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Armenia/Azerbaijan: OSCE Exerts New Efforts To Settle Karabakh Dispute

Munich, 20 November 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) called today for new efforts aimed at resolving the long-standing dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.

A team of American, Russian and French negotiators visited the Caucasus region earlier this month with a set of proposals for resuming negotiations which broke down in December, 1996.

An OSCE spokesman said today that Armenia, Azerbaijan and the authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh have promised to study the proposals to see whether they might represent a basis for formal negotiations.

Also today, the OSCE chairman, Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek, urged all the parties to refrain from making public statements which might hinder the efforts to resume negotiations. He said they should not seek temporary tactical advantages which might lead to a new breakdown.

In a statement issued at OSCE headquarters in Vienna, Geremek appealed to all three parties to "demonstrate the political will to negotiate and compromise in the interest of achieving a mutually-acceptable resolution of the conflict."

The OSCE hopes that a re-opening of negotiations can be announced at a foreign ministers meeting in Norway on December 2.

Nagorno-Karabakh is a largely ethnic-Armenian enclave inside Azerbaijan. Fighting erupted in 1988 when the ethnic Armenians demanded independence.

The OSCE and Russia arranged a cease-fire in 1994 but efforts to achieve a political settlement have made little progress.

Previous negotiations collapsed after an OSCE summit meeting in Lisbon in December 1996 approved a document declaring that Nagorno-Karabakh should remain part of Azerbaijan while enjoying the highest degree of autonomy. It was rejected by Armenia, which has refused to negotiate on proposals based on it.