STEPANAKERT (RFE/RL)–As part of his initial tour of the conflict zone–the new Russian co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group** visited Mountainous Karabagh Republic’s (MKR) capital–Stepanakert–on Tuesday to meet with the region’s leadership.
Yuri Merzlyakov–who was in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku last week–said he wants to familiarize himself with the position of the conflicting parties before the September 15 meeting of the Russian–US–and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. He said the mediators are currently working on a "modified" version of their previous peace proposals.
He would not say whether the modified proposals are based on agreemen’s reportedly reached by the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Key West–Florida in April 2001. Armenian officials claim that those agreemen’s still remain on the table.
MKR President Arkady Ghukasian–said his talks with Merzlyakov were "very positive."I am sure that our cooperation will be effective," President Ghukasian told reporters–commending the Russian diplomat. "It was stressed that there are no Russian or American initiatives [in the MKR peace process]. There is only collective work and Russia is a part of it."
Ghukasian reiterated Stepanakert’s insistence that MKR be directly involved in the Armenian-Azerbaijani peace negotiations. Speaking on this issue–Merzlyakov added–"I see no reason why Karabagh cannot return to the negotiating table with the aim of achieving a political settlement."
Azerbaijan has consistently opposed MKR’s participation in the negotiations–claiming that Karabagh Armenia’s are not a separate party to the conflict.
** The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is the largest regional security organization in the world with 55 participating States from Europe–Central Asia and North America. It is active in early warning–conflict prevention–crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation. The OSCE created the Minsk Group in 1992 to facilitate a political solution of the MKR conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.