OSCE Mission to Karabakh Unrelated to Azeri UN Resolution, Says Nalbandian

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian on Monday denied any connection between an upcoming OSCE Minsk Group “fact-finding” mission to the liberated territories of Nagorno-Karabakh and the withdrawal of an Azeri drafted resolution from the UN General Assembly, Armenian news agencies reported Monday.

The OSCE field assessment mission will arrive in the region [Thursday] to carry out monitoring in the liberated territories surrounding Artsakh, Nalbandian said, speaking to reporters during a press conference. “The mission has nothing to do with the UN or the draft resolution submitted by Azerbaijan,” he was quoted by Armenian Public Radio as saying.

He stressed the mission was being organized by the OSCE Minsk Group and not the UN. “The mission will only have representatives from UNHCR Office that will accompany the mediators as technical experts to study the situation in the region,” he was quoted by ArmRadio as saying.

“You know that two of the Co-Chairs are new and they will use this opportunity to get detailed information about the situation on those territories,” he added.

Earlier in September, Official Baku asked the General Assembly to postpone a vote on the resolution shortly before its anticipated passage on September 9. Azerbaijani officials claimed the move came because of international mediators’ intention to inspect the seven Armenian districts surrounding Karabakh proper that were liberated in the 1992-1994 conflict.

The US, Russian and French Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group announced last month that they plan to lead a team of “experts” from the UN and other international bodies on a “fact-finding” mission to “observe the humanitarian situation” in the area.

According to RFE/RL’s Armenia service, Nalbandian insisted that the last-minute withdrawal of the resolution, which called Armenia an occupying country, was not the result of a compromise deal with Baku. Speaking at a press conference, he said Armenia and Azerbaijan reached an agreement on the OSCE mission last spring, months before Azerbaijan introduced the resolution to the General Assembly.

A spokesman for Karabakh President Bako Sahakian likewise denied such a link.  “Azerbaijan is simply exploiting the issue for political purposes,” Davit Babayan was quoted by RFE/RL as saying.

Babayan also dismissed concerns about the mission that have been expressed by opposition groups in Armenia. He claimed that the mediators will see that the Karabakh Armenians regard those territories as “an integral part of Nagorno-Karabakh” and could adjust their peace proposals accordingly.

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