AZG Armenian Daily #099, 01/06/2005

Karabakh issue

Negotiation Process Develops in Two Directions: Withdrawal of Armed
Forces from Neighboring Regions of NKR and Future Status of NKR

After the meeting in Warsaw, new opportunities can be observed
in Nagorno Karabakh settlement issue. Vartan Oskanian, RA foreign
minister, said that there is an agenda in the current stage comprising
several issues that may well "turn into a package if progress if there
is progress in resolution process". Vartan Oskanian stated that the
issues of NKR status and the return of the neighboring territories of
NKR, the rerun of the refugees, the security guarantees are mutually

RA foreign minister believes that the public discussion of certain
elements of the negotiation process may cause misunderstanding and
make harm to positive developments in negotiations, that were fixed
after the last meeting of RA and Azeri presidents. RA foreign minister
told this to a press conference.

After Kocharian-Aliyev meeting in Warsaw official Yerevan and Baku
made optimistic statements. The Armenian side states that certain
progress is fixed in the issue of NKR status, while the Azeri side
emphasizes the issue of 7 neighboring regions, stating that Yerevan
is ready to return them. It's worth mentioning that Bernard Fassie,
OSCE French co-chair, stated that the negotiation process develops
in two directions, i.e. the withdrawal of the armed forces from 7
neighboring regions of NKR and the future status of NKR.

On May 26-27, the OSCE Minsk group met with Safar Abiyev and Elmar
Mamediarov, Azeri defense and foreign ministers, as well as with
Ilham Aliyev. Yuri Merzliakov, OSCE Russian co-chair, dwelt on the
positive impressions from the negotiations. Mediamax agency informed
that Merzliakov considered the meeting with Ilham Aliyev a very
important one.

"Our last visit to Baku was not an ordinary visit to the region,
we had the aim to meet with Azeri foreign minister. We are thankful
to Ilham Aliyev that he found time to receive the co-chairs. We had a
very interesting and important discussion that allows us to hope that
the process will undergo constructive development," Merzliakov said.

If Yerevan and Baku, as well as the mediators express certain optimism
for the current stage of the settlement, Stepanakert differs in
its opinion. Touching upon the negotiations in Warsaw, NKR foreign
minister said that the process aroused great interest but the results,
"not a single visible progress was made."

"The co-chairs state that there is a progress. The foreign ministers
believe that they may speak of a progress, but it isn't clear yet
what progress they mean. Not a single preliminary agreement connected
with NKR issue can never be carried out without the content and the
participation of NKR people and its authorities. In this respect, we
should be calm and wait for the obvious results of the process. There
are no results yet. There are mutual optimistic statements that are
grounded, which is not bad," Arman Melikian, NKR foreign minister said.

These statements can be commented in two ways. Yerevan sends signals
to the mediators through Stepanakert, according to which the position
of NKR people and authorities is a primary one in the settlement
process, or there are some contradictions in the positions of Yerevan
and Stepanakert in the methodology issue. At least, one thing is
clear that Karabakh has become an object in the settlement process,
i.e. an object for dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

By Tatoul Hakobian