Sarkissian Reacts Against Calls for War

YEREVAN (Armenpress)–Armenian Defense Minister Serge Sarkissian reacted strongly against renewed calls for resumption of hostilities in Nagorno Karabakh that came from Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev.

"If Azerbaijan starts a war–it will start the beginning of its final defeat," Serge Sarkissian said–while commenting on the statemen’s by the Azeri President Heydar Aliyev.

Meantime Armenian president Robert Kocharian reconfirmed that Armenia was committed to peaceful settlement of Karabakh conflict in a meeting with the newly appointed US co-chairman of OSCE Minsk Group Rudolf Perina.

Kocharian said that the format of the Minsk group was the most acceptable format to seek an end to the decade-long conflict.

Azeri President Heydar Aliyev warned visiting European officials on Wednesday that his country could go to war with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh if Europe did not take a stand against the region’s separatist drive.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is mediating in the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the region. Nagorno-Karabakh–mainly populated by ethnic Armenia’s–broke away from Azerbaijan and the ex-Soviet republics fought a war over its control from 1992-94.

"Either the OSCE Minsk group takes a position of principle on this matter or we will have to free our land by military means," Aliyev told Adrian Severin–head of the OSCE’s parliamentary assembly. "We and the OSCE both think–however–that the problem should be settled peacefully."

The war–in which nearly 35,000 people were ended in a fragile truce.

Aliyev accused the OSCE–whose Minsk group has been trying to help the two sides work out a negotiated settlement–of adopting a wait-and-see attitude instead of putting pressure on Yerevan to give up the territory.

"Armenia wants either to annex Nagorno-Karabakh or secure its independence. We cannot agree to that and the OSCE must also oppose something violating its own principles,” Aliyev said.

Severin agreed the OSCE had failed to achieve a breakthrough in the stand-off between the two member countries and promised to give a "new impulse" to the talks.

Across the border in Armenia–the Minsk group’s US special negotiator Rudolf Perina was upbeat about mediation efforts.

"Progress has been made over the last year. By no means can I say that the process has been frozen,” Perina told a news conference.

He said world powers were more than ever interested in stamping out regional conflicts and the instability they bred after last month’s hijack attacks on New York and Washington.

Perina was due to travel to Baku on Thursday.

Peace efforts over Nagorno-Karabakh gathered pace after Aliyev and Armenian President Robert Kocharian held four days of talks in the United States in April.

But in July mediators said the two sides had backtracked from tentative agreement and had resumed bellicose rhetoric likely to increase the risk of a new conflict.


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