FM: Regional Security, Karabakh, Armenia’s Foreign Policy Priorities


Hayots Ashkarh, Yerevan
15 Apr 04

Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanyan has listed economic development,
regional security, European integration and a Karabakh settlement as
Armenia’s foreign policy priorities. He told a seminar in Yerevan that
there were “numerous uncertainties” in the Karabakh settlement
process. He said that if Azerbaijan insisted on starting the talks
from scratch, Armenia would not take part and would ask the OSCE
mediators to hold talks instead between Azerbaijan and Nagornyy
Karabakh. Oskanyan said that Armenia should not be in a hurry to join
NATO, but should strengthen cooperation with it in parallel with
cooperation with the CIS Collective Security Treaty and with
Russia. The following is the text of Vahan Vardanyan’s report in
Armenian newspaper Hayots Ashkarh on 15 April headlined “There is no
need to play diplomacy”, subhead “There is only one solution on
Karabakh”; subheadings inserted editorially:

Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanyan made a report on Armenia’s current
foreign policy at a seminar in the Congress Hotel yesterday. Oskanyan
noted four main areas of foreign policy: maintaining and increasing
the level of economic development; ensuring a positive regional
security atmosphere; speeding up Armenia’s integration into European
structures; and settlement of the Karabakh issue.

In connection with prospects for an NKR (Nagornyy Karabakh Republic)
settlement, Oskanyan said: “At present I should say that there are
numerous uncertainties, there is no certainty in what direction these
processes will go. Tomorrow in Prague my first meeting will take place
with the newly appointed foreign minister of Azerbaijan. The OSCE
Minsk Group co-chairmen invited us. The goal of the meeting is to hold
discussions with the co-chairmen and to try to specify the parties’
positions and approaches to the development of the process.”

Touching on Armenia’s position on the settlement issue at present, the
foreign minister said in particular: “There are two approaches,
depending on developments. It is good if Azerbaijan agrees to continue
along the way that (former Azerbaijani President) Heydar Aliyev and
(Armenian President) Robert Kocharyan were going and to reach any
level. If they are ready to continue on this basis, Armenia is ready
to be involved in the talks at the level of the presidents of the
republics and to try to lead the process forward. But if Azerbaijan
insists on starting from scratch, in that case Armenia will not take
part in these talks and will ask the co-chairmen to hold talks between
the authorities of Azerbaijan and Nagornyy Karabakh.”

The foreign minister thinks that this position is justified, as the
dialogue between the presidents was mainly about a future status of
Nagornyy Karabakh that was directly connected with Armenia. “For this
reason the participation of our president without the NKR president,
but with his agreement, is fully justified. But if this content
changes today, it means that the rules of the game should also be
changed. If Azerbaijan insists that the problem of status should be
delayed, and they continue with the stage-by-stage option for the
return of territories and refugees, in that case only the NKR
authorities have the right to be involved in the talks if they
want. As before, Armenia will ensure its participation in the
framework of the OSCE Minsk Group, but it will not be the main party
in the talks.”

Oskanyan said that a “fair” and a “pro-Armenian solution” were
different. He said that talking about a fair solution, in fact means
saying nothing. “The Karabakh process has passed so many stages and
today the situation is such that we do not need to play diplomacy in
this problem. Today a pro-Armenian solution, acceptable for us, is
that Karabakh fully defines its position on joining Armenia, and the
world community, including Azerbaijan, recognizes this. Today this is
a solution for us,” Oskanyan said.

Touching on regional security problems, in particular on NATO
enlargement and its possible consequences, the foreign minister said
that Armenia should cooperate with NATO in the framework of its
national interests, but it should not be in a hurry to join NATO. He
said that it was necessary to strengthen in parallel Armenia’s role in
the CIS Collective Security Treaty (CST) and Armenian-Russian
relations and this complementary policy would increase Armenia’s role
for the West, as well as for its strategic partner Russia.

Oskanyan thinks that dividing lines may be created in the region if
Georgia and Azerbaijan join NATO and Armenia does not. He said that
Georgia in particular is demonstrating a definite tendency in this
sense, but it is early to make radical predictions, as the diplomacy
of words and actions differ from each other. “During (former Georgian
President Eduard) Shevardnadze’s tenure there was the diplomacy of
words. Every other day Shevardnadze would say that Georgia was joining
NATO. In some sense (President Mikheil) Saakashvili is continuing this
diplomacy of words, but understands that action lags behind words.
Because the situation in his country and in the region is such that
NATO would not want to be involved in the country. Until the Abkhazia
problem is settled, until Georgia’s relations with Russia are
specified and Russian military bases are withdrawn, it is too early to
speak about Georgia’s joining NATO.”

So the foreign minister thinks that Armenia does not have a problem in
going ahead.