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OSCE Prepares to Bring Troops to Zone of Karabagh Confrontation
(by Armen Khanbabian)

          The slowed down process of the settlement of the Karabagh conflict is entering into a phase of activation again. Supposedly, at this phase the co-chairmen of the Minsk Group (MG) of OSCE, represented by Russia, the USA and France have overcome the existing disagreements and are determined "to exhort pressure” on the conflicting sides by setting forth proposals which “could not be declined” neither by Baku, Yerevan nor Stepanakert. The optimistic prognoses of the observers is supported by the argument that recently the multilateral and bilateral meetings and consultations at various levels have become more often, and, allegedly, as the result of such meetings the positions of the conflicting sides have been considerably brought into accord.
          In fact, in light of the forthcoming presidential and parliamentary elections, they prefer not to discuss the peace-making issues so enthusiastically in Armenia and the Republic of Mountainous Karabagh. The resolution principles have always been of paramount political significance in Armenia and the career of anyone involved in politics depends on how he or she approaches these principles. On the other hand, the aforementioned subject is extensively discussed in the Azeri mass media.
       Thus, it is stated in the Baku newspaper “Mirror” that the emissaries have presented the updated draft version of the peace agreement, and president Heydar Aliyev thinks that it is “worth considering” the proposals. As a matter of fact, the preceding initiatives which envisaged the establishment of “a commonwealth” by Azerbaijan and MKR were overall approved by Yerevan and Stepanakert, but rejected by Baku. It is known that the peace-makers will never make essential modifications to the proposals and will stick to the traditional concepts. In particular, Karabagh has to move from the so-called security zone around MKR, i.e., six regions other than the Lachin corridor which connects Karabagh with Armenia. The Armenian side was never against such version. However, Armenia linked the removal of its troops to the claim for the guarantee of security for NKR.
       According to the Azerbaijani newspapers, the important details of this issue which is crucial for the settlement of the problem are being elaborated, e.g., the possibility of bringing international peace-keeping troops into the region of the conflict for guaranteeing the immunity of the Lachin corridor. Roy Reeve, the ambassador of OSCE to Armenia has announced about such intention recently. Such actions which in theory have been the subject of consideration for a long time are gaining visible features.
       Baku emphasizes that Yerevan is skeptical about such alternative since it is possible that Turkish divisions would be included in the troops (Ankara is a member of the Minsk Group of OSCE). For this reason the presence of the peace-makers might be of temporary character. In turn, the emissaries propose the alternative of exchanging territories. This is unacceptable for Armenia since it will lose its common border with Iran. In this background the alternative of launching peace-keeping forces seems to be more acceptable, and eventually, Armenia might not object to it.
        Naturally, the recommendations of the emissaries are not limited to this. Under any scenario Karrabagh will de jure remain as part of Azerbaijan, and no other alternative could be otherwise expected. It was recently stated by president Kocharyan in the context of the aforementioned problem that the factual independence and security of Karabagh was the issue of utmost importance. Indirectly, this is indicative of the certain interim success of the emissary mission since the deep political crisis in Armenia in 1998 which resulted in the resigning of the first president Levon Ter-Petrossyan was due to his inclinations to agree to the formal inclusion of MKR in Azerbaijan. On the other hand, it follows from the materials of the local mass media that Baku seems to have agreed to granting Karabagh a status which practically excludes any vertical subordination of Stepanakert to its former metropolis.
        It is likely that in referring to the “peaceful revisal of the borders”, the emissaries are definitely certain that this intention is unreal which, in turn, creates no alternatives for bringing international forces into the zone. Therefore, their “temporary” mission would be inevitably protracted. This is in line with the approaches implemented by the USA in the Central Asian CIS states within the frames of the anti-terrorist action, as well as in the context of the new arrangements between Russia and NATO