Munich, March 22 (RFE/RL) - The apparent failure
of the latest initiative on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was
discussed in Moscow today by U.S. Secretary of State Warren
Christopher and Russia's Foreign Minister Yevgeni Primakov.
U.S. diplomats tell RFE/RL that Christopher and Primakov agreed to
continue pressing Armenia and Azerbaijan to make compromises over
Nagorno-Karabakh, and to agree on a set of principles for a permanent
end to the conflict. There were no other details.
Nagorno-Karabkah is an enclave within Azerbaijan populated mostly by
ethnic Armenians. Fighting erupted in 1988, following the declaration
of sovereignty by the ethnic Armenians. A ceasefire
was agreed in May 1994, but international mediators have been unable
to translate this into a permanent cessation of hostilities, and
negotiations on a political settlement.
This month, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and
Russia's First Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov visited
Yerevan and Baku, urging the governments to accept a "declaration of
principles" for settling the conflict drawn-up by the "Organisation
for Security and Cooperation in Europe"(OSCE). A Russian team also
visited Stepanakert. It was hoped the declaration could be signed on
the sidelines of next month's summit meeting in Moscow (April 19), and
could be used by Russia's President Boris Yeltsin in his election
But the U.S. and Russian missions were unsuccessful. An OSCE
spokesman (anonymous) today told RFE/RL that neither Armenia, nor
Azerbaijan was willing to accept the complete package, and they
differed on the parts they would accept.
The OSCE spokesman said the failure was a "disappointment." He said
the package of "principles" did not contain any concrete agreements.
It was intended to lay out a framework on which negotiations could be
built. the spokesman described it as a "political document which
would basically guarantee that both
sides possessed the political will to reach a permanent settlement."
The spokesman said one of the major issues discussed in the package
was the Lachin corridor, which connects Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia
across mountainous Azerbaijan territory. The corridor was captured by
Armenian forces in April 1992. Azerbaijan has made its return to full
Azerbaijani sovereignty a key issue in the
negotiations. Armenian forces say they are prepared to return much
Azerbaijani territory, but insist on other arrangements - including
security arrangements - for the Lachin corridor.
Diplomats had said mediators had offered a compromise in which the
Lachin corridor would legally continue to be Azerbaijani territory,
but in practise would not be treated as such. (in technical terms:
it would be Azerbaijani territory "de jure" - but "de facto" not).
However, Azerbaijan has rejected this approach, and insisted on
the return of the corridor.
The OSCE spokesman said the failure of Armenia and Azerbaijan to
accept the package of "principles" has prompted questions about how
long the international negotiators should continue to try to reach a
settlement. He said there was no question of withdrawing at the
present time, but the idea would return if there was no concrete
progress to build on the 1994 ceasefire. In Prague yesterday, the
chairman of the OSCE, Swiss foreign minister Flavio Cotti also warned
that the OSCE mediation effort could not continue indefinitely, if no
progress is made by the parties to the conflict
Negotiations on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resume in Moscow next
week. An OSCE spokesman said today the meeting will study
computer-produced maps of possible dividing lines between the forces
and possible borders for Nagorno-Karabakh.
The meeting will take place from Monday to Thursday.
Friday, there will be a meeting of all eleven countries in the
international group trying to reach a permanent settlement of the
Another round of the private talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan is
also scheduled for next week. This is conducted at the level of
presidential advisors, but details of the talks have never been
disclosed. The OSCE spokesman said the failure to agree on the
package of "principles" indicated that these talks also had
apparently made little progress.