By Karine Kalantarian
A senior official from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on Monday again spoke of a “golden opportunity” to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, citing substantial progress made in Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks.
Goran Lennmarker, chairman of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, hinted that the conflicting parties will try to seal a compromise peace accord shortly after the May parliamentary elections in Armenia.
“I think there is a golden opportunity to reach an agreement on Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenia and Azerbaijan,” he told RFE/RL during a visit to Yerevan.
The Swedish parliamentarian said earlier that such an opportunity was created by last November’s meeting of the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents that rekindled hopes for a near-term solution to the Karabakh dispute. Although President Robert Kocharian cautioned afterwards that he will not cut any peace deals before the upcoming elections, observers expect a fresh and possibly decisive push for an Armenian-Azerbaijani settlement in the second half of this year.
“I think there is an opportunity after the parliamentary elections to come to a conclusion,” agreed Lennmarker. “It is said to be a frozen conflict, but I don’t agree with that because people die along the line of contact,” he added. “Perhaps 20 to 30 people die there every year, and you have a lot of refugees … So there is really a need to have an agreement.”
The American, French and Russian mediators co-chairing the OSCE’s Minsk Group sounded cautiously optimistic about peace prospects after their latest tour of the conflict zone. In a joint statement issued on January 29, they urged the parties to “sustain this momentum in the negotiations and to prepare their publics for the necessary compromises.”
The Karabakh issue featured large during Lennmarker’s meetings with Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, parliament speaker Tigran Torosian and other senior members of Armenia’s parliament. Torosian reportedly praised the mediators’ efforts and reaffirmed Yerevan’s overall acceptance of their existing peace proposals that call for a gradual settlement culminating in a referendum of self-determination in Karabakh.
Preparations for the Armenian parliamentary elections were also high on the agenda of the talks, with Lennmarker emphasizing the importance of their conformity with democratic standards. Torosian’s office quoted him as saying that Armenia has “all prerequisites” to hold a first-ever election recognized as free and fair by the international community.