YEREVAN (Combined Sources)—During a meeting with the French, US and Russian co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group Thursday, Armenia’s Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian said the inclusion of Karabakh in peace talks was essential and would greatly enhance the process.
After visiting Baku and Stepanakert the co-chairmen, Russia’s Igor Popov, France’s Bernard Fassier and the US’s Robert Bradtke, concluded their visit to the region in Yerevan, where they also met with President Serzh Sarkisian.
High on the agenda was the rampant cease fire violations in Karabakh, which in the last month have resulted in at least four fatalities on the Azeri side, when they breached the cease fire regime firing on Karabakh units.
The President’s office reported that Sarkisian and the co-chairmen jointly agreed that the recent cease-fire violations “reflect negatively on the negotiating process.”
Nalbandian and the co-chairmen also discussed future steps in the process, but no clear indication was made on the progress ofthe talks. The co-chairmen indicated in Stepanakert Wednesday that they would issue an announcement after meetings in Armenia.
An issue that took center stage was the co-chairmen’s announcement Monday proposing a “field assessment mission to observe the humanitarian situation” in the liberated territories surrounding the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, which would reportedly take place from September to October.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported Thursday that the leadership of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic had “not yet accepted” the proposed mission, which would also include the participation of the Office of UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other international bodies.
“We are not against the idea in principle,” Davit Babayan, Karabakh President Bako Sahakian’s spokesman, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “But there are still some technical issues and our final position will probably be clarified soon.”
“We are looking into the matter,” Babayan said without elaborating on those issues. He made clear that the mission can not go ahead without the Karabakh Armenians’ consent.
Another matter making waves during this visit was a comment made by Fassier, who told reporters that when visiting Nagorno-Karabakh the delegation crossed the “line of contact and not the [Karabakh] border.”
“Mr. Fassier is an experienced diplomat and he wasn’t mistaken in saying that the Co-Chairmen had crossed the contact-line and not the border, for two reasons. First, the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairmen crossed the contact-line of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and Azerbaijan’s military positions from Karabakh proper, which is under Azerbaijan’s occupation thus far. And second, this is the section of the contact-line that is gradually turning into a area of conflict between the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and Azerbaijan armed forces, due to the continued aggression by Azerbaijan,” explained the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Foreign Ministry in a statement.
The foreign ministry was referring to the territories of Shahumian and Getashen, which remain under Azeri occupation since the conclusion of the cease-fire agreement.
“Exactly for this reason, the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairmen personally conducted the monitoring, crossing the contact-line aimed at the reduction of confrontation between the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and Azerbaijan armed forces,” the statement said.