BAKU: EU envoy calls on Azerbaijan, Armenia to step up NK effort

EU envoy calls on Azerbaijan, Armenia to step up Karabakh settlement effort

ANS TV, Baku
22 Mar 04

The EU envoy to the South Caucasus, Heikki Talvitie, has called on
Azerbaijan and Armenia to step up efforts to resolve the Nagornyy
Karabakh conflict. In an interview with Azerbaijani ANS TV’s “Point of
View” programme, Talvitie described as “a real achievement” the
cease-fire of the past 10 years and said that the parties to the
conflict should do more. “There has been no fighting for 10 years, why
cannot we do better,” he said. The following is an excerpt from the
report by Azerbaijani TV station ANS on 22 March; subheadings inserted

[Presenter] Good evening. This is “Point of View”. Our guest today is
the EU envoy to the South Caucasus, Mr Heikki Talvitie.

[Passage omitted: Talvitie on meetings with Azerbaijani officials,
visits in Azerbaijan]

EU assists Karabakh mediators

Mr Talvitie, when you were appointed envoy to the South Caucasus, you
said that the settlement of the Nagornyy Karabakh conflict would be
the major direction in your activities. What are the main principles
of a settlement of the Nagornyy Karabakh conflict accepted by the EU?

[Heikki Talvitie, in English] I was a cochairman of the [OSCE] Minsk
Group in 1995-96. So, I know the problem. To be quite frank with you
and your people, it is between Azerbaijan and Armenia, and nobody can
impose a resolution on you. You have to settle this problem. The
international community can only help and facilitate, and that is
basically what the Minsk Group has been doing. The EU supports your
presidents and the cochairmen of the Minsk Group in their
endeavours. I have a special mandate to facilitate these processes and
to assist them and that is what I am doing.

[Passage omitted: Talvitie on Ajaria crisis]

[Presenter] Is the EU putting forward any specific proposals? In
general, what is a mechanism for building confidence? Does this imply
putting forward proposals or just talking?

[Talvitie] Well, it is the Minsk Group and not the EU which is
responsible for the negotiations. There is actually France, which is
one of the cochairmen of the Minsk Group, but also belongs to the
EU. We are aware of the importance of regional cooperation once it
starts in earnest in the South Caucasus. So, be sure that it is in the
EU’s interests to try to help this as much as possible. It very
important to the South Caucasus that the [conflicts] in South Ossetia,
Abkhazia and Ajaria are solved in a peaceful manner. The whole region
will benefit from the resolution of the Nagornyy Karabakh issue.

[Passage omitted: Talvitie may visit Karabakh]

[Presenter] Does the EU believe that Armenia has occupied Azerbaijani
lands? How do you, in general, call the area controlled by the
Armenian army?

[Talvitie] There is such definition – occupied territories – and you
know that, Nagornyy Karabakh and occupied territories.

[Passage omitted: package and step-by-step settlements for Karabakh]

Karabakh conflict not frozen

[Presenter] As a former cochairman of the Minsk Group, you are the
best expert. There is an idea that the Minsk Group was put in charge
of the settlement in order to simply freeze the process.

[Talvitie, laughs] You know, this is a very simplified answer. Because
we speak about frozen conflicts. And Nagornyy Karabakh is one of such
frozen conflicts. But it has nothing to do with the Minsk
Group. Basically, when a cease-fire was achieved, that was a real
achievement. When both parties could actually agree on a cease-fire,
why cannot they go any further? Now it seems that the cease-fire has
frozen the whole situation, and we cannot really solve the
problem. There has been no fighting for 10 years, why cannot we do

But the international community has every interest in solving this
problem. There is no reason to doubt this.

[Passage omitted: on EU-US relations]

EU guarantees religious freedom

[Presenter] The EU is often said to be a Christian club. How important
is the religious factor in the EU’s policies and could the religious
factor affect the Nagornyy Karabakh conflict settlement? Incidentally,
Armenia has always been trying to stress the religious factor in its
pro-European policy.

[Talvitie] Well, the European Union is not a religious institution.
Relations between the EU and Azerbaijan are not based on religious
beliefs. They are based on mutual political, social and cultural

[Presenter] How democratic is the decision by an EU country to ban
Muslim women from covering their heads? Is this a sign of Islamophobia
in Europe?

[Talvitie] Well, after the 11 September events, there has been a
tendency towards curbing terrorism in a way that you label different
groups. But this is not what the EU is doing. I mean, we certainly do
not want to label any religious or any other group. Terrorists are
terrorists, and that is that. Religion has nothing to do with that.

[Passage omitted: Talvitie reiterates the point and presenter’s
concluding remarks]