Preamble Reached On Nagorno-Karabakh

By Nikolaus von Twickel

The Moscow Times
26 January 2010

Medvedev giving Sargsyan, left, and Aliyev, center, a tour of the
Krasnaya Polyana ski resort near Sochi on Monday.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed on a preamble to an agreement on the
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday.

"There is a general understanding on the preamble of the document,"
Lavrov said in Sochi after talks between the two country’s leaders
and President Dmitry Medvedev, Interfax reported.

Neither Medvedev nor Presidents Serzh Sargsyan of Armenia and Ilham
Aliyev of Azerbaijan made any public statements after the closed-door
talks in Medvedev’s residence in the Krasnaya Polyana resort above

Lavrov said the sides had agreed to forward their own suggestions for
alterations to the so-called Madrid principles, a set of proposals
for a political solution in the 20-year conflict in the South Caucasus.

"The main result today is that both sides will prepare their tangible
ideas of how to formulate the text where there is no agreement,"
Lavrov said.

The principles, adopted in late 2007, envisage returning territories
occupied by Armenian troops that lie outside Karabakh proper to
Azerbaijan but leaving a corridor linking Armenia with the disputed
province on Azeri soil.

The plan, worked out by Russia, France and the United States, which
have led the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s
mediation efforts, stipulate that the status for Nagorno-Karabakh
would be determined in a referendum that refugees should be allowed
to return and that an international peacekeeping force be deployed.

Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian enclave inside Azerbaijan,
broke away after a bloody conflict in the early 1990s that killed
more than 30,000 people and displaced more than 1 million.

The Madrid principles, which were made public only last summer,
were met with fierce criticism by the Armenian opposition.

Moscow has in recent years stepped up its own mediation efforts in
the seemingly intractable conflict, and Sargsyan and Aliyev pledged
that their countries would step up efforts to find a peaceful solution
over Nagorno-Karabakh in a five-point declaration reached at a meeting
with Medvedev in November 2008.

Last year, the two presidents met for talks six times, including two
rounds with Medvedev.

Analysts have said the efforts show Moscow’s assertion of influence
in the South Caucasus, were Western influence has subsided after
the Georgia war in August 2008, the global financial crisis and the
leadership change in the United States.

Armenia has been irked by increasing rapprochement between its Turkic
neighbors and Moscow, which recently signed energy agreements with
both Azerbaijan and Turkey.

Earlier this month, state energy giant Gazprom announced plans to
quadruple the amount of gas that it buys from Azerbaijan in 2011,
and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed with Prime
Minister Vladimir Putin to spur efforts to build the $2.5 billion
Samsun-Ceyhan oil pipeline in Turkey.

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