OSCE MG Co-chairs fail to see “change in Karabakh population size”

OSCE MG Co-chairs fail to see “change in Karabakh population size”

PanARMENIAN.Net - The Co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group (Ambassadors Igor Popov of the Russian Federation, Jacques Faure of France, and James Warlick of the United States of America) and the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk, travelled to the region May 16-19. They were joined by Ambassador Pierre Andrieu, who will take over as French Co-Chair in June.

The main objective of their visit was to review the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, Kelbajar, and Lachin, in accordance with their mandate. “In travelling through these areas, they saw signs of improvements in infrastructure, but could not observe any indications that the size of the population had changed in recent years,” an OSCE MG press release said.

They also visited the Sargsang reservoir, and discussed its status and operations with managers of the facility. They expressed their hope that the sides (Karabakh and Azerbaijan) will reach an agreement to jointly manage these water resources to the benefit of the region.

Earlier, Ambassador Warlick posted the reservoir photo on his Tweeter page, noting below, “This is Sarsang reservoir. It would be a positive step if the sides could jointly manage water resources.”

On May 19, the Co-chairs crossed the Line of Contact near Terter. They expressed regret for the continued ceasefire violations and consequent casualties. “The absence of a mechanism for investigating these ceasefire violations allows the sides to put the blame on each other,” the press release said.

In the course of the visit, the Co-chairs paid courtesy calls on the Presidents and senior officials in Yerevan and Nagorno Karabakh. “In their meetings, they discussed elements of the peace process, and stressed that the basis of a lasting settlement remains those elements outlined in statements by the Presidents of the co-chair countries from 2009 to 2013,” the press release said.

On arriving in Karabakh, Ambassador Warlick, was greeted by angry protesters in Artsakh’s capital Stepanakert and in Berdzor (Lachin) in the Kashatagh district, for his proposed six-point plan unveiled earlier this month, which called into question’s Lachin’s viability as part of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic, Armenian media reported.

Speaking to reporters in Stepanakert, Warlick said he was surprised by the unprecedented protest but called his conversation with its participants useful.

“We are not coming here to impose any settlements,” Warlick stressed. A compromise peace deal must be acceptable to all conflicting parties, he said.

In his statement, delivered at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, amb. James Warlick said that “there are six elements that will have to be part of any peace agreement if it is to endure. While the sequencing and details of these elements remains the subject of negotiations, they must be seen as an integrated whole. Any attempt to select some elements over others will make it impossible to achieve a balanced solution.”

“First, in light of Nagorno-Karabakh’s complex history, the sides should commit to determining its final legal status through a mutually agreed and legally binding expression of will in the future. This is not optional. Interim status will be temporary,” the U.S. diplomat said.

“Second, the area within the boundaries of the former Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Region that is not controlled by Baku should be granted an interim status that, at a minimum, provides guarantees for security and self-governance.”

The third element, according to the U.S. Co-chair is that “the occupied territories surrounding Nagorno Karabakh should be returned to Azerbaijani control. There can be no settlement without respect for Azerbaijan’s sovereignty, and the recognition that its sovereignty over these territories must be restored.”

“Fourth, there should be a corridor linking Armenia to Nagorno Karabakh. It must be wide enough to provide secure passage, but it cannot encompass the whole of Lachin district,” Warlick said.

“Fifth, an enduring settlement will have to recognize the right of all IDPs and refugees to return to their former places of residence. Sixth and finally, a settlement must include international security guarantees that would include a peacekeeping operation. There is no scenario in which peace can be assured without a well-designed peacekeeping operation that enjoys the confidence of all sides,” he said.

According to him, the Co-chairs of the Minsk Group share a common interest in helping the sides reach a peaceful resolution.

“We intend to continue working through the Minsk Group as the primary channel for resolving this conflict. Together with France, the United States and Russia share a common commitment to peace and security in Nagorno Karabakh. The United States stands ready to help in any way we can. I would also call on the diaspora communities in the United States and around the world to speak out for peace and to help bring an end to this conflict,” the diplomat said.

Meanwhile, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) slammed the statement as “morally acceptable nor practically sustainable.”

“While we do welcome the renewed focus on the centrality of status, at a fundamental level, this plan falls far short of our American ideal of democratic self-determination, the enduring principle upon which our nation was founded and through which more than one hundred new countries have emerged over the past half century,” ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian said.

“Using the profoundly incendiary and patently inaccurate language of "occupation," this proposed framework again effectively calls upon Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia - the victims of Baku's war of aggression - to make up-front, strategic security concessions in return for entirely undefined and easily reversible promises by an increasingly belligerent Azerbaijani government,” he emphasized.

“We remain hopeful in the overall prospects for an OSCE-brokered peace, are disappointed by the status and security asymmetry in this particular proposal, and look forward to engaging, as meaningful stakeholders, in a more balanced, inclusive and democratic framework for the future of the independent Republic of Nagorno Karabakh. Over-riding Baku's veto on Nagorno Karabakh's full and direct participation in all peace talks should, of course, be the first item on the OSCE's agenda,” Hamparian concluded.

The conflict between Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijan

The conflict between Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijan broke out as result of the ethnic cleansing launched by the Azeri authorities in the final years of the Soviet Union. The Karabakh War was fought from 1991 (when the Nagorno Karabakh Republic was proclaimed) to 1994 (when a ceasefire was sealed by Armenia, NKR and Azerbaijan). Most of Nagorno Karabakh and a security zone consisting of 7 regions are now under control of NKR defense army. Armenia and Azerbaijan are holding peace talks mediated by the OSCE Minsk Group up till now.

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