01 Feb 05

The OSCE Minsk group co-chars accompanied by OSCE monitoring mission
left Stepanakert for Qarvatchar region yesterday morning. This region,
Qelbajar as Azeris called it, belonged to Soviet Azerbaijan but today
is supervised by Nagorno Karabakh forces. The monitoring mission
visited several villages ofQ arvatchar as well as the region's
center. The mission headed by German ambassador Emily Haber includes
10 members some of who are well-informed about Karabakh
issue. Mrs. Haber spent few years in German embassy to Ankara and was
the head of OSCE Division First Counselor Federal Foreign Office. The
OSCE Minsk group co-chairs are accompanying the monitoring mission in
Qarvatchar but they are not engaged in fact-finding. They are
observing the territories whereas the monitoring group is visiting
every house asking people where they came from, who brought them there
and whether the state supports them. Questions from an enquirer are
supposed to unveil the background of the settlers.

Answering daily Azg's question as to what the mission's goal is,
Mrs. Haber said that they will travel across territories that are
administratively outof Nagorno Karabakh and are under the Armenians'
control, will monitorand apparently will report on the situation to
the Minsk group in 1-2 months. Ihad the impression that Russian and
American co-chairs, Yuri Merzlyakov and Steven Mann, were not
enthusiastic about visiting the territories. They think thatsuch steps
change the issue's direction. Supposedly, they mean that Azerbaijan is
more concerned with secondary issues instead of trying to find a
solution for the conflict.

On their way to Qarvatchar from Stepanakert the OSCE mission halted at
Dadivank, this medieval pearl of Armenian architecture, and put a
candle (the thought that this Armenian monastery and the whole
territory was once introduced as Azeri made me edgy).

The route from Stepanakert to Qarvatchar takes few hours but the
monitoring mission kept on in radio-equipped vehicles when one of
Karabakh representatives was telling stories from Karabakh war. We
were passing through territories that were under Azeri military's
control in 1992, and the ruined settlements stood as witnesses of the
past war. They saw settlements notable for the Azeris atrocities when
40 percent of Karabakh was under their control. Vasili Nalbandian,
head of Qarvatchar region's administration, was tellingthe mission
that he lost his home at the other side of Mrav mountain and moved to
Qarvatchar having no other place to go.

Having spent all day in Qarvatchar the mission will go south in the
direction of Iranian border to see other territories under Karabakh's
control. It is supposed that they will stay there 7-10 days trying to
get the overall picture of the region. The mission is armed with
documents from Azerbaijan with indication of regions and settlements
that Armenia is allegedly inhabiting on state level.

Though we didn't witness mission members' talks with the local
population, I have the impression from what I heard that 99 percent of
refugees are from Shahumian, Getashen and other parts of Azerbaijan. I
want to remind that the mission's visit to these regions was
Azerbaijan's initiative.

By Tatoul Hakobian in Qarvatchar