By Harry Tamrazian in Prague
International mediators trying to broker a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will bring new, revised peace proposals during a new round of shuttle diplomacy next month, according to a senior French diplomat.
In an interview with RFE/RL on Thursday, Ambassador Philippe de Suremain said he and top American and Russian negotiators co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group will try to build on progress made by the conflicting parties last year, when they again visit Armenia, Azerbaijan and Karabakh.
"We intend to travel to the region very soon and have some new practical proposals to go farther on the basis of what has been done before, which certainly has not been lost," Suremain said. "We are rather confident that we could get some results."
The envoy refused to give any details of the new proposals, saying that they do not represent a "complete change in what has been done before." The mediators have only tried to "improve" their previous ideas of how to end the long-running dispute, he explained.
The parties were closer to a peace deal last summer than ever before following a series of talks between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan mediated by the Minsk Group troika. Armenian officials say expectations of a breakthrough did not materialize because Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliev unexpectedly scrapped a framework agreement reached in Paris last March. Official Baku denies its existence, however.
Still, French President Jacques Chirac indicated recently that he hopes the two sides will agree on a peaceful settlement based on the so-called "Paris principles."
Suremain said the mediators have already submitted "some suggestions" to the parties and the latter are currently "working on them." "We have the feeling that both sides are supporting our efforts. This is a quite positive element," he said. "We are working very actively and are convinced that more progress can be made."
The precise date of the co-chairs' visit has yet to be determined. The troika discussed its details with Aliev and Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian in separate meetings held in New York earlier this month.
Suremain also claimed that despite the latest deterioration of US-Iranian relations, the Minsk Group will continue to inform Iran about its peace efforts. The French diplomat said President George W. Bush's harsh attacks on the Iranian regime have "absolutely no impact" on the mediators' contacts with official Tehran.
The group decided last April to put Suremain, who was France's ambassador to Iran before taking up the current post, in charge of liaising with the Iranians.