Munich, March 15 (RFE/RL) - Diplomats tell RFE/RL that the U.S. and Russia are trying to work out a preliminary agreement on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict which can be signed on the sidelines
of next month's summit meeting in Moscow.
The April 19-20 summit was convened to discuss nuclear issues. But diplomats tell our correspondent privately that it provides an ideal platform for presenting a political breakthrough in long-stagnant efforts to peacefully resolve the conflict between the Azeri government and secessionist ethnic Armenians living in the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave of Azerbaijan.
The diplomats say the idea is to present what is called a "declaration of principles," which will be
used as a basis for further negotiations. Both Armenia and Azerbaijan
are said to favor the idea, so long as it does not damage any of
their fundamental positions on Nagorno-Karabakh.
The diplomats - in various european capitals, and all involved in
the Karabakh negotiations - tell RFE/RL that arrangements for signing the
document during the summit will be discussed by U.S. Secretary of
State Warren Christopher when he visits Moscow next week.
Until now, the negotiations on reaching a settlement have been
handled by a special group created by the "Organisation for Security
and Cooperation in Europe" (OSCE). It was OSCE which negotiated the
ceasefire which has been in place since May 1994.
A high-ranking OSCE official associated with the negotiations, Rene Nyberg of Finland,
told RFE/RL today that both the U.S. and Russia had kept OSCE
informed about the progress of their present initiative. He said OSCE
would continue to be responsible for the negotiations, which will
follow agreement on the "declaration of principles."
The outline of the proposed "declarations of principles" was
discussed by the top-level American and Russian negotiators who
visited both Baku and Erevan this week.
The U.S. team was led by Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, and the Russians by First
Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov and the special presidential
envoy for Nagorno-Karabakh, Vladimir Kazimirov. Diplomats said
their visits followed progress in the secret bi-lateral talks between
presidential advisors of Azerbaijan and Armenia.
The diplomats said both Russia and the U.S. have personal reasons
for wanting progress in the Nagorno-Karabakh negotiations. Russian
president Boris Yeltsin is said to believe that a breakthrough would
help him present himself as a peacemaker in the presidential election
campaign. Russian television would cover the ceremony at which the
presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan sign the "declaration of
principles," with Yeltsin and U.S. President Bill Clinton standing
The diplomats say Clinton also believes such a ceremony would enhance his image as a peacemaker in the run-up to this year's
U.S. presidential election. Other pressures are said to come from the
U.S. and Russian oil industries, which want a more stable atmosphere
in which to carry out their operations in Azerbaijan.
Diplomats said the signing of the "declaration of principles" by
Armenia and Azerbaijan might be accompanied by other agreements,
including the lifting of the energy embargo against Armenia and of
U.S. restrictions on aid to Azerbaijan.
The diplomats emphasized that the signing of a "declaration of
principles" would not necessarily convert the present ceasefire into
a permanent cessation of hostilities. Nor would it resolve the
difficult problems, which have led to stagnation in the
OSCE-negotiated talks. These will continue to be negotiated in
regular meetings under the chairmanship of Russia and Finland.
When a peace settlement is achieved a multi-national, peace-keeping
force will be sent to Nagorno-Karabakh. A summit meeting of OSCE
countries in December 1944 agreed that Russia will participate in the
force, along with other countries.