A compromise is better than a victory

Agency WPS
March 24, 2004, Wednesday


SOURCE: Nezavisimaya Gazeta, March 22, 2004, p. 10

by Vladimir Kazimirov

Ambassador Vladimir Nikolayevich Kazimirov: head of Russia’s
mediatory mission in 1992-1996; presidential envoy for Nagorny
Karabakh; co-chairman of the Minsk OSCE group.

Negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan are again at the
crossroads. Two foreign ministers will soon discuss what to do with
this process.

Settling of the Karabakh conflict has become irrational owing to the
maximalism of the conflicting sides. Negotiations held in 1994-1997
were not very fruitful. The conflicting sides rejected proposals by
the Minsk OSCE group three times; 20 meetings held by the presidents
of Azerbaijan and Armenia in 1999-2002 did not solve the problem
either. Negotiations were suspended for six months on the plea of
elections in Armenia and Azerbaijan. It seems that at present nothing
prevent negotiations. But it turned out that the positions of the
conflicting sides have become more uncompromising than before. First
moves made by the new president of Azerbaijan are very contradictory.
He has repeatedly promised to recover the lost territories. At the
same time, he supports peaceful methods, and all bellicose statements
are made by the defense minister. Ilham Aliyev refused to hold
negotiations with Robert Kocharyan in the current format. He states
that the process of negotiations should be speeded up. He said that
he does not needed compromises (he probably hopes to dictate his
conditions of peaceful settlement of the conflict). In the meantime,
Yerevan does not want to resume negotiations with the new president
(who is the son of the former president) and proposes to invite
Stepanakert to negotiations.

The absolute incompatibility of approaches and unwillingness to make
compromises are the cause of a long stagnation of negotiations. As a
matter of fact, the conflicting sides seek after the impossible:
Armenia wants Azerbaijan to acknowledge the independence of Nagorny
Karabakh, or make it part of Armenia; Azerbaijan demands that Armenia
leave Nagorny Karabakh (by the way, Azerbaijan does not make a
mention about this territory’s status after Armenia’s withdrawal).
Armenia does not understand that people who give up Nagorny Karabakh
will not live long in Baku. Azerbaijan does not understand that
Armenia will only leave this territory if tension decreases. Baku
relies on oil proceeds, propaganda and exterior pressure on Armenia.
A cold war against Armenia stops all contacts between the nations.

It’s natural that progress is impossible while the conflicting sides
use previous schemes. A break-through is required. The tenth
anniversary of the armistice (May 12, 2004) gives a chance to improve
the situation. This is a very good pretext to organize a meeting of
the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan in order to confirm the
armistice. Would such a gesture be useful? This move would make it
possible to resume a dialogue, taking into account the fact that the
psychological core of the conflict boils down to mutual distrust.

The conflicting sides need a stable mechanism of regular negotiations
between authorized delegations. The agenda of negotiations can be
open. Negotiations should develop in three parallel directions.
Firstly, the conflicting sides must get rid of the cause of the
conflict (security and the status of Nagorny Karabakh for a period of
transition). Secondly, the sides must eliminate the aftermath of the
conflict (the withdrawal of troops and return of refugees). Thirdly,
Azerbaijan and Armenia must relax tension and improve their
relations. It would be very difficult to advance in the former two
directions, which is why the sides must focus on the third one. At
present Armenia and Azerbaijan cannot solve even the simplest

A summit of the presidents and resumption of sound negotiations would
let the conflicting sides to advance to a peaceful solution. This
scheme does not contain aspects with which the conflicting sides
cannot put up. In addition, the conflicting sides must control their
propagandistic sources. Their role in the current processes is very
harmful for new generations.


Translated by Alexander Dubovoi