Territories in return for lifting the siege

Agency WPS
June 25, 2004, Friday


SOURCE: Nezavisimaya Gazeta, June 23, 2004, p. 5

by Rauf Mirkadyrov


Foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan Vardan Oskanjan and Elmar
Mamedjarov met in Prague last Monday. The meeting was arranged by
chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group Yuri Merzlyakov (Russia), Stephen
Mann (USA), Henry Jacolen (France), and Andrzej Kasprishka, personal
envoy of OSCE chairman.

Official reports on the meeting were reduced to the traditional vague
phrases like “foreign ministers discussed various aspects and
prospects of Karabakh conflict settlement.” Some observers suspect
that there is more to the settlement process than meets the eye.

Both sides made statements on the eve of the meeting in Prague, and
the statements may be viewed as sensational. “The Karabakh conflict
will be settled soon in accordance with the international law and
with territorial integrity of Azerbaijan honored,” President of
Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev said addressing servicemen of some unit
quartered in Gyandzh. Aliyev pointed out, however, that the
negotiations with Armenia “have failed to result in anything so far.”
Needless to say, Azerbaijan “stands for a peaceful settlement of the
conflict but the patience of the people has its limits too.”
“Azerbaijan will never put up with occupation of its lands. It will
liberate them regardless of what it takes,” Aliyev said. “No
compromises are possible where territories are concerned. The sooner
Armenia understands it, the better.”

US Ambassador to Armenia John Ordway announced at his press
conference in Yerevan that the following year Washington intended to
take some “serious steps to accomplish progress in the Karabakh
conflict settlement.” To quote the American diplomat, “a military
solution to the problem is not acceptable for the United States.”

Said Defense Minister of Armenia Serzh Sarkisjan, “If Aliyev wants to
begin everything from scratch, he will have to pass again through the
phases we have already negotiated… Moreover, the Armenian army is
much stronger now than it was then, and nobody can safely ignore
these facts of life much less turn history back. I’m surprised that
somebody is still trying to talk to Armenia in the language of force
after this decade.”

It is necessary to say a few words on Aliyev’s optimism concerning
Karabakh settlement “in accordance with the international law”. The
OSCE Minsk Group, for example, is much more cautious with words.
Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia Merzlyakov said only recently that
the Karabakh talks entered what he called a cul-de-sac. In fact,
Moscow is not precisely active in this sphere nowadays. It seems that
the initiative is being seized by Washington.

When Mann was appointed one of the chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group
(Mann is US presidential envoy for the Caspian problems), this
newspaper surmised that the experienced American diplomat would
probably try to settle the conflict beyond the OSCE Minsk Group
format, using shuttle diplomacy. It seems that we were correct. It
was announced at the meeting of leaders of Justice (opposition bloc
in Armenia) recently that on his visit to Yerevan not long ago Man
had asked the authorities of Armenia to return three occupied
districts to Azerbaijan. According to the Armenian opposition, this
was but the first attempt and attempts are being made now to have the
same idea aired by Karabakh authorities.

Mann made his trip to Yerevan right after the oil and gas conference
in Baku and his negotiations with Azerbaijani leaders. It goes
without saying that Karabakh settlement was discussed there.
Observers do not rule out the possibility that the events will take
the turn already suggested by the European Union once – that official
Baku will be told to release transport arteries, life the siege, and
make it possible for Armenia to participate in regional economic

Translated by A. Ignatkin