No announcement yet.

Nagarno-Karabakh: Mediators Take The Process Public

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Nagarno-Karabakh: Mediators Take The Process Public

    Radio Free Europe, Czech Rep.
    June 30 2006

    Nagarno-Karabakh: Mediators Take The Process Public
    By Liz Fuller

    PRAGUE, June 30, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Lifting the veil of confidentiality
    that has marked the Karabakh peace process since it began in 1992,
    the French, Russian and U.S. co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group
    tasked with mediating a solution to the conflict have over the past
    eight days gone public with a summary of the basic principles
    currently under discussion.

    While the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry has confirmed that those
    principles are largely acceptable, its Armenian counterpart has
    highlighted several points that were either not clarified or not
    discussed the interview U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
    Matthew Bryza gave on June 22 to RFE/RL's Armenian and Azerbaijani

    Meanwhile, the Karabakh Armenian leadership has rejected one point on
    which Armenia and Azerbaijan have reportedly reached agreement,
    namely holding a referendum on the future political status of the
    unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR). The Karabakh Armenians
    have further signaled their reluctance to cede all the Azerbaijani
    districts they currently occupy before a firm agreement is reached on
    the future status of the NKR.

    Confidentiality Broken

    Over the 14 years that the Minsk Group has been trying to mediate a
    political solution to the Karabakh conflict, those involved have
    generally abided by a "gentlemen's agreement" that the negotiating
    process should remain confidential.

    The rationale for doing so is primarily to avoid derailing the peace
    process by alerting the public in one or other country to unpalatable
    concessions required that opposition parties might seize upon to
    discredit national leaders prepared to accept those concessions.

    But the co-chairs, who have on several previous occasions deplored
    the failure of the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents to prepare
    public opinion for inevitable concessions, seem to have concluded
    that going public may encourage the two presidents to demonstrate
    what they term "the necessary political courage" and agree at least
    to the basic principles of a settlement before the perceived window
    of opportunity for doing so closes with the approach of parliamentary
    elections in Armenia in May 2007.

    The basic principles, as outlined in a statement by the co-chairs on
    June 22 to the OSCE's Permanent Council in Vienna and posted on June
    28 on the website of the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan, point to a
    "phased-package" approach to resolving the conflict, meaning that the
    various elements of a settlement are agreed on simultaneously, even
    though they are implemented successively, with one key aspect -- the
    final status of the NKR -- to be decided by "a referendum or vote" at
    some unspecified future date.

    "These principles include the phased redeployment of Armenian troops
    from Azerbaijani territories around Nagorno-Karabakh, with special
    modalities for Kelbacar and Lachin districts [separating Karabakh
    from Armenia proper]," said the co-chairs. "Demilitarization of those
    territories would follow. A referendum or population vote would be
    agreed, at an unspecified future date, to determine the final legal
    status of Nagorno-Karabakh."

    "An international peacekeeping force would be deployed," added the
    statement. "A joint commission would be agreed to implement the
    agreement. International financial assistance would be made available
    for demining, reconstruction, resettlement of internally displaced
    persons in the formerly occupied territories and the war-affected
    regions of Nagorno-Karabakh. The sides would renounce the use or
    threat of use of force, and international and bilateral security
    guarantees and assurances would be put in place."

    Those provisions correspond very largely to the ones contained in the
    draft peace settlement proposed by the Minsk Group in May-July 1997,
    the key difference being that the 1997 document contained no specific
    mention of Kelbacar.

    Practice Makes Perfect

    The mediators said the conflicting parties would also have to work
    out practical modalities of the Karabakh referendum. "Suitable
    preconditions for such a vote would have to be achieved so that the
    vote would take place in a noncoercive environment in which
    well-informed citizens have had ample opportunity to consider their
    positions after a vigorous debate in the public arena."

    In a statement released on June 26, the Armenian Foreign Ministry
    highlighted what it said were further key details and omissions. It
    noted that the co-chairs' statement did not note the need to grant
    the NKR "intermediate status," presumably meaning that it would be
    under international control, until the holding of the referendum on
    its final status. A further "gray area" not touched upon in the
    Armenian Foreign Ministry statement is the future status of several
    districts that prior to 1988 were part of the then Nagorno-Karabakh
    Autonomous Oblast, but which Azerbaijan took control of in May-June
    1991, expelling the Armenian population.

    The Armenian statement stressed that the co-chairs, for the first
    time, have affirmed their support for the idea, first floated in
    December 2004 by NATO Parliamentary Assembly President Pierre
    Lellouche and former Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio, of a
    referendum on Karabakh's status, and that the Armenian and
    Azerbaijani presidents have agreed on doing so.

    Kocharian (second from left) and Aliyev (right) with other leaders in
    Bucharest on June 5 (epa)It further said that at the recent meeting
    in Bucharest on June 4-5 between Armenian President Robert Kocharian
    and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev, the Azerbaijani side
    rejected an unspecified suggestion by the co-chairs as to how that
    remaining area of disagreement could be resolved. By contrast, the
    co-chairs' statement avoided allocating blame for the failure to
    reach an agreement, saying only that "the two presidents failed to

    Speaking to journalists in Yerevan on June 29, Armenian Foreign
    Minister Vartan Oskanian described the "principles" under discussion
    as "all-encompassing," in that they cover all the principles
    affecting the removal of the military consequences of the conflict.
    He added that "only after full agreement on all these basic
    principles will the parties begin work on elaborating an agreement on
    the settlement of the conflict. In other words, the agreement on
    principles will be comprehensive. The final agreement may envision
    implementation over time."

    Corridor Of Uncertainty

    Asked to clarify the co-chairs' reference to "special modalities" for
    Lachin and Kelbacar, Oskanian explained that the negotiating text
    specifies that "there will be a [Lachin] corridor linking
    Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia." He added that Armenia will insist that
    that corridor "has the same status" as Karabakh. Oskanian also
    explained that due to security considerations, "Kelbacar can be
    returned only after the referendum is conducted and the final status
    of Nagorno-Karabakh is determined."

    He said this is the point of disagreement between the two sides to
    which the co-chairs referred in their statement to the OSCE Permanent
    Council last week. Oskanian said that the "principles" stipulate that
    the vote on Karabakh's status will take place among the population of
    Nagorno-Karabakh. Some Armenian opposition politicians have expressed
    concern that the entire population of Azerbaijan would participate in
    the referendum and vote against Karabakh's independence.

    Asked the Armenian leadership's overall assessment of the
    "principles," Oskanian said "this is not a perfect document. For
    anyone. However, there are enough solid and balanced provisions, with
    the right trade-offs on the main issues -- status, territories, and
    security -- that we are prepared to continue to negotiate on the
    basis of these principles," Noyan Tapan reported.

    But the Karabakh Armenians, who to their frustration are excluded
    from the Armenian-Azerbaijani talks under the Minsk Group aegis, are
    unhappy with at least two of the provisions of the "basic
    principles." Even before this week's disclosures, the NKR posted a
    statement on its website on June 12 citing the arguments against
    determining the republic's future status in a referendum. The article
    reasoned that holding a further referendum would call into question
    the legality of the referendum of December 10, 1991 in which the
    overwhelming majority of the region's Armenian voters opted for
    independence from Azerbaijan. It noted that most Azerbaijani voters
    declined to participate in that plebiscite.

    Return To The Front

    And on June 26, Vahram Atanesian, who is chairman of the NKR
    parliament standing committee on foreign relations, was quoted as
    rejecting the "principles" as outlined by the Minsk Group co-chairs
    on the grounds that they entail the "unequivocal return" of the
    occupied territories -- the NKR's sole bargaining chip -- in return
    for a decision at some unspecified future date on the republic's
    status. Atanesian said his perception is that the Minsk Group is
    pressuring Armenia to accept proposals that "are fully consistent
    with Azerbaijan's interests."

    Insofar as Azerbaijan has not definitively rejected the current
    "principles," the present situation is reminiscent of that in the
    summer of 1997, when Armenia accepted, albeit with reservations, the
    modified Minsk Group package proposal, while Azerbaijan wavered, and
    Stepanakert rejected it outright.

    The biweekly independent Armenian paper "Iravunk" on June 27 drew the
    comparison between the current principles and the 1997 plan, but went
    on to make the point that unlike his predecessor Levon
    Ter-Petrossian, President Robert Kocharian would never risk publicly
    making a case for mutual compromise with Azerbaijan. Instead, the
    paper suggested, Kocharian left it to the Minsk Group co-chairs to
    do so.