Azerbaijan, Baku, July 15 /Trend corr. E.Ostapenko/
The OSCE Chairperson-in-Office believes in achieving the Agreement on the Basic Principles and moving to the drafting of a comprehensive peace settlement between the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict sides.
"This goal is eminently achievable and the sides should pursue this as an urgent priority," the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Lithuanian Foreign Minister
Audronius Ažubalis said in an interview with Trend.
He said the OSCE continues to stand ready to support and complement any efforts made under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs and also at the tripartite level in the meetings of the Presidents of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.
The last meeting fot three Presidents took place in June in Kazan city, Russia. There were great expectations from the Kazan meeting for a progress in the negotiation process, which lasts about 20 years without obvious progress. However, the meeting, ninth over the last three years, ended without reaching an agreement on the Basic Principles. In a joint statement the sides just noted the progress towards this goal.
"Although the recent meeting in Kazan did not result in agreement on the Basic Principles as we had all hoped, I remain encouraged by the fact that the sides confirmed they would continue to seek a negotiated settlement," said Ažubalis.
It is important to build on this, and reach agreement on the Basic Principles as soon as possible, he said.
Before the meeting, late May, the Presidents of the United States, France and Russia made a statement on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which called on the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia "to demonstrate the political will and finalize the work on Basic Principles of the settlement during the meeting in Kazan".
In the interview the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office called on the sides to honour the agreements made earlier in Sochi and Astrakhan.
He said Armenia and Azerbaijan should undertake measures to reduce tensions, including completing the exchange of prisoners of war as soon as possible and investigating incidents along the line of contact, and to strengthen the ceasefire regime and confidence-building measures in the military sphere.
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Armenian armed forces have occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan since 1992, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and 7 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 the 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.
There is a clear commitment on the part of the OSCE and the Minsk Group Co-Chair countries to work with the sides to seek progress towards settlement of the conflict, Ažubalis believes.
"This engagement makes clear that the South Caucasus matters for the security and stability of the whole OSCE region, that a peaceful settlement is in all our interests and is a top priority," he said.