Yerevan, 8 May 2000 (RFE/RL) - A senior U.S. negotiator is in Armenia for talks with officials on resolving the dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.
Ambassador Carey Cavanaugh met on Friday (May 5) with president Robert Kocharian and foreign minister Vartan Oskanian. He was also expected to visit with Arkady Ghukasian, the ethnic Armenian leader of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh republic. Ghukasian is recuperating in a Yerevan clinic from wounds sustained in an armed attack in March.
Cavanaugh tells RFE/RL he hopes political uncertainty in Armenia caused the sacking this week of Prime Minister Aram Sarkisian will not hamper the Karabakh peace process:
"I hope it's not an obstacle. We are talking to the Armenian leadership today [on Friday, May 5] to see how the political situation is sorting out."
Armenian President Robert Kocharian is thought to have strengthened his position after months of strained relations with government factions grouped around the former prime minister. Some of those factions favor a hard line on the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue.
Although the Karabakh was not at the heart of government infighting in Armenia, the weakening of pro-Sarkisian groups may give Kocharian a freer hand in deal-making.
Cavanaugh says U.S., Russian and French mediators are working on a new Karabakh peace plan, but he refused to say when the document would be unveiled. The three co-chair the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, charged with resolving the territorial dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
"'When' is always a difficult question to answer. It's important that they [peace proposals] be done the right way and that the proposal that's generated next be one that would be acceptable to all the parties."
A previous Minsk Group plan was largely backed by Armenia and Karabakh but was rejected by Azerbaijan. It was based on the idea of a "common state," or a loose confederation, to be formed by Karabakh and Azerbaijan. Baku claimed the proposal did not uphold Azerbaijani sovereignty over the disputed enclave that broke away from its rule in the late 1980s.
The new revised plan is intended to address Azerbaijani concerns. The Armenians have made it clear that they would oppose any major diversions from the proposed "common state" deal.
Cavanaugh said the three co-chairs will meet in Geneva May 18 to "continue discussions." He said the coming months will see a number of events that could be helpful for finding a solution to the conflict:
"[In just] 10 days time we have a meeting in Geneva with international agencies to see what would be needed to provide money for reconstruction and resettlement in Armenia and Azerbaijan."
The mediators suggested earlier a package of economic incentives to the Armenian and Azerbaijani sides could be part of a future peace deal on Karabakh.
Cavanaugh is due in Azerbaijan on Tuesday.