Van Rompuy: Armenia must settle conflict

United Press International UPI
July 6 2012

Van Rompuy: Armenia must settle conflict

Armenia needs to do more to settle its conflict with Azerbaijan if it
wants closer political ties with the EU, the European Council’s leader
said this week.

YEREVAN, Armenia, July 6 (UPI) — Armenia needs to do more to settle
its conflict with Azerbaijan if it wants closer political ties with
the EU, the European Council’s leader said this week.

EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy, speaking Wednesday in Yerevan,
praised efforts by Armenia’s leaders to hold more transparent
parliamentary elections in May, adding relations generally are “on the
right track.”

But, he warned, violence along the line of contact between Armenia and
Azerbaijan in the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh last month
showed more progress is needed to keep the long-simmering “frozen
conflict” from escalating.

“What is needed now is more trust, more contacts, more
confidence-building,” Van Rompuy said. “The status quo is no option.

“Without trust, there will never be peace,” he added. “And trust will
depend on both sides showing leadership and compromise.”

Ten soldiers were killed in clashes along the Nagorno-Karabakh front
line and on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan in May,
representing the worst outbreak of violence for several years.

The conflict began when Armenia-backed separatists seized Karabakh
from Azerbaijan during the 1990s, leaving 30,000 dead. No final peace
deal was ever signed.

The recent deaths came as Azerbaijan has threatened to re-take the
disputed region by force if negotiations fail, with Armenia vowing a
large-scale military response in such a case.

The EU, Van Rompuy told Armenia’s National Assembly in an address, is
anxious to continue work on an “association agreement” and a
free-trade pact with Yerevan, bringing it closer to Europe through its
Eastern Partnership plan offered to the former Soviet republics.

But that won’t come without renewed efforts to solve Yerevan’s
differences with its Muslim neighbors, Azerbaijan and Turkey, he

“The European Union will continue to insist that Armenia and
Azerbaijan step up their efforts to reach agreement,” Van Rompuy said.
“The so called Madrid Principles remain a valid basis for peace, in
accordance with the commitments made by the presidents of both your
countries to France, Russia and the United States as co-chairs of the
Minsk Group” of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in

He told lawmakers the EU would continue to ask for “unconditional
access” for its representatives into Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding

“The situation in the region is a major challenge,” Van Rompuy said.
“A resolution of the conflict on Nagorno-Karabakh is the key to
unlocking the region’s enormous development potential and the
prosperity that it can bring.”

But for this to happen, he said, “much depends on the will not just of
politicians, but also of citizens, to take difficult decisions and to
work together, resisting the temptations of populist rhetoric and

The address came after a meeting with Armenian President Serzh
Sargsyan, who asserted his country is committed to a Karabakh conflict
settlement through the Minsk Group talks and denounced the recent
violence, reported.

“Military rhetoric and border attacks are unacceptable in the 21st
century,” the Armenian leader said. “We welcome EU readiness to help
boost trust and establish peace in the region.”

Van Rompuy’s address came as part of a regional official visit to the
South Caucasus this week. He was also to visit Georgia and Azerbaijan.

From: Baghdasarian

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