YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Mediators from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will bring "revised" proposals on how to end the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict during their upcoming visit to the region–a senior Russian diplomat said Monday.
The outgoing Russian ambassador to Armenia–Andrei Ournov–told reporters that changes have been made to the OSCE Minsk Group’s peace plan–accepted by Azerbaijan but rejected by Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.
The plan–which was put forward last year–called for a phased settlement of the decade-long dispute–with the ultimate restoration of Azeri sovereignty of the Armenian-populated disputed region. The Armenian side deman’s a single "package" peace treaty that would provide for a "horizontal relationship" between Azerbaijan and Karabakh.
Ambassador Ournov declined to give details regarding the changes in the Minsk Group plan. But he added that under a future peace deal–Nagorno-Karabakh must be given strong security guarantees–a high degree of self-government and a land corridor with Armenia. "For Karabakh–a peace settlement must provide firm security guarantees–enable its population to run its own affairs and have a reliable overland connection with Armenia," he said.
Officials in Yerevan and Stepanakert have said the last visit to the region of the Minsk Group’s Russian–US and French co-chairs–which took place before the October 11 presidential election in Azerbaijan–produced encouraging signs.
Also–Ournov–who is completing his four-year term in Armenia–said he believes that the close Russian-Armenian relations will continue to develop. He singled out a comprehensive bilateral treaty–signed in August 1997 in Moscow–as a major accomplishment of the two governmen’s. Among other issues–the treaty provided a legal framework for the presence of Russian troops in Armenia–a key element in Yerevan’s national security doctrine. He said the close military ties between Yerevan and Moscow "serve the interests of the two peoples and are not directed against any other country."
Ournov denied that the ongoing economic crisis will result in the withdrawal from Armenia of the Russian border troops which guard Armenia’s border with Iran and Turkey jointly with Armenian forces. But he said the crisis will likely place a greater financial burden on Armenia for maintaining their presence there. He denied claims that Armenia has been pursuing a "pro-Russian" foreign policy–arguing that its "history and geography predispose [to] friendship and cooperation with Russia."
Referring to Russia’s policy in the region–Ournov said that Russia would not tolerate changes.
"Together with Armenia–Azerbaijan and Georgia–Russia has long been present in Caucasus. We have weighty–long-term–and what is more important–vested interests here," the ambassador said.
Ournov attached significance to the opening of Aeroflot and other Russian air company representations in Armenia–the rehabilitation of the nuclear power plant–the establishment of "Armrosgasprom" joint venture and the opening of a subsidiary of Russia’s "Rossisky Kredit" bank.
The ambassador added that economic cooperation still lagged behind the political cooperation. He expressed hope that the joint inter-governmental commission on scientific–economic–trade and technical cooperation would provide new impetus to the development of economic relations between Russia and Armenia.
Ournov also presented a brief background of his successor Anatoly Driukov.
Driukov was born in 1936. In 1960 he graduated from the Moscow Institute of International Relations. Driukov speaks Ourdu and English.
Driukov worked at embassies of the Soviet Union in Pakistan (1960-1964)–Zambia (1969-1973)–and as ambassador to Singapore (1987-1990) and India (1991-1996). Since 1996 to present Driukov has been serving as special envoy and inspector general of the Russian foreign ministry. Driukov has a diplomatic rank of ambassador extraordinary & plenipotentiary. He is married and has a son.