By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Senior Armenian officials denied on Friday speculation that they have been presented with an interim U.S. peace plan that calls for an Armenian withdrawal from some of the occupied Azerbaijani territories before an agreement on Nagorno-Karabakh’s status.
Opposition politicians and some media have claimed that the plan was put forward by Steven Mann, the chief U.S. negotiator on Karabakh, during a recent visit to Yerevan. They say the deal concerns three of the seven Armenian-controlled districts around Karabakh.
“Those reports do not correspond to reality,” Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian told RFE/RL.
The Karabakh dispute featured large during Oskanian’s talks earlier this week in Washington with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and President George W. Bush’s national security adviser, Condoleeza Rice. Oskanian would not go into details of the talks, saying only that he is “satisfied” with the results of the meetings.
“Our joint agenda with the United States has indeed grown bigger,” he said. “Numerous issues were discussed [in Washington]. In a way, a new situation has emerged because Armenia was included in the Millennium Challenge Account initiative.”
The leadership of Armenia and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic have for years insisted on a “package” settlement involving simultaneous agreements on the disputed region’s status and the occupied territories. This position was reaffirmed on Friday by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian who leads the governing Republican Party of Armenia.
“The Republican Party is categorically against discussing the issue [of occupied territories] separately,” Markarian told RFE/RL. “It can only be discussed in connection with Karabakh’s status.”
The speaker of the NKR parliament, Oleg Yesayan, also dismissed the idea of a partial Armenian withdrawal as “not serious.” “I don’t think such discussions took place,” he said in Yerevan.