid last November.

The Madrid proposal, forwarded to the presidents of both countries, deviated little from the principles established in 2004 at Prague, and calls for the conflict’s gradual resolution that would lead to an Armenian withdrawal from virtually all of the liberated districts surrounding Karabakh. The plan would also allow its predominantly Armenian population to determine the disputed territory’s status in a future referendum. Official Yerevan has described this peace formula as largely acceptable to the Armenian side.

The basic principles also call for the demilitarization of the conflict zone, the repatriation of Armenian settlers, the return of Azerbaijani internally displaced persons, and the deployment of an international peacekeeping force that neither the United Nations, NATO, nor the OSCE have the resources to manage.

Keller’s commen’s about the Karabakh settlement process came during a press conference, which focused mainly on Azerbaijan’s role as a supplier of gas to Europe.
"France, and the European Union as a whole, regards Azerbaijan as a participant country in ensuring Europe’s energy security," Keller said. "The world needs its energy resources."

In his commen’s, Keller likening Europe’s relationship with Azerbaijan to the relationship between men and women in search of spouses.

"We are energy consumers and energy producers are like a young girl, who makes a choice among several possible fianc?s," he said. "Each fianc? must make valuable proposals to win her heart."

"We will make a profitable proposal for the transportation of Azerbaijani and Asian gas to Europe," Keller stated.

Azerbaijan has asked France to garner support from the 27 EU member states for the Nabucco pipeline project. France is currently serving in the presidency of the European Union.

The pipeline is due to bring 30 billion cubic metres of Caspian or Middle Eastern gas annually from Turkey to an Austrian gas hub via Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary, and become operational in 2013.

The EU, and Hungary in particular, sees the Nabucco project as a means to reduce its energy dependence on Russia, and it wants to secure supply commitmen’s from Turkmen’stan and Azerbaijan.

However, Hungary has expressed concern that the project could be undermined by recent negotiations over gas prices between Russia and the two Caspian nations.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev attempted to further those negotiations on July 3-4 during his own visit to the Caspian region, aiming in particular to secure the 25-year gas supply deal signed in 2003 by the former leaders of both countries.

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