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OSCE Head Confirms Major Progress In Karabakh Talks

Armenia and Azerbaijan are inching closer to the resolution of their
conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, the chairman-in-office of the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said on Tuesday
after talks with leaders of the two neighboring states.

Slovenia’s Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, whose country currently
holds the OSCE’s rotating presidency, told reporters in Yerevan that
the conflicting parties are finding it possible to reconcile their
diametrically opposite positions following the latest meeting of their
presidents. He suggested that a Karabakh peace accord may therefore be
reached as early as this year.

“I hope that the positions of the two sides will approach as closely as
possible,” Rupel said. “There are signs of that happening.”

“I guess one of the important issues here is the principle of
territorial integrity and the principle of self-determination of
peoples. I understand that these two principles can be reconciled. This
was the message that I got yesterday in Baku and also here in Yerevan,”
he added at a joint news conference with his Armenian counterpart
Vartan Oskanian.

According to the Armenian government’s press office, Rupel made a case
for combining the two principles of international law at a meeting with
Prime Minister Andranik Markarian. Markarian found that approach
“acceptable,” a government statement said.

While in Yerevan, Rupel also met with Presidents Robert Kocharian of
Armenia and Arkady Ghukasian of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh
Republic. Kocharian’s office did not release any details of the

Rupel’s visit to Baku and Yerevan came a week after crucial talks held
by Presidents Ilham Aliev and Robert Kocharian in Russian city of Kazan
in the presence of international mediators acting under the OSCE aegis.
Russia’s chief Karabakh negotiator, Yuri Merzlyakov, described them as
“very positive” in an interview with RFE/RL last Friday.

“I don’t want to give any details at this point,” said Oskanian. “But I
think Mr. Rupel was very right to say that common ground between the
parties on key issues is visible today. That is really the case.”

“But as they say, the devil is in the details and so when we, the
[Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign] ministers, start to elaborate on
those principles and get into details, we could face serious
obstacles,” he cautioned.

Speaking to RFE/RL late on Monday, Ghukasian was more skeptical about
chances of a Karabakh settlement. “In my opinion, Azerbaijan is today
working in a more constructive manner than it was in the past,” he
said. “But it is very difficult to see tangible progress because there
are numerous issues that have still not been agreed upon.”

Observers believe that the two sides are unlikely to announce any
compromise deals on Karabakh until parliamentary elections in
Azerbaijan and a constitutional referendum in Armenia that are slated
for November. They have reportedly been discussing a gradual settlement
of the conflict that would end in a referendum on independence in

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