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Armenia/Azerbaijan: OSCE Offers To Defer Nagorno's Status

Yerevan, 29 September 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan says foreign mediators have suggested that the status of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region should be determined only after other issues are resolved.

Ter-Petrossyan was speaking at a press conference last week in Yerevan about mediation efforts of the so-called Minsk group to end tensions over the mostly ethnic-Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan.

Ter-Petrossyan said the Minsk group -- led by Russian, U.S. and French diplomats -- have proposed that all sides first agree on the withdrawal of troops from occupied areas near Nagorno Karabakh, as well as the return of refugees and other confidence building measures.

Ter-Petrossyan said the latest proposal signals a shift from previous efforts to negotiate a single comprehensive document. He said a previous plan was rejected by both sides in the conflict.

Details of the original plan have been kept secret, but some reports said it envisaged keeping Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan while granting it a high degree of autonomy. Ter-Petrossyan said the sides will present written assessments of the latest proposal in two or three weeks.

Nagorno-Karabakh unilaterally proclaimed its independence from Azerbaijan in 1991 but has not been formally recognized by any other country. A 1994 ceasefire has largely held.