US Official Vows More Karabakh Efforts in 2007

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–International mediators will continue to press for a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh next year despite parliamentary elections in Armenia, a senior U.S. administration official was reported to say late Monday. In an interview with the Armenian Mediamax news agency, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza said the failure by Armenia and Azerbaijan to strike a peace deal in 2006 did not shut a rare "window of opportunity" in the protracted negotiating process. "The co-chairs [of the OSCE Minsk Group] will continue to work with the two sides, even as campaign season begins for the 2007 parliamentary elections in Armenia," Bryza was quoted as saying. "We will work together quietly, but we hope to continue making progress on the details of the basic principles that the two sides still need to agree upon." Bryza, who co-chairs the Minsk Group together with senior French and Russian diplomats, insisted last July that the 2007 polls as well presidential ballots due in both Armenia and Azerbaijan in 2008 are not an insurmountable obstacle to peace. He argued that the ruling regimes in Yerevan and Baku could actually win votes if they find a mutually acceptable solution to the dispute. "I would argue that the elections in Armenia and Azerbaijan don’t pose an obstacle to reaching an agreement," Bryza told RFE/RL in an interview. "They just pose an additional complicating factor If the presidents succeed, with our help as mediators, in finalizing and eliminating the final differences with regard to this framework agreement, and if they come up with an agreement that’s mutually acceptable, that should be a plus in an election. "That’s a huge achievement that should actually help political leaders and their parties to win votes." However, President Robert Kocharian announced on December 15 that he would not sign any peace accords with Azerbaijan before the May elections, saying that his political opponents would exploit any settlement proposed by the mediators. "Before the elections to the National Assembly, there will be no active negotiating process," he said. Kocharian’s foreign minister, Vartan Oskanian, clarified afterwards that this does not mean the peace process will be put on hold. "Perhaps there will be fewer meetings with less publicity," said Oskanian. "But I think negotiations on the content [of Minsk Group proposals] will continue."


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