US mediator says time ripe for Karabakh peace talks

Ekho, Baku
22 Sep 04

An interview with the US co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group, Steven
Mann, was published on the web page of the BBC Russian Service
yesterday [21 September].

[Correspondent] At what stage is the Karabakh peace process now?

[Mann] We, the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs, have held four rounds of
talks to study the problem only to answer this question and understand
what stage it is at. There is a new leadership in Azerbaijan now, and
the Armenian leaders are already in power for the second term. This
means that politically both sides are living through the period of
more stability now than in the past few years. That is we have an
opportunity to resume the study of the problem.

[Correspondent] Do you think that there is a good opportunity for

[Mann] There are all objective opportunities for this. To be frank, as
there was a season of elections in Armenia, one could not hope for a
serious breakthrough in the peace talks. The case was the same during
the transition of power in Azerbaijan. All this is left behind
now. There are all opportunities, if the two capitals have the
political will, of course.

[Correspondent] Do Baku and Yerevan have the political will?

[Mann] We are trying to assess this. Our talks in Astana were aimed at
this. This will be discussed with the OSCE Minsk Group as well. We
tell both governments that the time is not on your side. It will get
worse both for Armenia and Azerbaijan.

[Passage omitted: reported details of the conflict's impact on
Azerbaijan and Armenia covered from Azad Azarbaycan TV on 21 September

The sides should pass through the negotiating process and find a
solution which the two sides will agree on.

For this, leaders of all parties from both countries should promote
the idea of dialogue. I am convinced that this meets the strategic
interests of both sides. From the practical viewpoint, these steps
will have to be taken if the governments are really interested in
establishing peace and putting an end to this humanitarian, social and
economic tragedy.

[Correspondent] What are the sides to the conflict expecting from the
Minsk Group?

[Mann] You should ask the sides to the conflict to answer this
question. The Minsk Group's mandate is not to reach a solution and
impose it on the sides. The mandate is not to be a judge between
Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Our mandate implies creating an atmosphere in which the two sides
could hold serious peace talks. The Minsk Group's mandate is also to
adopt together with the sides a decision acceptable for all. We cannot
do anything else. Responsibility for the conflict resolution rests
with Armenia and Azerbaijan. This is a fundamental issue. Of course,
the governments of the co-chairing countries of the Minsk Group - the
USA, Russia and France - are sincerely interested in the resolution of
the conflict and we will do our best to support the sides' decision.