Armenia, Azerbaijan Renew Talks Commitment


United Press International UPI
Oct 30 2012

PARIS, Oct. 30 (UPI) — The foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan
over the weekend recommitted themselves to finding a peaceful solution
to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Azerbaijan Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov and Armenian
counterpart Edward Nalbandian met Saturday in Paris with leaders of
the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Minsk Group,
which is mediating the conflict.

After the meeting, the parties issued a statement in which the foreign
ministers “reiterated their determination to continue working with
the co-chairs to reach a peaceful settlement” in the wake of a furor
this summer over the pardon of an Azeri soldier convicting of killing
an Armenian counterpart eight years ago in Hungary.

The OSCE co-chairmen — including Ambassadors Robert Bradtke of the
United States, Igor Popov of Russia and Jacques Faure of France —
“stressed to the ministers the importance of reducing tensions among
the parties,” the statement said, adding, “They presented their ideas
on a working proposal to advance the peace process.”

The Minsk Group leaders also put a focus on an upcoming visit to region
in which they are to meet with the two countries’ leaders next month,
saying the “working proposal” would be discussed further then.

The Paris meeting represented an attempt to bridge a vacuum in
the talks that has developed following Baku’s August pardoning of
Azerbaijani military officer Ramil Safarov, who had been convicted
of killing of Armenian serviceman Gurgen Markaryan in Hungary eight
years ago.

The Azeri courts issued a pardon for Safarov after he was extradited
from Hungary, where he had been sentenced to life in prison. He was
greeted by Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev as a national hero and
promoted to major after the extradition.

That move upset Armenia and brought condemnation from the United
Nations. Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner
for Human Rights, said in September Safarov’s attack on Markaryan
was clearly ethnically motivated.

“International standards regarding accountability for serious crimes
should be upheld,” he said. “Ethnically motivated hate crimes of
this gravity should be deplored and properly punished, not publicly
glorified by leaders and politicians.”

Since then, the Minsk Group mediators have been trying to get the two
sides to re-commit to the peace process and to set up next month’s
meeting, which is likely to involve the presidents Aliyev and Serzh
Sarkisyan of Armenia.

Karen Bekaryan, head of the Armenian non-governmental organization
European Integration, told the English-language news website last week the Safarov episode has changed Armenia’s
approach to the talks.

“After the extradition and pardon of Ramil Safarov, we have a different
situation. Armenia did not abandon the talks, but we now have much
to say,” he said.

“I think before making the Safarov deal, Azerbaijan discussed the
possible consequences (of) thinking that Armenia would quit the talks,
(which is just what Azerbaijan wants), the Minsk Group format would
change, the negotiations would be transferred to another platform
and Azerbaijan could accuse Armenia of foiling the negotiations,”
Bekaryan said.

Armenia went to war with Azerbaijan over the disputed, Armenian
majority territory of Nagorno-Karabakh in 1988, and since fighting
stopped four years later have occupied the region, which Azerbaijan
claims as 20 percent of its nation.

Tensions rekindled in June when fighting broke out between Azeri and
Armenian forces over the region.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in September visited
Armenia for the first time, calling on both sides to break down
barriers that interfere with reconciliation.

“There must be no return to conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan,”
he said. “Tensions must be reduced and concrete steps must be taken
to promote regional cooperation and reconciliation.”

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