Co-Chairs Issue Statement Ahead of New Round in Talks

VIENNA (Combined Sources)–The three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group issued a statement on Tuesday calling on all parties involved in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to refrain from "maximalist initiatives" and "belligerent rhetoric."

"The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs welcome the constructive engagement of Presidents Aliyev and Sargsyan following their June 6 meeting in St. Petersburg," the statement said, adding, however, that at this "important juncture, the Co-Chairs call on all parties to refrain from maximalist initiatives on the ground, at the negotiating table, and in their public statemen’s, and to avoid all belligerent rhetoric, as we work together in pursuit of a peaceful settlement."

"There is no military solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict," the statement said.

The announcement follows a June 27-28 trip by the co-chairs to the region and comes amid growing tension as Azerbaijan continues to threaten to re-ignite a war in the Caucasus, while working to advance its agenda outside the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group. the Minsk Group, has been mediating for a peaceful settlement of the conflict since 1992.

In the statement, the three co-chairs–Russian Ambassador Yuri Merzylakov, French Ambassador Bernard Fassier and US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza–referred to the June 6 meeting between Presidents Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev in Saint Petersburg and noted that both presidents called for "invigorated Minsk Group talks" during their first meeting since Sarkisian’s election in February.

The co-chairs said they looked forward to "meeting again with the Armenian and Azerbaijani Foreign Ministers in the coming weeks to press forward with negotiations on the Basic Principles for the peaceful settlement of the conflict."

According to the statement, the Saint Petersburg meeting will serve as the basis for "negotiations between two countries’ foreign ministers in Moscow at the beginning of August."

According to Fassier, the upcoming negotiations between the Azerbaijani and Armenian foreign ministers in Moscow will begin a new round of negotiations, which was suggested by the two countries’ Presidents in Saint Petersburg.

The French co-chair said the meeting between the two foreign ministers will be a continuation to the June 6 negotiations between the Sarkisian and Aliyev and will be based on the Madrid proposals forwarded to the two countries’ foreign ministers last November.

The Madrid principles call for a gradual resolution to the conflict, which would lead to an Armenian withdrawal from virtually all of the liberated districts surrounding Karabakh. The plan would also allow Karabakh’s population to determine the territory’s status in a future referendum. Official Yerevan has described this peace formula as largely acceptable to the Armenian side. The basic principles, among other things, also calls for the demilitarization of the conflict zone and the deployment of an international peacekeeping force that neither the United Nations, NATO, nor the OSCE have the resources to manage.

According to Bryza, it is still too early to make predictions about the negotiations or the Karabakh settlement process as a whole.

"The urgent issue is whether the two sides–Azerbaijan and Armenia–will be able to make mutual concessions," Bryza said to RFE/RL.

"The Karabakh issue is one of the most difficult ones in the world and it is impossible to predict its pace beforehand," Bryza stated, expressing hope that the solution to the conflict will be found.

Bryza has said that the three co-chairs are planning to meet together on July 31, before the foreign ministers meet in Moscow. After the meeting they will hold separate talks with the Azeri and Armenian foreign ministers.

The precise details of the forthcoming meeting between the two foreign ministers, however, have yet to be worked out, he said.


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