Europe exerts influence on region,

Europe exerts influence on region, conflict – separatist Karabakh spokesman

Golos Armenii, Yerevan
20 May 04

In an interview, separatist Nagornyy-Karabakh presidential advisor
Manvel Sarkisyan tells the De-Facto news agency about his view of
the new European-influenced politics of the South Caucasus. In
the ideological vacuum that followed the break-up of the USSR,
he says it is Europe that is now assessing and becoming involved
in the region. The Europeans’ view is that territorial claims and
ethno-political history can be destructive and that settlement of
conflict in the region should be based only on the principles of
“human rights and legality”. Following is a report from a De-Facto
news agency report in the Armenian newspaper Golos Armenii on 20 May
headlined “The human factor is a priority”

An interview with the NKR president’s advisor on political issues
Manvel Sarkisyan. He said that “symmetrical” assessments of the Minsk
Group have been revoked.

[De-Facto correspondent] Mr Sarkisyan, you have recently taken part in
a seminar in Stepanakert [Xankandi] dedicated to the 10th anniversary
of the cease-fire in the Karabakh conflict zone. Its theme – “European
integration as a guarantee of peace and stable development”, could not
help but become a reason of public interest, raising many questions
that are topical for the region as a whole, as well as for the Karabakh
settlement. How can you explain such an active introduction of European
structures into the political life of the region recently?

[Manvel Sarkisyan] After the USSR collapsed the nations of the South
Caucasus region, that started construction of independent states, did
not immediately understand their basic psychological and political
state. The ideological vacuum, that appeared against the background
of the collapse of communist ideology, immediately meant that since
proclaiming independence, national policy found itself under the
strong influence of the ethno-political ideas.

The Urgent desire of the nations to build a national state according
to their ethno-political traditions finally turned into bloodshed and
conflict. On the other hand, a gap appeared between the tendencies
to international integration and an age-long desire of the nations
to have independence. This widening gap had a destructive effect on
the regional processes. The situation created big complications for
Europe, which from the very beginning had declared this region in
its zone of interest. In addition, incompatibility of the political
outlook of the South Caucasus nations with the established values
and norms of the European political world, formed the attitudes of
European politicians towards the countries of the region.

The most typical European assessments is perception of the region as
“territorial illegality where the dictator’s power was established
on ethnic lines”. By the way, such assessments are not concerning
only the unrecognized states, but also the three recognized states.

[Correspondent] Let us nevertheless agree that there is truth in
these assessments, and it is not quite correct to accuse Europeans
of biased views. Naturally, a certain reaction to this should be
expected from the side of the political elite of the region. Was it
adequately accepted in the region?

[Sarkisyan] During the last two years the South Caucasus countries have
felt the real affect of the political factor of Europe. Just at that
time the European structures, first of all PACE, was determining the
course of many domestic political events in all the countries of the
region. As for the political elite of these countries, which always see
“Moscow’s hand” everywhere, they suddenly found themselves something
unusual for them – the interference of the European structures in
their interior affairs. The local politicians could not understand
whole range of changed realities in the region.

Insight, that gave birth to some confusion, came during last year’s
presidential elections in Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as during
a changing of power in Georgia: it became clear that a new player had
entered the game – United Europe. A flow of harsh European resolutions
with strict assessment of the authorities actions and with no less
harsh demands, caught the political elite unaware. New rules of the
play have appeared that had to be taken into account. Along with
it they understood that Moscow, which was the traditional “owner
of state” in the region, is also starting to take these rules into
account, especially now that it is becoming more and more difficult
to explain its actions in the South Caucasus.

The relations of the region with Europe have become clear in connection
with the decision of the European Union to involve 10 new members
and an announcement about a project “New neighbours” of Europe. The
prospect of the future sight of integration of the South Caucasus
region into the European political space has become realistic. At the
beginning of this summer it will become clear if an agreement on “New
neighbours” of Europe will be adopted, and what they specifically mean
by this grandiose political project. Political regimes of the countries
of the region come across an increasing flow of demands stemming
from Europe. Testing, harsh rules and unusual values of the political
world that is attractive but has not yet fully disclosed itself.

[Correspondent] As the South Caucasus politicians start to try on
the suits made according to European designs, what can they and the
countries of the region expect from further development of events?

[Sarkisyan] It is not accidental that the first forms of established
relations of Europe with the countries of the region had a form of
uncompromising diktat in all the areas, though formally these relations
are called monitoring. It is not accidental either, that along with
practice of the legal ideas and norms being introduced into internal
life of the countries of the region, the European countries started
dealing thoroughly with the conflict zones in the South Caucasus. The
ethno-political traditions are the most destructive in the sphere of
conflict. And conflicts restrain not only economic development of the
region but also a process of state construction in the conflicting

It is not difficult to notice that the policy of the United Europe
towards the countries of the region has the following four strict

cultivation of the European forms national legislation and stimulation
of the constitutional forms of domestic political relations;
stimulation of inter-parliamentary relations; development of business
at a regional scale; looking for means of conflict settlement on the
principles of human rights and legality.

Let us also add a strategic programme of attraction of the armies of
the region into joint international security programmes (“Partnership
for Peace”) – the purpose of the United Europe will become more clear:
to remove the ethno-political ideas from the national policy of the
regional countries. And this means that a traditional perception of
the national interests in the region may be changed substantially. It
is evident that the Western world will do everything to radically
transform the South Caucasus region. At the same time the opportunities
for choice for the countries of the region have reduced.

[Correspondent] A time has come to ask the main question: how can be
the Karabakh conflict settled against this background?

[Sarkisyan] What I said makes the Karabakh issue clear and the
conflict with Azerbaijan remains one of the key problems of the
South Caucasus. After the cease-fire the status-quo in the conflict
zone remains against a background of diplomatic settlement, within
the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group. In spite of the absence of
progress in the matter of a settlement, the Minsk Group has managed to
fulfil one of its important missions – preservation of the cease-fire
regime. But at the same time a “philosophy” of settlement, taken from
the very beginning, that makes an accent at a priority of territorial
component of the conflict, remains. The package as well the stage by
stage projects of settlement were based on the matter of control over
the territory of Nagornyy Karabakh and adjoining territories.

Since 2003 the Karabakh problem has become one of the main problems
of the Council of Europe. It was then that the first PACE rapporteur
on Nagornyy Karabakh was appointed. Later rapporteur were also
appointed in the European parliament. The PACE rapporteur Terry
Davies visited the region in the spring of 2003, but he did not dare
to visit Nagornyy Karabakh. That time he said that he would assess
the Minsk Group activity, that is, he made us understand that the
European initiative has its ideas about this conflict zone, that
differ from ideas of the Minsk Group.

Soon it became clear what he meant. In January 2004, in one of the PACE
resolutions the following wording appeared: “Nagornyy Karabakh and
other occupied territories of Azerbaijan”. This formula demonstrated
a sharp changing of positions of the European countries in assessment
to the key aspects of the Karabakh problem. I would like to point out
that in the resolution of the European parliament dated 11 March 1999,
they demonstrated a more balanced approach. Furthermore it became
evident that the even-handed assessments of the Minsk Group were
fully revoked in the European approaches.

[Correspondent] What do the European structures offer in an
exchange? What is the principle difference of their proposals?

[Sarkisyan] First of all I should say that the activity of the European
structures in the matter of the Karabakh conflict settlement has
risen sharply since the beginning of 2004.

[Passage omitted: Sarkisyan says that representatives of all the
political structures of the United Europe have started visiting the
region. If earlier they were avoiding direct meetings with the NKR
leadership, this time they were searching them out. The names of
officials are mentioned and the dates of their visit to the NKR.]

More over, the British “Linx” public organization started acting on
the region. It declared its main mission – activity on stimulation
of the societies of the conflicting countries to contacts.

Just at that period the key principle in the position of the
European structures was displayed. The formula of Terry Devis –
“I am not interested in territories, I am interested in people”,
has become an expression of a fundamentally new approach of Europe to
the conflict, an approach which may be called “humanitarian”. Further
activity on the matter of a settlement has confirmed the fact that
in their approaches they follow just these principles, based on the
principle of “human rights and legality”.

It is clear that the Minsk Group approach, which is usual for the
political elite of the region, and gives priority to the territorial
aspects of the conflict situation, has been rejected forever. So,
activation of the European structures in the matter of the settlement
of conflicts in the South Caucasus region has radically changed the
politics of the Karabakh problem. It has become evident that the
challenge of conflict settlement has been connected with the general
complex of problems of political development in the South Caucasus
region. A universal approach has been displayed towards all the key
issues of the region: state building, development of democracy,
economic and political integration. The era of a “traditional”
geo-political approach towards the region has been ended.