Statement By The Minsk Group Co-Chairs To The OSCE Permanent Council

STATEMENT BY THE MINSK GROUP CO-CHAIRS TO THE OSCE PERMANENT COUNCIL

AZG Armenian Daily
29/06/2006

During the Vienna June 22, 2006, meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council
the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs made a statement on their proposed
key principles of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement and their
further activities.

Bellow is the statement of the MG co-chairs posted on the website of
the US Embassy in Armenia:

Mr. Chairmen, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

In November last year the Minsk Group Co-Chairs reported to this
Council that the two sides in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict were
poised to make a transition from negotiating to decision-making and
that a historic breakthrough in the settlement of the conflict was
possible in 2006. During the past seven months, we intensified our
mediation efforts and worked hard to achieve the agreement of both
sides on basic principles for a settlement.

We visited Baku and Yerevan three times together and several more
times separately, organized two meetings of the Ministers of Foreign
Affairs of Armenia and Azerbaijan and two summits between Presidents
Kocharian and Aliyev – first in Rambouillet in February and then in
Bucharest in early June.

For the first time since 1997, when the current format of the
Co-Chairmanship of the Minsk Group was established, a joint Mission
of Representatives of the Co-Chair countries at the Deputy Foreign
Minister level traveled to the region in May in order to make clear to
the presidents of both countries that 2006 is the necessary window of
opportunity for reaching an agreement on Nagorno- Karabakh. In fact,
the delegation of Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigoriy Karasin,
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried, and high-ranking
French diplomat Pierre Morel – representing French Political Director
Stanislaus de Laboulaye – told the two Presidents that our three
countries expected them to take advantage of this opportunity by
reaching an agreement on core principles for a settlement at their
Bucharest summit in early June.

Our deputy ministers told the two Presidents that an agreement on
basic principles now, before the July G8 Summit in St. Petersburg,
would secure broad international support and a high level of
financial assistance for postconflict reconstruction and peacekeeping
activities. We stressed – as always – the belief of our nations and,
more widely, of the international community that the Nagorno-Karabakh
conflict can be resolved in no other way than a peaceful one. Moreover,
we stressed that both leaders need to prepare their publics for peace
and not for war.

Mr. Chairman, our deputy ministers proposed to Presidents Aliyev and
Kocharian a set of core principles that we believe are fair, balanced,
workable, and that could pave the way for the two sides to draft a
far-reaching settlement agreement. We continue to believe in these
principles, and we urge the Presidents to embrace them as the basis
for an agreement.

Unfortunately, the Presidents chose not to reach such an agreement
in Bucharest. As mediators in this process, we will not breach the
confidentiality of their sensitive diplomatic dialogue, as we continue
to hope that they will reach an agreement.

At this juncture, though, it is our responsibility to you,
Mr. Chairman, to this Council that has provided the funding for a very
intensive series of negotiations, to the international community, and –
perhaps most importantly – to the publics in Armenia and Azerbaijan,
to acquaint you with the basic principles that we have put on the
table for the consideration of the two Presidents. We note that the
principles the Co-Chair countries proposed to the two Presidents were
not developed in a vacuum, but follow on to nine years of detailed
proposals that have been advanced by our predecessors. Even though
3 those proposals were not accepted by the parties, that work of our
predecessors gave us important insights and foundations.

Our approach has been a modified one: we have not tried to solve all
aspects of the conflict in one phase. Instead, our principles seek
to achieve a major degree of progress but defer some very difficult
issues to the future and envision further negotiations. In sum, they
try to solve – in a practical, balanced way – what is immediately
solvable. These principles include the phased redeployment of Armenian
troops from Azerbaijani territories around Nagorno-Karabakh, with
special modalities for Kelbajar and Lachin districts.

Demilitarization of those territories would follow. A referendum or
population vote would be agreed, at an unspecified future date, to
determine the final legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh. The sides would
commit to further negotiations to define the timing and modalities
of such a referendum or population vote.

Certain interim arrangements for Nagorno-Karabakh would allow
for interaction with providers of international assistance. An
international peacekeeping force would be deployed. A joint commission
would be created to implement the agreement. International financial
assistance would be made available for demining, reconstruction, and
resettlement of internally displaced persons in the formerly occupied
territories and the war-affected regions of Nagorno-Karabakh. The sides
would renounce the use or threat of use of force, and international
and bilateral security guarantees and assurances would be put in
place. We note with respect to the idea of a referendum or population
vote to determine the final legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh that
such a vote would be the product of a negotiated agreement between
the two sides. Suitable pre-conditions for such a vote would have
to be achieved so that the vote would take place in a non-coercive
environment in which well-informed citizens have had ample opportunity
to consider their positions after a vigorous debate in the public
arena.

Mr. Chairman, this is what we have proposed to the two Presidents,
but they failed to agree. Nonetheless, we have heard both sides
say repeatedly that they have never before been so close to an
agreement. It would be a tragically wasted opportunity for the two
Presidents to let this window of opportunity close in 2006 without
even the basic principles in place for a future peace agreement
for Nagorno-Karabakh. As you know, election cycles are approaching,
first in Armenia and then in Azerbaijan during 2007-2008. We have
seen before the negative effect that national elections can have on
negotiations, and we continue to believe that now is the time for the
two Presidents to summon the political will to take a courageous step
forward together toward peace.

Mr. Chairman, as Co-Chairs, we have reached the limits of our
creativity in the identification, formulation, and finalization of
these principles. We do not believe additional alternatives advanced by
the mediators through additional meetings with the sides will produce
a different result. We hope that the Permanent Council will join us
in urging the parties to the conflict to reach an agreement as soon
as possible based on the core principles we have recommended. If the
two sides are unable to agree on those principles we have put forward,
we believe it is now contingent upon them to work together to reach
an alternative agreement that both find acceptable. We remain ready to
assist. As mediators, however, we cannot make the difficult decisions
for the parties.

We think the parties would be well-served at this point by allowing
their publics to engage in a robust discussion of the many viewpoints
on these issues. We are confident that neither society wants renewed
conflict, and we urge the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan to
work with their publics and to work with each other to formulate an
agreement on core principles that both find acceptable. Ultimately, it
is the two sides that will be held accountable by their peoples and by
the international community if their actions lead to war and not peace.

Mr. Chairman, we see no point right now in continuing the intensive
shuttle diplomacy we have engaged in over the past several months. We
also see no point in initiating further presidential meetings until the
sides demonstrate enough political will to overcome their remaining
differences. Of course, the Co-Chairs will remain available to both
parties to serve faithfully and impartially as mediators. Acting
in complete unity among the mediators, we have delivered a product
reflecting our best efforts, and we strongly believe that it is now
time for the two Presidents to take the initiative for achieving a
breakthrough in the settlement process. It is the only way to secure
the positive results already achieved through the last two years of
negotiations, in order not to restart them later from scratch. We
will remain vigilant. We will continue our analysis and close
consultations among ourselves in our unified and effective framework,
in our continuing capacity as Co-Chairs of the Minsk Group, supported
by Ambassador Kasprzyk and his team. We will be ready to reengage if
indeed the parties decide to pursue the talks with the political will
that has thus far been lacking.

In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, we would like to express our sincere
gratitude to the Chairman in Office, Minister de Gucht, whose close
interest and constant attention to the issues of the Nagorno-Karabakh
settlement, including his introductory remarks before the last meeting
of two Presidents in Bucharest, have contributed greatly to our work
in the first half of 2006.

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