OSCE ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ About Karabakh Settlement

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The current head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) expressed “cautious optimism” about prospects of reaching peace in the protracted Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh as he was visiting Yerevan as part of his regional tour on Tuesday.

Kanat Saudabayev, the secretary of state and foreign minister of Kazakhstan, which currently holds the OSCE rotating presidency, emphasized the importance of building trust between the sides of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and praised steps towards normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey.

“We recognize the importance of Armenia and the South Caucasus region for security and stability in the OSCE area,” he said following a meeting with Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian. “We sincerely hope to give a new impetus to the work of all sides involved in the complex process of resolving the problems Armenia and other countries in the region are facing.”

The OSCE chairman-in-office also said that addressing the region’s protracted conflicts is one of the top priorities of the Kazakh OSCE Chairmanship.

“A peaceful settlement based in the first place on mutual understanding and trust between the parties to conflict is the only solution possible. In this regard, I fully support the mediation efforts of the Minsk Group Co-Chairs,” he added.

Describing open dialogue between neighboring states as a foundation of regional stability, Saudabayev also welcomed “the concrete steps to normalize the relations taken by Armenia and Turkey.”

“We hope to see further progress in this positive undertaking and stand ready to support efforts to restore trust between the two countries,” he said.

Earlier, Saudabayev reportedly delivered Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s proposed ‘package of measures’ on the Karabakh conflict settlement to Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev as he visited Baku on Monday.

The Interfax-Azerbaijan news agency quoted Roman Vasilenko, a Kazakh Foreign Ministry spokesman as stressing that “Kazakhstan is acting as a fair and unbiased mediator.” Vasilenko, however, stopped short of disclosing the details of official Astana’s proposals.

Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, meanwhile, stated in Baku after meeting the OSCE chairman-in-office on Monday that the updated version of the Madrid principles of Karabakh settlement is “acceptable for Azerbaijan.”

At the press conference in Yerevan Armenia’s Foreign Minister first reminded that for about a year Azerbaijan has refused to include the Madrid proposals in the negotiations and even denied the existence of such a document.

As for concrete proposals that the parties were to submit as part of their arrangement made in Sochi, Russia, last month during a meeting between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan hosted by the Russian leader, Nalbandian said that the Armenian side is well on track to offer its proposals and expects Azerbaijan to present such proposals as well. “And then we will continue these discussions,” he said.

International mediators said last month that they had modified their existing plan to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and presented it to the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents ahead of their fresh face-to-face negotiations.

No public statements by either president were made following their talks in Sochi on January 25. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev only agreed on a preamble of the basic principles of resolving the Karabakh conflict that have been proposed by the American, French and Russian co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. He also said that the main result of the meeting was that “the parties will prepare their own concrete ideas and formulations that would be added to the text.” He added that this would happen “although some parts of the document are not agreed on by the parties.”

While in Yerevan, OSCE Chairman-in-Office Saudabayev also met with President of Armenia Serzh Sarkisian and the leader of Nagorno-Karabakh Bako Sahakian.

Answering media questions following the meeting, Karabakh leader Sahakian said that neither the updated version of the Madrid document, nor other documents could eventually become part of the process because they were developed without Nagorno-Karabakh’s participation. He confirmed that while the leadership in Nagorno-Karabakh has not formally received the updated version of the Madrid document from the international mediators, Stepanakert was still informed on its provisions.

The leader of the republic said that during the meeting he expressed his concern about Saudabayev’s hints in Baku about the priority of the principle of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity in settling the Karabakh dispute. Sahakian said that on this account he suggested shifting the issue from territorial integrity onto “the plane of international legal discussion”.

“I think that such an approach will give an opportunity to finally approach the peaceful settlement of the problem,” said Sahakian.

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