Friday, October 08, 2004


YEREVAN, OCTOBER 6, ARMENPRESS: Few people know that apart from the so-called Minsk group, mandated by the OSCE to mediate peace talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno Karabagh conflict, there is another format, including representatives of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Nagorno Karabagh, USA and Russia who have been meeting regularly behind the closed doors for the last four years to seek a conflict resolution option that would be acceptable to all.

Little information is made public about how discussions, organized within the frameworks of so-called Dortmund Forum, go on. The final conclusion of the Forum is supposed to be presented to the conflicting sides and peace brokers to help them strike the peace deal.

Samvel Babayan, a political analysts from Nagorno Karabagh, who participated in the latest meeting, said to RFE/Rl that discussions held in Moscow are the sole venue where Nagorno Karabagh representatives face Azeris.

"Azeris are very sensitive about any contact with Nagorno Karabagh and because of that the discussions are held behind the closed doors, however I believe that they will be more open," he said.

He said the latest meeting was the 7 consecutive but it has not yet outlined any progress. The Azerbaijani side was led by a former foreign minister Tofik Zulfugarov, who insist that all Azeri lands occupied by Armenian troops must be returned, which is not acceptable to Karabagh.

"These territories are of vital importance for Nagorno Karabagh, making today some 60 percent of its territory, and only 6-7 percent of Azerbaijan," Babayan said, adding that there are other aspects of the issue. "There are some regions that cannot be given back, such as Kelbajar, where all Karabagh rivers originate from. During the Soviet times these rivers were contaminated by the order of Heydar Aliyev, resulting in drastic increase in the number of cancer cases, though before the 1970-s Karabagh boasted of its residents' record live expectancy in the USSR, and we have all grounds to say that then Soviet Azerbaijan carried out hydro-terrorism against the population of Karabagh," he said.

Babayan said the US and Russian moderates do not offer concrete proposals, acting as mediators in an effort to help the sides to find the golden mean, which they have failed so far. According to him, the Karabagh participants of the discussions may refuse to further participate because of Azeris stiff position.

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