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Caucasus: Negotiators Review Responses To Karabakh Proposals

Vienna, 16 June 1997 (RFE/RL) - International negotiators, who visited Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh at the weekend, are reviewing responses to proposals for resolving the long-running dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh.

A diplomat (anonymous) associated with the negotiations tells RFE/RL that there had been no decision yet on what the next step would be. "The answers received at the weekend have first to be processed and considered," he said.

The negotiators from the U.S., Russia and France visited Yerevan, Baku, and Stepanakert to obtain responses from proposals presented this month by a top-level team from the three countries.

Diplomats tell our correspondent the latest proposals call for the withdrawal of ethnic Armenian forces from some of the Azerbaijani territories captured in fighting in 1993, in return for concessions. But the diplomats declined to release any details, saying no concrete decisions had been taken, and that publicity could confuse the issue.

The diplomats said the plan sought compromises from each Azerbaijan and Armenia.

In a hint that many problems remain to be resolved, a diplomat told our correspondent that Azerbaijan had argued that any settlement must remain true to the principles discussed at last December's Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) summit in Lisbon. The summit ended without agreement on the dispute, because of protests by Armenia. But an OSCE statement said Nagorno-Karabakh should remain within Azerbaijan, but be granted the highest degree of self-rule.

Diplomats tell RFE/RL the latest proposals renew plans for the deployment of a multi-national military force to maintain the peace. They said the force would be administered by the OSCE, in accordance with an agreement at the OSCE summit in Budapest in December 1994.

That summit's statement did not go into detail about this force, but OSCE's military experts later drew up a plan for its composition and deployment. It proposed a force of about 2,000 troops, including around 700 Russians, with the others to come from Europe and, possibly, the U.S.

The OSCE also drew up a detailed plan for the deployment of the multi-lateral force, including the number of peacekeepers required in each area.

One area to be patrolled by the peackeepers is the Lachin corridor, which is one of the major issues to be resolved in the negotiations. The seven-kilometer mountain pass is the only direct overland link between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia. In the last two years, Nagorno-Karabakh workmen have widened and improved the road through the pass. It once ran across rickety wooden bridges over deep crevasses, but it has been broadened into a passage for heavy trucks.