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OSCE Karabakh Mediators Hoping For Sniper Withdrawal

BAKU -- The French cochair of the OSCE Minsk Group says that Armenia and Azerbaijan are expected to pull their snipers away from the front line dividing Azerbaijani and Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh by the new year.

Bernard Fassie told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service today that the move is seen as a confidence-building measure which Yerevan and Baku agreed to in signing the Moscow declaration in early November.

Fassier says France, Russia, and the United States called on Azerbaijan and Armenia to fulfill measures such as withdrawing their snipers in a declaration signed by the Russian and French foreign ministers, Bernard Kouchner and Sergei Lavrov, as well as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried, on December 4.

Fassie said "We are expecting a positive answer from all the people in charge of this question in order to preserve as many lives as possible."

He added that Baku and Yerevan are expected to finalize work on the basic principles of a settlement by the middle of next year in order to start work on a peace agreement.