What the co-chairs proposed to the sides? Exclusive interview with James Warlick

The US co-chair Ambassador James Warlick of the OSCE Minsk group gave an interview to “Artsakhpress” news agency, where talked about some recent statements and developments of the current phase of the conflict settlement.

What the co-chairs proposed to the sides? Exclusive interview with James Warlick

What the co-chairs proposed to the sides? Exclusive interview with James Warlick

STEPANAKERT, FEBRUARY 18, ARTSAKHPRESS: Note that it is exclusive also for the reason that it is the first time when one of the co-chairs gives an interview to a media from Artsakh.

- Mr. Warlick, it is a known fact that since the last year there has been an escalation of tension along the LoC which seriously undermines the mediation efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs. Apart from the statements, do you see any practical mechanisms that can stabilize the situation?

-The escalation of violence along the Line of Contact and Armenia-Azerbaijan border over the last year undermines not only the Co-Chairs' mediation efforts, but also the Presidents' commitment to their people to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict peacefully. There are mechanisms that can reduce the likelihood of unintended incidents in conflict-affected areas and we support their implementation to help stabilize the situation on the ground. The Co-Chairs have raised several proposals with the sides and are discussing them during our trip to the region.

- The Co-Chairs are currently in the region. Are there any concrete proposals that are being put at the table during the meetings with all three sides?

-First and foremost, we are talking to the sides about recent tension and violence that threaten the region. There cannot be progress on the diplomatic track if violence continues. We are also raising with the sides the need to resume meetings of the Presidents, who hold the keys to peace in their hands. Additionally, we stress the importance of beginning comprehensive negotiations on a lasting settlement. It is critical to have a sustained negotiating process that can lead to a peace agreement.

- According to the Azerbaijani mass media reports, you were cited as saying that transfer of the two Azerbaijani citizens (charged with heavy crimes) to Azerbaijan in the spirit of the Astrakhan Declaration would be an important humanitarian gesture that can help reduce tensions and build trust between the sides. Do you think that Astrakhan Declaration is applicable in relation to criminals and that the impunity of those crimes will not further enhance the false sense of all-permissiveness in Azerbaijan, as was the case with Ramil Safarov?

- In the past, the sides have generally found a way to return prisoners as a humanitarian gesture. With tensions as high as they are, such humanitarian gestures can lead to a more positive environment for negotiations to take place.

- Since 1997 Nagorno-Karabakh has not been direct and full-fledged party at the negotiations. At the same time, the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs have announced on numerous occasions that the Karabakh side will reengage in the direct negotiations soon. Don't you think that in the given situation the restoration of the previous trilateral format of negotiations will be crucial in moving the negotiations forward?

- The interests of all sides will need to be taken into account in the negotiations, as well as in a settlement to the conflict. The first step is for the sides to express their readiness to enter into such negotiations.

- The Azerbaijani side has announced a number of times that the OSCE Co-Chairmanship has exhausted itself and there are disagreements among the Co-Chairs and suggesting a change in the mediation format. Do you agree with the above?

- As Co-Chairs, we are united in our efforts to mediate a peaceful and lasting settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The Minsk Group is the only mediation format accepted by the sides. We will continue to fulfill our mandate to work towards peace as long as all agree that our role as mediators remains useful.

- Mr. Warlick, thank You for the interview.