Minsk Group ‘Hopeful’ On Karabakh Agreement

minsk-groupMOSCOW, PARIS, WASHINGTON–International mediators negotiating for a resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict announced on Monday they were hopeful the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan would succeed in finalizing the points of a document outlining the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The announcement, issued in a written statement by the US, Russian and French diplomats co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group, came on the 15th anniversary of the signing of a cease-fire agreement ending large-scale hostilities in the Karabakh conflict.

“Unfortunately, this ceasefire has been imperfect and tragically every year lives are lost along the front lines,” said the statement by Yury Merzlyakov of Russia, Ambassador Bernard Fassier of France, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza of the United State. “We sincerely hope that a peace settlement, towards which the parties are now working, will allow new generations to grow up in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh without experiencing the horrors of war.”

Describing the Karabakh conflict as “the most violent conflict on the territory of the former Soviet Union,” the statement expressed “hope” that the current leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan “will be able to overcome the complex causes and difficult consequences” of the conflict “and create an atmosphere of security, trust, cooperation and fruitful communication between peoples in the region.”

Such a scenario, according to the statement, would allow the people of the region to “live in peace as good neighbors.”

“Until then, we call on the parties to implement the provisions of the ceasefire,” the statement said, adding that the conflicting sides should also pull back snipers from proposals at the 2008 Helsinki Ministerial Conference to pull back snipers from the front lines.

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian and Azeri President Ilham Aliyev met on May 7 for talks on the sidelines of a EU Summit in Prague. Aliyev and Sarkisian spoke one on one for more than two hours but neither leader made any public statements afterward, leaving it to the three Minsk Group mediators to present the results of the talks to journalists.

Matthew Bryza, the chief U.S. negotiator, said the presidents made “significant progress” toward finalizing a framework peace agreement along the lines of the basic principles put forward by the co-chairs.

Echoing the Minsk Group’s sentiments, the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, on Monday said she welcomed the “constructive discussions” between the Armenian and Azeri leaders in Prague.

“We must also keep in mind that despite the important ceasefire that was signed 15 years ago, the situation on the ground remains extremely volatile, and tragically, lives continue to be lost,” the OSCE Chairperson said, adding that further confidence-building measures are necessary.

“I fully support the efforts of the Minsk Group Co-Chairs, as well as of my Personal Representative, Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk, to encourage a peaceful and negotiated resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, on the basis of the Madrid Document,” she told reporters. “Such a settlement is the only way for the peoples of the region to enjoy the fruits of peace and cooperation and we must keep up the momentum that all sides have worked so hard to achieve.”

The Madrid Principles, forwarded to the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan in November 2007, envisage a progressive return of seven liberated Armenian districts bordering Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan. The plan also places the status of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic in limbo, requiring a future referendum at an unspecified later date to determine the country’s future.

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