Peace process unpredictable under new Azeri leader, says Karabakh FM

Peace process unpredictable under new Azeri leader, says Karabakh minister

Azg, Yerevan
31 Mar 04

No significant progress has been made in the Karabakh talks since
Ilham Aliyev became Azerbaijani president, the foreign minister of the
self-declared Nagornyy Karabakh Republic (NKR) has said. Ashot Gulyan
told Armenian newspaper Azg that remarks by Aliyev, such as that the
talks should start from zero, made the negotiating process less
predictable. He said that Ilham Aliyev had chosen to concentrate on
domestic issues during his first few months in power. The following is
the text of Tatul Akopyan’s interview with Gulyan in Azg on 31 March,
headlined “Factor of unpredictability has grown in negotiating
process”; subheadings inserted editorially:

Baku refused to take in part in the meeting between the Armenian and
Azerbaijani foreign ministers, with the participation of the OSCE
Minsk Group co-chairmen, due to have taken place in Prague on 29
March. President Ilham Aliyev criticized the OSCE Minsk Group once
again and said that the mediators has “achieved nothing positive in 12
years”. The Azerbaijani authorities are refusing to continue the
negotiating process on Karabakh and continuing to make bellicose
statements and threatening to settle the Karabakh issue by war.

What do the authorities of Nagornyy Karabakh [NKR] think of this? The
NKR foreign minister, Ashot Gulyan, answered this and other questions.

Negotiating process more unpredictable under Ilham Aliyev

[Correspondent] Mr Gulyan, has anything changed in the Karabakh
negotiations since Ilham Aliyev’s accession to power?

[Ashot Gulyan] There is no progress. The negotiating process has
become less predictable. The first several months of Ilham Aliyev’s
presidency show that there is no significant progress and the future
of the negotiating process is very unclear. Azerbaijan’s refusal to
take part in the Prague meeting shows that it has nothing to say. It
seems that Baku decided to put the Karabakh issue on the back burner,
accompanied by unclear statements. I am talking about bellicose
statements, references to zero levels and displeasure with the Minsk
Group’s work. In comparison with Heydar Aliyev’s tenure, the
negotiating process has become more unpredictable.

[Correspondent] Ilham Aliyev recently said that in 12 years the OSCE
Minsk Group did not achieve any progress in the negotiating
process. What is Stepanakert’s position? Was there any progress in the
negotiating process?

[Gulyan] The OSCE Minsk Group is an international organization that
has dealt with the Karabakh issue really professionally and it is
illogical to assess its activity for these 12 years as in vain. But I
would like to draw your attention to another problem. Ilham Aliyev
says in his statements that all the suggestions of the Minsk Group,
for a stage-by-stage or package solution, have become zero. That is,
what seemed acceptable for the former authorities of Azerbaijan is not
acceptable for today’s. This means that Azerbaijan is not approaching
the international mission seriously. I think all this has the aim of
hiding Azerbaijan’s inaction.

Ilham Aliyev concentrating on domestic issues

[Correspondent] Mr Gulyan, a view is being circulated in the Armenian
press and political circles that the essence of the Karabakh issue has
been misrepresented. How did the Karabakh party participate in the
negotiating process in recent years?

[Gulyan] If we take the last five or six years, we can say there was
no active negotiating process, and the Karabakh party participated as
much as possible. In the last five or six years the OSCE Minsk Group
co-chairmen visited Stepanakert in the framework of their visits to
the region and met the NKR authorities. During all those meetings the
mediators noted that, irrespective of the negotiations being stepped
up, Karabakh continues to remain a negotiating party. That is,
Karabakh is a negotiating party and nobody denies that except

If we take the essence of the negotiating process into account, which
was at the level of meetings of the Armenian and Azerbaijani
presidents for several years, and if we compare them with the
negotiations before 1996, we may say that these meetings were directed
more to taking the process out of deadlock.

Ilham Aliyev’s statements show that today the Karabakh issue is not so
urgent for Azerbaijan. I have the impression that for the new
president of Azerbaijan the first stage of his presidency will be the
settlement of domestic problems. In this way he is trying to avoid
those domestic political upheavals, which may appear at different
levels of discussion of the Karabakh issue.

Europe taking more interest in Karabakh settlement

[Correspondent] Recently Europe has shown more interest in a Karabakh
settlement. How can you comment on this?

[Gulyan] This may be explained, first of all, by the fact that the
countries of the region have turned towards Europe and today their
involvement in European structures means feedback. The same European
structures (the European Union and Council of Europe) in the framework
of their interests are trying to clarify, by means of monitoring or
supervising the situation in the region, to what extent the
obligations are being carried out in the countries of the region.
There is an evident reality that the European structures have started
to be also interested in the unsettled problems or conflict situations
of the region. Here there is a big gap which seems not to be
corrected by the Council of Europe and European Union with the help of
necessary work. European structures, except the OSCE Minsk Group, do
not know the problem of the conflict, they do not know the pre-history
of the conflict and today’s positions of the parties to the
conflict. An impression has been created that Azerbaijan is trying to
make use of the situation and to make accusations from the European
rostrum. Our objective is to give, as much as possible, independent
information to the European structures, to make them understand the
truth about the Karabakh conflict. Naturally, the NKR does not have
such key levers and we are expecting Armenia’s support.