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OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs Return, New Agenda Is Being Formed

The statements of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs and the messages coming from the Co-Chair countries indicate activation of this format. After the telephone conversation between the presidents of Russia and France, it was announced about new initiatives. And this means that the agenda of the further process of the Karabakh conflict settlement is being formed right now and the inclusion of issues that are important for us depends on the efforts which must be taken today.

But unfortunately it is unrealistic to expect that the current authorities of Armenia will take some steps. The clearest evidence of this is the process of the past three years and their current exclusively domestic political agenda. Yesterday's statement of the OSCE MG Co-Chairs is another proof of such behavior.

In their statement the Co-Chairs ''welcomed Azerbaijan's release of the three Armenian detainees and called on both parties to fully and expeditiously complete the exchange process for all prisoners, detainees, and remains''. Here special attention should be paid on the wording as it shows the transformation of the terms used in the statement of the OSCE Minsk Group of April 13th: in the previous statement the issue of the return of "all prisoners of war and other detainees” was mentioned. This time the Co-Chairs avoided using the term "prisoners of war" which is obviously a result of the efforts of the Azerbaijani side. The call to "both sides" is also noteworthy as it may become the first message of the beginning of the process of extradition from Armenia to Azerbaijan of two terrorists who participated in the Karabakh war as mercenaries and were sentenced to posthumous imprisonment in Armenia.

It should be noted that in their statement the Co-Chairs also ''urge the sides to exchange all data necessary to conduct effective demining of conflict regions and to lift restrictions on access to Nagorno-Karabakh''. Resuming high-level political dialogue under the auspices of the Co-Chairs is also emphasized - with reference to the statement of April 13th.

It should be noted that this time the Co-Chairs refrained from mentioning that the settlement should be based on the principles and elements well-known to the sides which may also be the result of Azerbaijan's acute reaction to the previous statement.

In general, it can be stated that the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs are taking steps to revitalize the format and are already outlining short-term and long-term agendas. First of all it refers to the return of prisoners of war, demining and lifting the restrictions on access to Karabakh. What refers to the general agenda - it includes the resuming of political negotiations to resolve all other issues.

This agenda mainly coincides with the interests of Armenia and Artsakh but this is not the result of the work done but the logic of the political process on Karabakh. It is impossible to consider the conflict resolved when the main question remains open concerning the very essence of the conflict – the recognition of the right to self-determination exercised by the people of Karabakh.

In parallel with this it is clear that Azerbaijan is actively working, is doing everything to get rid of undesirable wording in the statements of the mediators, and will undoubtedly make efforts to get rid of or postpone the discussion of undesirable issues as much as possible.

Continuation of this asymmetric process may not only deprive Armenia and Artsakh of the opportunities that have been created but also create new challenges.

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