By Hrach Melkumian in Yerevan and Hrant Alexanian in Stepanakert
The OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen from the United States, Russia and France, accompanied by the First Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia traveled from Nagorno-karabakh to Armenia by helicopter and landed in the Erebuni airport near Yerevan today.
In brief remarks upon arrival they underlined what they had already stressed during their trips to Baku and Stepanakert; that the new proposals are not radically different from what has been discussed between the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan in previous rounds of negotiations. The newly appointed American representative, Rudolf Perina told reporters that they are basically discussing the same approaches. “ I would not say we have brought a lot of new ideas and I would not say that we have discussed new proposals in Baku and Stepanakert.”
Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov gave a slightly different description of the diplomatic mission. He said that of course the diplomats came to the region with new ideas, but he did not label them as new proposals. “ We describe the new ideas as modifications of agreements reached in the Paris and Key West” round of talks earlier this year. The French co-chairman Phillippe de Surmain also reiterated that the mediators are proceeding within the same framework, maintaining previous agreements.
The diplomats declined to comment on how Baku and Stepanakert reacted to the new ideas. However, they voiced satisfaction with the opportunity to hear the views of the conflicting parties in Azerbaijan and in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Our correspondent from Stepanakert reports that, following a two-hour meeting with the co-chairmen President Arkady Ghoukassian ruled out a renewal of hostilities. Furthermore, he said that discussions were held on additional confidence building measures in the region, which in the future would create the possibility for undertaking more serious steps. Ghoukassian reiterated that the Minsk Group continues its efforts and new meetings are planned. “ Sooner or later we will succeed”, said the president of the Armenian enclave. He stressed however, that no major decisions can be made without the participation of the two major sides in the conflict; Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan. Ghoukassian stressed that “we must be able to defend the cease-fire and also our negotiating positions, the basis of which is Karabakh’s independence”.
In Armenia, Mr. Perina said that although the peace process continues, it is difficult to say that the conflict will be resolved until the end of this year or in the near future. There is very little time left this year, he concluded.
Asked by reporters whether Aliev’s tough rhetoric means that he does not wish to continue cooperation with the Minsk Group, Trubnikov said that they spent four hours with Aliev and that is an indication of his willingness to continue discussions. Furthermore, Aliev told the visiting diplomats that he is categorically opposed to a military solution to the conflict.
Commenting on a possible meeting of the Armenian and Azeri presidents at the upcoming CIS meeting in Moscow on November 30, the French co-chairman said that he does not think these meetings have exhausted their potential, and they are assisting the two presidents to continue such meetings. He added that the mediators are working to bring about the Geneva meeting between the two presidents that was postponed this summer, but its time has not come yet.
Later in the day, the OSCE team met with the Armenian foreign minister Vartan Oskanian in preparation for a meeting with President Robert Kocharian scheduled for Wednesday.