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Osce High-Planning Group Conducts reconnaissance in Karabakh

Stepanakert, 28 January 2006 (ArmenPress) – The foreign ministry of Nagorno-Karabakh said the OSCE High-Planning Group traveled across the republic from January 23 to 26 and through several Armenian-controlled regions surrounding the Nagorno-Karabakh administrative borders for a reconnaissance exploration.

The OSCE High-Planning Group that visited late last year Azerbaijan and Armenia is exploring possibilities for deployment of international peace-keeping troops in the conflict zone. The Armenian Foreign Ministry said late last year that should the positive dynamic of the Karabakh peace talks continue into next year, at some stage of the talks there may arise a necessity for stationing of peace-keeping troops, which it said would play a significant role in securing the population’s safety.”

Meantime the OSCE chairman-in-office Karel de Gucht, who is also Belgium’s foreign minister. concluded his first visit to the southern Caucasus, visiting Armenia and Azerbaijan, where he held discussions with both sides’ leaderships and also with the leader of Nagorno-Karabakh. Immediately afterwards de Gucht flew on to Moscow to hold discussions with the Foreign Minister of Russia, which is one of the three co-chairs (along with France and the United States) of the Minsk Group, which is mediating in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

At a press conference in Baku, Minister De Gucht said he had detected some willingness on the part of both Azerbaijan and Armenia to push for a solution. Even though there were different positions on the territorial aspect, he remained cautiously optimistic about the outcome of the forthcoming meeting between the two Presidents in Paris, slated for February 10. He said, “There are still many stumbling blocks, but with constitutional reform in Armenia and elections in Azerbaijan now behind us, there is a clear window of opportunity open this year. The benefits to both sides would be enormous, in terms of renewing economic development and improving the lives of the many people living in the contested regions.

“If some form of agreement on basic principles is reached in two weeks, the OSCE can make a major contribution in terms of putting this into practice. The Belgian Chairmanship, in co-operation with the Co-Chairmen of the Minsk Group, will do everything possible to help bring about a lasting solution. The entire Organization is ready to assist with implementation, including establishing a peacekeeping force and facilitating economic and environmental agreements, if a request is made by the parties.” Returning via Moscow, the Chairman-in-Office held a meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to brief him on the details of his fact-finding visit to the southern Caucasus.

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