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OSCE Mediators To Resume Shuttle Diplomacy On Karabakh

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From Caucasus Report Volume 2, Number 47
The Russian, U.S. and French negotiators from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe are expected to visit Armenia and Azerbaijan by the end of the year to provide fresh impetus for the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said on 24 November. But he added that the three co-chairs of the OSCE's Minsk Group on Karabakh will not discuss concrete peace proposals and will only "re-assess the situation and look for ways of continuing the Armenian-Azerbaijani dialogue."

Speaking to reporters in Yerevan by telephone from Los Angeles, Oskanian said final discussions on a peace deal on Karabakh are unlikely to begin before "the beginning of next year."

Both Oskanian and President Robert Kocharian said earlier this month that the 27 October assassinations of Armenian leaders pushed international efforts to resolve the Karabakh dispute several months back as he had to "take time out" to deal with political uncertainty in the country.

Asked to comment on French President Jacques Chirac's remark at the OSCE summit in Istanbul last week that an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace accord could be signed within a month, Oskanian said Chirac's "optimism is not very justified." "To accomplish that in one month's time is almost impossible, but the co-chairs can give new momentum to negotiations," Oskanian argued.

Oskanian told a correspondent for RFE/RL's Armenian Service in Istanbul on 19 November that the OSCE summit played a "very positive" role for a further progress in ongoing efforts to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The Karabakh dispute was mentioned in the final document approved by the summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

"Of course, it does not offer solutions but at least it does not hamper the [peace] process," Oskanian said. The Armenian leadership suffered an embarrassment during the OSCE summit in Lisbon three years ago when it found itself alone in vetoing a clause upholding Azerbaijani sovereignty over Karabakh. The latest document did not make any reference to Azerbaijan's territorial integrity, and is more neutral.

"We have managed to remove the negative consequences of Lisbon and secure the international community's backing for the process led by the [Armenian and Azerbaijani] presidents," Oskanian said. He welcomed a report submitted to the summit by OSCE mediators which said the ethnic Armenian authorities of Karabakh should join peace talks at some point. (Hrach Melkumian/Hrair Tamrazian)

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