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OSCE Summit: Little Progress Seen On Nagorno-Karabakh Talks

Lisbon, 1 December 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Diplomats preparing for tomorrow's European security summit say hopes are vanishing for an agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan on a declaration of principles for a political settlement over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Negotiations have continued through the weekend under the guidance of Russia and Finland, which are co-chairmen of the negotiating group established by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), sponsor of the security summit. Other countries have also become deeply engaged in trying to reach an agreement.

Diplomats said both sides are embarrassed at the failure to show any progress but neither is willing to make the necessary compromises. A diplomat engaged in the negotiations said the proposed declaration of principles should not pose problems for either side.

"What has been suggested is not very ambitious," he said. "It would not commit any side to any loss of face. It would just set out in rather loose terms a basis on which negotiations for a permanent cessation of hostilities and a political settlement could take place in future. But it is difficult to achieve even that."

The ceasefire has been in force since 1994.

Diplomats said the lack of progress apparent in the Nagorno-Karabakh negotiations contrasts sadly with the high hopes raised at the last OSCE summit meeting in Budapest in December 1994. At that time there was a firm belief that negotiations would advance quickly to the point where OSCE could send an international peacekeeping force to the region. The focus of the discussions was on the size of the Russian contingent in the multilateral force. Diplomats said that this time the peacekeeping force had not even been mentioned in the discussions because no one believed it would be needed for some time.

On Friday, Azerbaijan circulated a statement which it said could be adopted by the heads of state and government at the summit. It was immediately dismissed by Armenia as no more than a restatement of Baku's position.

The statement suggested that the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict should be based on three points:

The territorial integrity of the Azerbaijan republic and the Republic of Armenia.

The legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh "should be defined in such a way as to provide the highest-level of self-rule to the Nagorno-Karabakh region within the Azerbaijan Republic."

"Security for the whole population of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, including obligations to ensure compliance by all the parties with the provisions of the settlement, inter alia deriving from the agreement on cessation of armed conflict."

In the absence of any progress, the draft summit declaration contains only a small paragraph on Nagorno-Karabakh.

The draft circulated today reads: "We (the heads of state and government) take note of the work for a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. While we welcome the fact that the ceasefire is holding, we do regret that a political agreement has not yet been concluded. The OSCE is committed to a peaceful solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and urges the parties to achieve, without further delay, a settlement in accordance with the decisions of the 1994 Budapest Summit. The Parties should demonstrate that their political will to compromise corresponds with the significant involvement of the OSCE."

Diplomats also said today there was still no decision yet on which country would replace Finland as co-chairman of the negotiating group. Finland withdraws from the co-chairmanship this month. Among those seeking the post are the United States, France and Germany. Russia remains the other co-chairman.