TBILISI (Armenpress–RFE/RL)–Armenia’s foreign minister Vartan Oskanian announced Wednesday during a press conference that OSCE Minsk Group US co-chairman Matthew Bryza’s revelations last week of confidential provisions of a proposed Nagorno-Karabakh peace plan were incomplete and failed to present other important principles outlined by the plan–reported the Armenpress news agency. He stressed that the Armenian foreign ministry’s statemen’s reflect the true nature of the OSCE proposed plan.
Security guarantees for the corridor connecting Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh–as well as the need for a temporary status for Karabakh were two key principles that according to Oskanian should have been included in the interview Bryza gave to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
"One of the key components of peaceful resolution should be guaranteeing the security of the corridor between Armenia and Karabakh. The second–until a referendum to decide the status of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic–a temporary status should be determined for the region," said Oskanian in response to questions during a press conference with his Georgian counterpart Gela Bezhuashvili.
The foreign minister added that for the first time–the co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group determined that the status of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic shall be determined through a referendum of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. He added that the OSCE peace proposal is balanced and all encompassing–pledging Armenia’s continuous willingness to negotiate with Azerbaijan within the framework of the outline proposals.
"The Karabakh issue has its logical elemen’s and we should allow for a natural progression of the process and not artificially accelerate it," said Oskanian in response to questions regarding a possible meeting between Armenian and Azeri leaders during the upcoming G8 Summit–reported Armenpress.
In a joint statement that was circulated by the U.S. embassy in Yerevan on Wednesday–the Minsk Group’s American–French and Russian co-chairs said their hitherto confidential peace plan envisages a self-determination referendum to be held in Karabakh after the liberation of Armenian-occupied territories in Azerbaijan–reported RFE/RL Wednesday.
The statement was presented to the OSCE’s decision-making Permanent Council in Vienna last Thursday and was not made public until being posted on the U.S. embassy website almost a week later. Washington’s new top Karabakh negotiator–Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza–revealed details of the proposed peace plan to RFE/RL shortly after the Permanent Council meeting.
"These principles include the phased redeployment of Armenian troops from Azerbaijani territories around Nagorno-Karabakh–with special modalities for Kelbajar and Lachin districts [separating Karabakh from Armenia proper]," said the co-chairs. "Demilitarization of those territories would follow. A referendum or population vote would be agreed–at an unspecified future date–to determine the final legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh."
"An international peacekeeping force would be deployed," added the statement. "A joint commission would be agreed to implement the agreement. International financial assistance would be made available for demining–reconstruction–resettlement of internally displaced persons in the formerly occupied territories and the war-affected regions of Nagorno-Karabakh. The sides would renounce the use or threat of use of force–and international and bilateral security guarantees and assurances would be put in place."
The mediators said the sides to the conflict would also have to work out practical modalities of the Karabakh referendum. "Suitable preconditions for such a vote would have to be achieved so that the vote would take place in a non-coercive environment in which well-informed citizens have had ample opportunity to consider their positions after a vigorous debate in the public arena."
This peace formula seems largely acceptable to Armenia. Its Foreign Ministry argued that the mediating powers have thereby recognized the Karabakh Armenia’s’ right to self-determination. The ministry said in its statement that Presidents Ilham Aliyev and Robert Kocharian have agreed to the proposed referendum but remain divided on other–unspecified issues.
The Azerbaijani side initially responded positively to Bryza’s disclosure of Minsk Group peace proposals. But in a statement on Tuesday–the Foreign Ministry in Baku chided the U.S. official for "taking them out of the general context of the proposed document." It also reiterated that Baku is only ready to grant Karabakh "the highest status of autonomy" and will never recognize its secession from Azerbaijan.
The mediators–meanwhile–warned that failure by the two sides to cut a framework peace deal before the end of this year would close a rare "window of opportunity" to eliminate the principal source of instability in the South Caucasus.
"We see no point right now in continuing intensive shuttle diplomacy we have engaged in over the past several months," they said. "We also see no point in initiating further presidential meetings until the sides demonstrate enough political will to overcome their remaining differences."
Meanwhile in Baku–the Azeri Foreign Ministry of issued a statement Tuesday in response to what it termed continuing attempts by Armenia to distort the essence of the ongoing Karabakh peace talks–reported Armenpress and RFE/RL.
The Azeri statement said that the status of the Nagorno-Karabakh could not be determined until the territories currently occupied by Armenian forces are liberated and the entire conflict zone demilitarized.
The statement also affirms Baku’s willingness to grant the NKR the highest degree of autonomy within Azerbaijan stipulated by the current Azeri constitution.