OSCE Secretary General: Basic principles of Nagorno-Karabakh settlement must be agreed as top priority

OSCE Secretary General: Basic principles of Nagorno-Karabakh settlement must be agreed as top priority

Azerbaijan, Baku, July 21 / Trend E. Ostapenko /

The South Caucasus is important for the security and stability of the entire OSCE area, and the OSCE is as active in the region as ever, OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier said in an interview with Trend.

"The political direction of the Organization is set at the strategic level by our Chairmanship, which rotates annually, but I think you can see that the OSCE has remained continuously and consistently engaged," he said.

In Armenia and Azerbaijan, we work to support domestic reforms through our field operations, he added.

"With respect to the situation in Georgia, we are working on the implementation of water projects on both sides of the Administrative Boundary Line and exploring ways in which we can increase our engagement on the ground," he said.

He said that the OSCE also remain deeply committed to helping to resolve protracted conflicts in the region through the agreed formats - the OSCE Minsk Group, which is co-chaired by France, Russia and US, and the Geneva Discussions, co-chaired by the OSCE, the EU and the UN.

The 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.

The Geneva talks were convened after an armed conflict in Georgia in August 2008, in accordance with the Ceasefire Agreement of August 12.

Military actions were launched in the unrecognized republic of South Ossetia in August 2008. Georgian troops entered Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia and later Russian troops occupied the city and drove the Georgian military back to Georgia. Russia recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia on Aug. 26 and established diplomatic relations with them on Sept. 9, 2008.

He said that his appointment is not a question of a change in policy so much as a continuous process of adaptation.

"Our work and approaches will continue to evolve in response to changing security needs," he said. "All of what we do is based on mandates agreed by consensus of the 56 participating States. This means that the countries of the South Caucasus - Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia -- are not only "consumers" of our efforts, but also contributors to the work of the Organization as a whole to promote security, prosperity and democracy throughout the OSCE space."

He said that he fully supports efforts to address the protracted conflicts through the agreed formats, and he is optimistic that progress can be achieved.

"I met recently with the Minsk Group Co-Chairs and I share their view that the Basic Principles must be agreed as a top priority so that the sides can move to the drafting of a comprehensive peace settlement," he said.

Through the Geneva Discussions and the Dvani/Ergneti Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism established within the framework of the Geneva Discussions, the OSCE continues to seek progress on resolving security and humanitarian questions. The ongoing implementation of water projects is encouraging - and we are also working to address gas supply challenges, he said.

"I had the pleasure of visiting Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia regularly as Director of the OSCE Conflict Prevention Centre," he added.

"I look forward to visiting the region in my new capacity as soon as my schedule allows," he said. "I intend to use my future visits to discuss with the leadership of the countries of the region ways to preserve and possibly further enhance the effective of the OSCE's contribution to security and stability in the South Caucasus."

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