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Peace in Karabakh Conflict “Within Reach”: Ambassador James Warlick

Peace in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is within reach. "The sides have come to a point where their positions on the way forward are not that far apart," said OSCE Minsk Group US Co-Chair, Ambassador James Warlick in his speech today at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, noting that he is not speaking for the Minsk Group co-chairs, but that his message is a statement of official US government policy.

"[The parties to the conflict] have almost reached agreement on several occasions — most recently in 2011.  And when they inevitably returned to the negotiating table after each failed round, the building blocks of the next 'big idea' were similar to the last time.

"There is a body of principles, understandings, and documents already on the table that lay out a deal, and no one has suggested we abandon them. The challenge is to find a way to help the sides take that last, bold step forward to bridge their remaining differences and deliver the peace and stability that their populations deserve," he said. 

Ambassador Warlick stressed that "the benefits of peace far outweigh the costs of continued stalemate, and avoid the catastrophic consequences of renewed hostilities.

"Armenia would immediately benefit from open borders, greater security, and new opportunities to trade, travel, and engage with all its neighbors.

"Azerbaijan would eliminate a key impediment to its growth as a player on the world stage, regional trade hub, and strong security partner, while giving hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons a prospect for reconciliation and return.

"The thousands of people living in Nagorno-Karabakh would be freed from the prison of isolation and dependence.

"A peace agreement, properly designed and implemented, would also eliminate the tragic, steady stream of casualties — both military and civilian — along the border and the Line of Contact. Numbers are hard to pin down, but there have already been at least a dozen killed and even more injured on the front lines this year so far. This is unacceptable," he said. 

The Minsk Group co-chair said he has traveled throughout Nagorno-Karabakh and met with the de facto authorities "to hear their views."

"There is no question that any enduring peace agreement must reflect the views of all affected parties if it is to succeed," he said.

Ambassador Warlick also outlined a compromise that, according to him, was already "well-established" last fall during his trip to Baku and Yerevan: "These principles and elements form the basis of US policy toward the Minsk Group and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict."

"At the heart of a deal are the UN Charter and relevant documents and the core principles of the Helsinki Final Act.  In particular, we focus on those principles and commitments that pertain to the non-use or threat of force, territorial integrity, and equal rights and self-determination of peoples.

"Building on that foundation, there are six elements that will have to be part of any peace agreement if it is to endure.  While the sequencing and details of these elements remains the subject of negotiations, they must be seen as an integrated whole. Any attempt to select some elements over others will make it impossible to achieve a balanced solution.

"In no particular order, these elements are:

"First, in light of Nagorno-Karabakh’s complex history, the sides should commit to determining its final legal status through a mutually agreed and legally binding expression of will in the future. This is not optional. Interim status will be temporary.

"Second, the area within the boundaries of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region that is not controlled by Baku should be granted an interim status that, at a minimum, provides guarantees for security and self-governance.

"Third, the occupied territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh should be returned to Azerbaijani control.  There can be no settlement without respect for Azerbaijan’s sovereignty, and the recognition that its sovereignty over these territories must be restored.

"Fourth, there should be a corridor linking Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh.  It must be wide enough to provide secure passage, but it cannot encompass the whole of Lachin district.

"Fifth, an enduring settlement will have to recognize the right of all IDPs and refugees to return to their former places of residence.

"Sixth and finally, a settlement must include international security guarantees that would include a peacekeeping operation. There is no scenario in which peace can be assured without a well-designed peacekeeping operation that enjoys the confidence of all sides.

"The time has come for the sides to commit themselves to peace negotiations, building on the foundation of work done so far. It is not realistic to conclude that occasional meetings are sufficient by themselves to bring about a lasting peace.

"When such negotiations commence, the parties should not only reconfirm their commitment to the ceasefire but also undertake much-needed and long-sought security confidence-building measures," he said.

The full text of Ambassador Warlick's speech is available on the Embassy of the United States to Armenia website