Minsk Group U.S. co-chair: There is a window of opportunity now to resolve Nagorno-Karabakh conflict (PHOTO)
Baku, Azerbaijan, Nov. 4
By S.Ahmedova - Trend: There is a window of opportunity to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict now that has not existed for some time. The U.S. co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, James Warlick said in an interview with Trend and AzerNews on Monday.
"The U.S. believes in this window of opportunity. We want to work through the co-chairs and if there is anything that we can do on a bilateral basis that help to facilitate the peace process, we stand ready," Warlick said.
According to Warlick he visited Baku to join other co-chairs and see if there is a window of opportunity after the elections in Azerbaijan and earlier elections in Armenia. "We talked with the President Ilham Aliyev this morning and will be talking tomorrow in Yerevan with President Serzh Sargsyan".
"I believe the people of both countries - Armenia and Azerbaijan deserve peace and prosperity. We need to find a way to that. The reason I took this job as co-chair is because I believe it is possible to find a way towards peace," he said.
According to Warlick he is ready to come back to the region as many times as it is necessary in order to reach peaceful settlement.
When asked about the meeting of the two presidents, Warlick said it is up to the two presidents.
"It is not the decision to be made only by co-chairs. But we are trying to work to facilitate the meeting this year".
According to Warlick, this would be in order to open the lines of communication at the highest level.
"We hope that it can lead to real peace process, to comprehensive negotiations that lead to settlement that will benefit both countries. We have very positive discussions this morning with President Ilham Aliyev. If there is a political will to move forward on the settlement, we are ready to help," he underlined.
According to the U.S. co-chair, what the co-chairs want to do is to bring the presidents together to talk through the way forward.
"It has been nearly two years the presidents have seen each other and over those two years we have not been able to find a way forward. We hope the presidents can meet, have a productive discussion, constructive discussion that can find a way forward," he said.
Warlick said that what is desirable is that the parties to the conflict have said that they want to have comprehensive negotiations, and that is necessary.
"We are hopeful that if the presidents can talk to each other, they will find a way to move forward to this constructive negotiation. Right now the process is not moving forward in the productive way and we would like to get that on the track towards peace," he underlined.
Speaking on the basic principles for the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Warlick said that this is exactly what the presidents need to talk about. "Today we have been working on the basic principles. Our job is to facilitate that path into comprehensive negotiations. It would need to be a decision taken by the two presidents".
When asked about suggestion of replacing France with European Union in the OSCE Minsk Group, Warlick said the parties to the conflict continue to believe and work through the Minsk Group. "The problem is not the format of negotiations, the issue is one has a political will and whether there is a will of all parties to move forward to find a settlement or not. That is what we would like to explore in the coming weeks".
According to Warlick, the elections create favorable conditions to move forward.
Speaking about the comparison of the Nagorno-Karabakh with other conflicts, Warlick said that it is very hard to compare conflicts because they are so different and circumstances are also different.
"Before taking this job I was working on Afghanistan and I was a lead negotiator for a bilateral security agreement. Those were difficult negations but we were able to find a way forward. So, with Nagorno-Karabakh, these are difficult negotiations, these are hard choices that have to be made. But this is a conflict that can be solved. The parties have come close in the past and I think the people of both countries deserve to find a way to peace. The time has come. If I can be helpful in facilitating, the U.S. and co-chairs can help to facilitate this process, we are ready to do that," he said.
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 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.