OSCE Chairman Voices Ways To Resolve Karabakh Conflict

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The Nagorno-Karabakh settlement process will be the most important issue on agenda, OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Irish Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Eamon Gilmore said in an interview with Trend.

"This is always an important topic, and all the more so following recent reports of a serious escalation in violent incidents," Gilmore said. "Progress on protracted conflicts was always a high priority for my Chairmanship, now the urgency is greater."

Gilmore will also discuss with the political leadership co-operation with the OSCE, in particular the very important work being done by our Office in Baku.

The OSCE is working with the authorities in many areas, the minister said.

"The OSCE institutions and our office in Baku continue to support the implementation of the country's reform programme," Gilmore added. "It is important for Azerbaijan to match its economic progress over that last twenty years with further democratic development, in line with the common principles that the OSCE participating States reaffirmed two years ago at the Astana Summit."

Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

Regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the cycle of violence must stop, the minister said.

"The conflict will not be resolved by the use of force," Gilmore added. "In my meetings I am calling on all parties and all actors, to refrain from the use or threat of force and to abstain from retaliatory measures. As an important step in confidence building and preventing further casualties, the OSCE has repeatedly called for both sides to remove snipers from the line of contact and to agree on a mechanism for investigating incidents on the line of contact."

"It is important that the agreements reached at high political level are built upon and translated into concrete action," Gilmore stressed.

"Our experience in Ireland is that it takes a combination of steps in many different areas to make real progress. It is hard and takes leadership and courage from all sides," Gilmore said.

"Building confidence and trust is the only way to have a sustainable resolution of the conflict. This takes time and requires efforts by all sides," Gilmore added. "A successful process needs to be inclusive. There needs to be increased people-to-people contacts and clear efforts to preserve places of worship, cultural sites, and cemeteries. There needs to be increased dialogue and communication between the political leadership from all sides."

The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Armenian armed forces have occupied 20 per cent of Azerbaijan since 1992, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts.

Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a ceasefire agreement in 1994. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group - Russia, France and the U.S. - are currently holding peace negotiations.

Armenia has not yet implemented the U.N. Security Council's four resolutions on the liberation of the Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding regions.

Chairmanship in OSCE

At their annual meeting in Vilnius last year, the foreign ministers of the 56 OSCE participating States decided that the OSCE is well-placed to address transnational threats, as it deals with politico-military approach to security questions, alongside the human and economic-environmental dimensions, Gilmore added.

"As a first step, the Organization grouped its existing expertise and resources in the areas of policing, border management and counter-terrorism, and created a new department that is focused on transnational threats," Gilmore said. "Work is being taken forward this year by OSCE participating States, under the Irish Chairmanship, in a number of important areas, such as policing, drugs and terrorism. I hope that all OSCE participating States will display the necessary flexibility so that this work, which is well advanced, will bear fruit."

/Trend/

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