THE MEDIATION MISSION WAS HANDLED POORLY
by Aleksandr Gabuyev

Kommersant
June 27 2011
Russia

[translated from Russian]

Russia was unsuccessful in reconciling Azerbaijan and Armenia.

At the meeting in Kazan last Friday, the presidents of Azerbaijan and
Armenia Ilham Aliyev and Serzh Sargsian, despite expectations, were
unable to agree on a "road map" for settlement of the conflict in
[Azerbaijan's breakaway region of] Nagornyy Karabakh, but promised
to continue the talks. But these talks may occur then without the
participation of Dmitriy Medvedev. As Kommersant has learned, the
Russian Federation president is so disappointed with the results of
the Kazan summit meeting that he is ready to terminate his mediation
mission. He intends to organize the next meeting between Mr Aliyev
and Mr Sargsian only on condition that the presidents of Armenia
and Azerbaijan at long last sign a document on the principles of a
Karabakh settlement.

The summit meeting of the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia
in Kazan, which occurred under Dmitriy Medvedev's sponsorship,
ended without the result that all the organizers of this meeting
were counting on, the signing of the basic principles for settling
the conflict in Nagornyy Karabakh. This document, which the OSCE's
Minsk Group (Russia, the United States, and France) had worked hard on
preparing since the start of the year, was supposed to become a "road
map" for resolving one of the most chronic conflicts in post-Soviet
space (Kommersant wrote about its substance on 24 June).

On the eve of the summit meeting, the mediators put colossal pressure
on Baku and Yerevan to make them sign the hard-won document. A day
before the meeting in Kazan, French President Nicholas Sarkozy wrote a
letter where he urged the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia to "show
courage and wisdom by making the choice in favour of peace." And US
President Barack Obama telephoned Ilham Aliyev and Serzh Sargsian in
order to personally persuade them to sign the agreement.

But the signing of the "road map" in Kazan did not work out. Instead of
that the participants in the meeting, which lasted more than an hour,
got off with a brief statement. In it the presidents of Azerbaijan
and Armenia thanked the cochairmen of the Minsk Group and "praised
the personal efforts of the Russian Federation president."

But as for the essence of the talks, the participants in the summit
meeting merely said that they had "established the achievement of
a mutual understanding on a number of issues whose resolution helps
create the conditions for the approval of the basic principles."

According to Kommersant's source close to the negotiations, this
wording means that the parties simply "once again recorded the
remaining disputed issues."

The disagreements between the parties surfaced in public right after
the summit meeting was over. On Saturday Edvard Nalbandyan, the head
of the Armenian MID [Ministry of Foreign Affairs], announced that the
meeting of the presidents in Kazan was not a breakthrough because of
Baku's unconstructive position. "Azerbaijan proved to be unwilling
to accept the last version of the basic principles of a Karabakh
settlement presented," he said. "Baku presented about 10 changes,
which in fact was the reason for the absence of a breakthrough."

The response from Baku followed immediately. "Unfortunately,
the Armenian side once again asked for too many concessions. The
Kazan meeting showed that Armenia is distorting the essence of the
seven-year-long negotiation process," Elmar Mammadyarov, the head
of Azerbaijan's MID, announced that same day. And yesterday the
country's President Ilham Aliyev, while speaking before the start of
a military parade timed to coincide with the country's Armed Forces
Day, declared: "I am altogether certain that our territorial integrity
will be restored by any means. To do that we must be even stronger.

Armenia's occupation of 20 per cent of Azerbaijani territory is a
temporary phenomenon."

And although Baku and Yerevan say that they are willing to continue
the negotiations, the fate of their dialogue remains in question since
the failure of the Kazan summit meeting. According to the Kommersant
source who is a diplomat participating in the negotiations process,
disagreements that the mediators had already considered resolved long
ago suddenly surfaced. "They include questions of both a technical
character and fundamental ones - like determining the future status of
Nagornyy Karabakh," the Kommersant source explained. "But the problem
is not even the disagreements themselves, but that the parties changed
their positions several times apiece. And it cannot be done that way."

The failure of the Kazan meeting may also have direct consequences
for the peacemaking initiative of Dmitriy Medvedev, who has been
actively working on reconciling Azerbaijan and Armenia since the
autumn of 2009, and has already organized nine trilateral meetings
on Russia's territory during that time. According to Kommersant's
highly placed source in the Kremlin, Mr Medvedev is so disappointed
with the meeting in Kazan that he is ready to terminate his mediation
efforts in the Karabakh sector.

"If Azerbaijan and Armenia do not show a willingness in the very
near future to try to resolve the problems that have built up, we
will consider this mediation mission over," Kommersant's source warned.

Moreover, according to him, Dmitriy Medvedev in effect gave an
ultimatum to the participants in the conflict: the next trilateral
summit meeting is possible only in the event that a preparatory
plan on Karabakh is signed there. "The meeting will now take place
only when both parties firmly announce their willingness to sign the
principles of a settlement," Kommersant's interlocutor in the Kremlin
said categorically.

[translated from Russian]