YEREVAN (Combined Sources)—OSCE Chairman in Office, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Ažubalis, while visiting Yerevan Friday, urged the authorities to work toward progress in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution process and called for both sides to immediately withdraw snipers from the line of contact.
He also offered OSCE support for advancing domestic reforms, in particular to ensure freedom of media, assembly and association.
“I welcome yesterday’s exchange of prisoners between Azerbaijan and Armenia, following on the agreement between the Presidents. Unfortunately this was reportedly followed by yet another incident on the line of contact,” said Ažubalis following a meeting with Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian. “As I have emphasized in my meetings in Yerevan and in Baku, these incidents reconfirm my conviction that the parties must withdraw snipers from the line of contact.”
“We need to strengthen the ceasefire regime and implement further confidence-building measures. Neither side can win from the current situation, neither militarily nor politically. I urge the parties to honour their pledge to refrain from threat or use of force. I further expect that the parties will investigate incidents on the line of contact, as agreed in Sochi on 5 March,” he added.
“All parties agree that there is no acceptable alternative to a peaceful resolution of the conflict. The settlement process led by the Minsk Group Co-Chairs has kept the dialogue going, but now is the time for leaders to achieve a genuine breakthrough in negotiations,” said Aconcluded.
“Armenia and the South Caucasus are important for the security and stability of the whole OSCE region,” he said. “I welcome Armenia’s stated goal of embarking on thorough regulatory, judicial and democratic reforms. I also welcome the high level of co-operation with our Office in Yerevan, which is offering close support for the reform process. This includes reforms ahead of the parliamentary elections next year to help ensure broad political participation and respect for freedom of media, association and assembly.”
“The OSCE, its Office in Yerevan and its institutions, including the Representative on Freedom of the Media and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, stand ready to further support Armenia in its efforts,” he added.
Later in the day, Ažubalis met with President Serzh Sarkisian. During the meeting reference was made to the OSCE support for democratic reforms under way in Armenia and the Karabakh conflict resolution process within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group. The sides praised the progress made at a presidential summit on March 5 in Sochi mediate by Russian President Demitry Medvedev.
The OSCE Chairperson emphasized the need to move forward and continue talks from that positive starting point.
Ažubalis also met with Nargono-Karabakh Republic President Bako Sahakian in Yerevan, where the talks focused on the Karabakh conflict resolution process.
Sahakian highlighted Stepanakert’s position on the process, emphasizing that Azerbaijan-Karabakh relations should be resolved through peaceful means and direct dialogue.
Sahakian underscored the need for the direct participation of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic in the negotiations, calling it a pivotal component of the process.
The Karabakh president also called on the OSCE to pay careful attention to the destructive and anti-Armenian policy pursued by Azerbaijan, which he said greatly hinders the conflict resolution process and efforts to build an atmosphere of mutual trust.