BAKU (Combined Sources)–Speaking to reporters in Azerbaijan’s capital on Wednesday, the US co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group discarded the possibility of having Russian peacekeeping forces stationed in or around Nagorno-Karabakh in the event that an agreement on settling the Karabakh conflict is ever reached between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
"Russian troops can not act as peacekeeping forces in the Karabakh conflict", US Deputy Secretary of State Matthew Bryza said, explaining that peacekeepers from the three co-chairing countries of the Minsk Group–US, Russia, and France–should not be deployed in the region.
But when asked where the peacekeepers would come from, Bryza said “I do not know,” and instead referred to the imperative for the sides “to complete works on the basic principles.”
The so called Basic Principles, drafted by the Minsk Group and presented to the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan at the OSCE summit in Madrid in November 2007, have become the focal point of negotiations for a settlement of the long running conflict.
The Madrid document, in part, calls for a withdrawal of Karabakh’s Defense Forces from five of the seven liberated districts adjacent to the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, with Karabakh given ‘interim’ status until a final status is determined by an ‘eventual’ referendum.
Despite lingering concerns over the lack of security guarantees for the population of Karabakh, international mediators continue to put off decision on the deployment of international peacekeepers to defend Karabakh’s Armenian population during the %u218interim’ period. Many analysts close to the conflict say that peacekeeping operations in the region would be almost impossible to conduct, as the UN and EU are unwilling and unable to provide the necessary forces or funding.
While in Baku, Bryza and his Russian and French counterparts co-chairing the Minsk Group–Yurimet with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to discuss “the current state and prospects of the negotiations over the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”
Commenting on a question about the fate of the seven districts, Bryza said he hopes the “lands will be returned to Azerbaijan,” adding, however, that he “cannot say” if or when Azerbaijan will regain control over any part of the liberated Armenian territory.
"The Basic Principles are balanced and we do hope that the lands will be returned to Azerbaijan for the refugees to be able to return,” Bryza said. “Perhaps, a corridor will be created, perhaps, peacekeeping forces will be deployed, and, perhaps, voting will be held or not be held in the future.”
The troika’s visit to the region comes less than two weeks after the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, together with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, signed a declaration in Moscow pledging to continue and step up the prolonged search for a peaceful political solution to the long-running conflict.
The co-chairs are due to arrive in the Armenian capital Friday where they will hold a meeting with Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian, Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Tigran Balayan confirmed on Thursday. According to the President’s spokesman Samvel Farmanian, the co-chairs will also meet President Serzh Sarkisian while in Armenia.