U.S Mediator Richard Hoagland Hopes for Renewed Armenian-Azeri Talks

YEREVAN — International mediators hope that Armenia and Azerbaijan will resume soon their high-level negotiations on a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, a senior diplomat said. “We hope that in the near future–not months away but in the near future–the two foreign ministers will be able to meet together in Moscow or perhaps elsewhere to prepare the ground for the [Armenian and Azerbaijan] presidents to meet”, Richard Hoagland, the U.S co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group told reporters in Yerevan. “It is time to begin negotiating again,” he said. “We cannot allow violence to be the solution to this long-standing issue. Violence is not an answer.”

Hoagland arrived in Armenia together with fellow mediators from Russia and France heading the Minsk Group. The held meetings with President Serzh Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian and were due to travel to Nagorno-Karabakh.

Official Armenian sources said both sides agrees on the need to implements last year’s Armenian-Azerbaijani agreements aimed at bolstering the ceasefire regime in the conflict zone. Those call for the deployment of more OSCE observes and international investigations of armed incidents on the front lines.

Azerbaijan formally notified the OSCE headquarters in Vienna earlier this month that it will not agree to such a deployment “in the absence of withdrawal of the Armenian troops from the occupied territories.” Baku has also been reluctant to allow OSCE investigations of truce violations along the Karabakh “line of contact” and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.

Armenian leaders have repeatedly said that implementation of these confidence-building measures is necessary for renewed negotiations on a peaceful settlement proposed by the U.S, Russian, and French mediators. Their so-called Basic Principles of a Karabakh peace were first out forward in 2007 and have been repeatedly modified since then. Asked to comment on reports that the existing, most recent version of that framework accord was drawn up by Russia, Hoagland said: “That’s a hard question to answer…The plan on the table right now is in no way radically different fro plans in the past. Which specific individual or country sat a the table last at night and wrote this plan? Well, I’m not going to comment on that. But I will say that this is a very good, internationally approved plan. The OSCE supports it and the co-chairs and their governments support it,” added the diplomat.

Russian Foreign Minsitry Sergey Lavrov said on March 6th, that the conflicting parties broadly agree on the proposed settlement envisaging Armenian withdrawal from “districts around Karabakh” and a future decision on Karabakh’s status which would “take into account the opinion of the people living there.” But Lavrov also admitted that htey are still far apart on “two or three” elements of this peace formula. He did not disclose the sticking points.

Hoagland also declined to give key details of the “very comprehensive” peace plan. “In diplomacy, it’s like in a card game,” he explained. “When you’re holding cards you don’t put all the cards on the table for everyone to see.”

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