YEREVAN (RFE/RL–Noyan Tapan)–The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Minsk group co-chairmen arrived in Stepanakert Monday. The US–Russian and French co-chairmen–Carey Cavanaugh Nikolai Gribkov and Jean- Jacques Gaillard met on Sunday in Baku with Azeri President Haydar Aliyev.
According to an Associated Press report Nikolai Gribkov–the Russian representative in the Minsk Group said that co-chairmen discussed in Baku the possibility of establishing humanitarian ties between the Armenia’s and Azeris of the border region. But Aliyev apparently rejected the idea–saying that Armenia’s should withdraw from the occupied territories first and allow Azeri refugees to return to their homes. AP reported also that OSCE wants to set up permanent monitoring mission on the Armenian-Azeri border.
The OSCE Minsk is charged with assisting the conflicting sides to the Karabakh conflict to come to a mutually acceptable option–is currently working on a very interesting and heavy initiative–Russian co-chairman of the Minsk group Nikolay Gribkov said.
Gribkov announced about this initiative on Saturday in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku during his meeting with Azerbaijani president Aliyev.
Gribkov refused to disclose the content of the new initiative saying it was exclusively confidential. He simultaneously noted that there were positive shifts in the peaceful process. The Russian diplomat said the Minsk group co-chairman were doing what was possible to help the process.
"As mediators–we proceed from the fact that the regulation of the conflict must be secured without winners or losers," said Nikolay Gribkov. In his words–"if a reconciliation is reached under forced conditions it would be unstable and hopeless."
An Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman told RFE/RL in Yerevan that the Minsk Group Co-chairmen monitored the Armenian-Azeri border on the Kazakh-Ijevan border line on Monday. The Co-chairmen were assessing implementation of the cease-fire agreement signed in 1994.
According to the spokesman the co-chairmen described the situation on the border line as normal. The spokesman’said there was no violation of cease-fire agreement and that the co-chairmen’s visit to the border region was just a part of routine monitoring mission of the cease-fire regime.
The spokesman of the Nagorno-Karabakh foreign ministry told our correspondent by phone from Stepanakert that the OSCE Minsk group Co-chairmen will meet with Foreign Minister Naira Melkoumian and President Arkady Ghoukassian.
After the talks with Karabakh officials OSCE co-chairmen will travel to Yerevan on July 4. There will be no official negotiations with Armenian leaders on that day. The US Embassy in Yerevan has invited them to participate in celebrations of US Independence Day.
On Wednesday the OSCE co-chairmen will begin the official part of their visit to Armenia. They will meet with foreign minister Vartan Oskanian–defense minister Serge Sarkissian and President Robert Kocharian.
Kocharian returned from his visit to the US and France Sunday and in speaking to reporters at the Yerevan airport–Kocharian said that during his meetings with the US and French leaders he explained clearly Armenia’s position on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement.
His assessment of the Washington and Paris meetings were rather upbeat. Kocharian met with US President Bill Clinton in Washington–last Tuesday and with French president Jaques Chirac Friday.
Meanwhile in Baku–Azeri president Haydar Aliyev said that It is impossible to restore economic relations with Armenia until the Armenian-Azeri conflict is settled.
The economic cooperation and confidence building measures in relations with Armenia are possible only after the achievement of peace–Aliyev said. The settlement will promote stability and security in the Caucasus–he told the visiting co-chairmen Sunday.
The OSCE Minsk Group and its co-chairmen "are the leading and strongest means for settling the conflict," Aliyev said. He stressed significance of a direct dialog with Armenian President Robert Kocharian on a par with the mediating efforts of the Minsk Group for regional peace.
The OSCE Minsk Group for Nagorno- Karabakh will convene in Vienna on July 12. The statement was made at the Sunday meeting between Aliyev and the group co-chairmen in Baku.
American co-chairman Carey Cavanaugh said that they would discuss peacemaking efforts in the Armenian-Azeri settlement and preparations for a regional tour of the OSCE president planned for July 15-17.
The Minsk Group has plenty of possibilities to make peace–and these possibilities must be used in a more efficient way–Aliyev noted.