OSCE Summit Begins; Kocharian Holds Meetings With Demirel Aliyev

ISTANBUL (RFE/RL–Noyan Tapan–Agence France Presse)–Armenian President Robert Kocharian met with his Turkish and Azeri counterparts as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe leadership summit kicked off on Thursday.

Kocharian held talks with Turkish President Suleyman Demirel Wednesday night in Istanbul on the sidelines of the OSCE summit.

After the leaders’ 30-minute meeting–Demirel told our correspondent in Istanbul that the establishment of bilateral ties depends on the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Demirel stressed that such a settlement depends not only on Armenia but Azerbaijan–as well. Demirel said Turkey will do its best to help settle the dispute.

Kocharian did not disclose whether he and Demirel had made any progress on furthering bilateral ties. He said progress can be measured in the goodwill coming from both sides.

In energy matters–Demirel said Turkey is not now considering an alternative oil pipeline crossing Armenia. But he said such a route is possible in the future. He urged both sides to work together on the issue.

On Thursday a meeting was held between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan that was also attended by foreign ministers of Minsk Group co-chairing countries–Madeleine Albright of the US–Igor Ivanov of Russia–and Hubert Vedrin of France–as well as OSCE Chairman-in-Office Knut Vollebaek.

The OSCE Summit was opened by president of Turkey Suleyman Demirel on Thursday morning–November 18 at the Ciragan Palace Hotel in Istanbul. Opening remarks were made by the OSCE Chairman-in-Office–UN Secretary General and Chairman of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. United States President Bill Clinton–Russian President Boris Yeltsin and French President Jacques Chirac also delivered speeches.

Armenia and Azerbaijan are unlikely to reach an accord over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict at the OSCE summit–the organization’s chairman in office said Wednesday.

Knut Vollebaek–the current chairman of the pan-European security organization–said it was unlikely there would be a joint declaration on the conflict.

"I don’t think we ever expected signing anything but had hoped for maybe some kind of joint declaration or something like that in view of the tragic incidents that took place in Armenia recently," Vollebaek told a pre-summit news conference.

"I am afraid that we cannot expect this to happen," he added.

Vollebaek said that last month’s assassination of the Armenian prime minister and seven other top officials in an attack on parliament by a group of gunmen had been a "setback for the process."

Vollebaek said that if an agreement could be reached the OSCE would be ready to provide its good offices to help implement the deal notably providing peacekeepers.

"But it would be also a great challenge for the organization," President of France Jacques Chirac–described the meetings between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan as a courageous step.

He said that the time for solution is near. He also said that France and the other countries co-chairing the Minsk Group will do their best to find a durable and fair solution to the problem. Chirac stressed that the time has come to work on the elimination of the conflict aftermath and promote economic rehabilitation.

He said that France will submit relevant proposals to the World Bank–European Union–and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Kocharian is scheduled to deliver his speech on Friday. Within the framework of the OSCE summit Kocharian held a number of bilateral meetings.


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