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Armenian President comments on Karabakh peace process...

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In an interview with Armenian National Television on 11 February, Robert Kocharian said that he and his Azerbaijani counterpart, Heidar Aliev, have discussed "all possible variants and questions" relating to a possible solution to the Karabakh conflict but that over the past year they have not yet reached agreement on a concrete formula for resolving that issue, ITAR-TASS reported. Kocharian said if it proves impossible to do so in direct talks, the two presidents will solicit the help of international mediators, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Responding to statement one week earlier by the Yerkrapah union of veterans of the Karabakh war warning against a settlement that would require the withdrawal of Armenian forces from occupied Azerbaijani territory (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 February 2000), Kocharian said any draft peace settlement should be approved by the governments of Armenia and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and might also be submitted to a nationwide referendum in Armenia. LF
...RULES OUT TERRITORIAL EXCHANGE

Kocharian also said during his 11 February interview that the OSCE mediators have proposed an exchange of territory between Armenia and Azerbaijan as one way of resolving the Karabakh conflict but that he rejected that proposal, Caucasus Press and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Such an exchange would have enabled Yerevan to retain Nagorno-Karabakh and the Lachin corridor linking it with Armenia, while Armenia would have ceded its southern Meghri region, which lies between Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhcichevan. The Yerkrapah union had made clear its opposition to such an exchange of territory. LF

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION DIVIDED OVER KARABAKH REFERENDUM PROPOSAL

The newspaper "Haykakan Zhamanak," which is sympathetic to former President Levon Ter-Petrossian and the Armenian Pan-National Movement, commented on 12 February that Kocharian's referendum proposal indicates that his leadership is not ready to accept responsibility for resolving the Karabakh conflict. The newspaper added that a referendum would be easier to falsify than either presidential or parliamentary elections. On 10 February, Arshak Sadoyan of the opposition National Democratic Union told parliamentary deputies that it would not be "correct" to ask the Armenian people to evaluate and approve a "highly complex" document on resolving the conflict. But Artur Baghdasarian, leader of the Orinats yerkir party, which is sympathetic to Kocharian, expressed support for the idea of a referendum, reasoning that "no one, not even the president," should take sole responsibility for a peace settlement, Armenpres reported. LF

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