France, Strasburg, 22 January /corr. Trend A.Maharremli / The former Chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Rene van der Linden, believes that the upcoming presidential elections in Armenia and Azerbaijan will help to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
"I hope that the presidential elections in both countries will be a new effort to resolve the conflict once and for all and forever," Rene van der Linden said during his interview with Trend.
The presidential elections in Armenia have been fixed for February and in Azerbaijan for October. On the eve of the elections, the international mediators are making efforts to strengthen the talks to settle the Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict, fearing that replacing the leaders may bring the agreements reached to a gridlock.
"I was optimistic, visiting the region two years ago because talks and meetings were held between the Presidents of the two countries," Linden said. "This steady resolve should exist again in settling the conflict. It is very important for the settlement of the conflict which is a serious threat for the whole region," he said.
Speaking of his visit to the region in July 2007, Linden said that that he was not optimist with regards to the negotiation process. "I want to believe for the change of the situation for the passed period, Indeed, it is very important that both sides demonstrate a will to resolve this conflict via talks. Using other methods, including forceful methods, is unacceptable," the ex-President of PACE said.
Answering the question whether recognizing Kosovo's independence will adversely affect the 'frozen conflicts', including the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Linden said: "I do not know, but from experience, I can say that even if Kosovo becomes independent, I do not believe in the settlement of these problems".
According to him, the issue of Kosovo has been included in the agenda of the PACE's winter session and intricate discussions are being expected on this issue.
The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries appeared in 1988 due to Armenian territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Armenia has occupied 20% of the Azerbaijani lands including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and its seven surrounding districts. Since 1992 to the present time, these territories have been under Armenian occupation. In 1994, Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a cease-fire agreement at which time the active hostilities ended. The Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group ( Russia, France and USA) are holding peaceful negotiations.