Austria to do utmost to prevent further escalation in Karabakh conflict zone: OSCE incoming chair

Austria to do utmost to prevent further escalation in Karabakh conflict zone: OSCE incoming chair
# 28 December 2016 12:50 (UTC +04:00)

APA Agency has had an exclusive interview with Austria's Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, who will chair the OSCE starting from 2017 when his country takes over the OSCE presidency from Germany.

What will be the main priorities of Austria’s OSCE Chairmanship with regard to the settlement of protracted conflicts, including the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?

I believe that military confrontations that have already caused thousands of victims, displacement and destruction in the OSCE area are one of the main security challenges facing Europe today. Reducing the intensity of existing conflicts is therefore one of the top priorities of our OSCE chairmanship. As Chairperson-in-Office I will personally travel to the affected regions, so as to get a first-hand impression of the situation on the ground. Our Chairmanship will support the established OSCE formats aiming at a peaceful resolution of existing conflicts, including through our special representatives.

We are regularly briefed by the co-Chairs of the Minsk Group and we are in regular contact with the parties, so as to closely follow the situation on the ground and better understand the different positions. Together with our international partners in the OSCE, we are very clear that there can only be a peaceful solution to this conflict – and working in this direction is our main priority.

In April this year there was serious escalation of violation in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone. What steps will Austria take to prevent the recurrence of such possible escalation in 2017?

On 5 April 2016, Austria, as incoming Chair of the OSCE, joined representatives of the OSCE Minsk Group countries in a statement concerning the escalation of the conflict. We strongly condemned the outbreak of unprecedented violence along the Line of Contact, and urged both sides to cease using force immediately. We also stressed that there can only be a peaceful solution to the conflict, something I have repeated on other occasions.

We also extended our condolences to all concerned families, and I want to emphasize that the safety and security of the affected populations must be a priority. They are the ones that suffer most from the conflict. We must keep this in mind when working towards its resolution. The Austrian Chairmanship is fully aware of its responsibility and intends to engage actively, in particular by supporting the Minsk Group Co-Chairs in their mediation efforts. We will also continue to focus on other elements of the „Minsk Process“: Ambassador Kasprzyk will be my Personal Representative in this context, and the High Level Planning Group, headed by an Austrian colonel, Hans Lampalzer, will continue its work. We will do whatever we can to prevent a further escalation of armed confrontation. This can only be achieved by working together closely. Accordingly, we will focus on diplomacy, intensified dialogue and taking further steps to implement existing proposals.

Germany, during its OSCE Chairmanship, proposed a seven-point plan for the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Does Austria will offer any plan to the parties to the conflict?

Austria has long played the role of an honest broker and bridge-builder, and this is what we can offer immediately to the parties. Austria has often been used for important negotiations, most recently during the Iran nuclear talks and the Syria talks, and we have a rich experience in intercultural dialogue. If Azerbaijanis and Armenians want our assistance, we stand ready to provide it. Our goal is to support the current Minsk Process, not to open other formats. If we identify concrete areas where we can reinforce the peace process, we will pursue them, in close co-ordination with the co-Chairs of the Minsk Group and Ambassador Kasprzyk, as well as with the parties. Our common goal should be to strengthen dialogue and ensure that all vital issues are discussed at the negotiating table via diplomatic means.

Nagorno Garabagh