Vienna, May 10 (RFE/RL) - The international organisation trying to arrange a political settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has welcomed the release of prisoners and says it hopes this will lead to more progress in the deadlocked peace negotiations.
The statement was issued today by Flavio Cotti, who is chairman of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The OSCE sponsors the peace negotiations co-chaired by Russia and Finland with a group of other nations.
The prisoners were released to mark Sunday's (May 12) second anniversay of the 1994 ceasefire negotiated by the OSCE. This week, Russia's Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov brought 35 ethnic Armenian prisoners from Azerbaijan to Armenia. Yesterday, he took 70 Azerbaijani prisoners to Baku.
In his statement today, the OSCE chairman said he commended the efforts of the Russian federation, along with the International Red Cross and the OSCE negotiating group (the Minsk group), which have also pressed for the release of all prisoners-of-war and civilian hostages. He said it is "encouraging" that all parties were still observing the ceasefire on its second anniversary. Cotti said he "supports the will of the parties to the conflict to respect the ceasefire."
He also referred to the April 21 meeting in Luxembourg of the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, Levon Ter-Petrosyan and Heydar Aliyev, after which they issued a joint communique confirming their commitment to a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Cotti said he considered the joint communique "a positive step forward".
In today's statement, Cotti said he "strongly hopes that this considerable progress in the humanitarian field will lead to further substantial movement ahead in the peace process." Monthly peace talks have been suspended since March because of a lack of progress. OSCE has said previously it hopes a decision can be made at the end of this month on resuming them.
In today's statement, Cotti also said that, as he has repeatedly declared, "the political negotiations under OSCE auspices cannot continue indefinitely without quick and concrete progress on the key issues." Cotti said that, in view of this, he intends to discuss the future of the negotiating process at a forthcoming meeting with its co-chairs, Russia and Finland.
Cotti said he personally, along with Russia and Finland as co-chairs of the negotiating group, "hopes that a sober analysis of the situation by the leaders of the parties involved, will help them to give more adequate instructions to their negotiators. Along with the laudable progress made in the humanitarian field, this ought to make possible a breakthrough on the crucial issues of the political agreement, Cotti said.