BAKU: Azerbaijan says ‘no’ to OSCE Minsk Group

Azer News, Azerbaijan
July 22 2004

Azerbaijan says ‘no’ to OSCE Minsk Group

The long-anticipated visit by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs to the
region has yielded absolutely no results, as this high-ranking group
lost even more credibility in the eyes of the Azerbaijani public. On
Thursday the US Ambassador to Azerbaijan Reno Harnish hosted a
reception dedicated to

the co-chairs’ visit. Over 100 people were invited to the reception,
including representatives of political parties and NGOs, parliament
members, foreign ambassadors and journalists. Touching upon the Upper
Garabagh conflict, all the three co-chairs, Steven Mann of the United
States, Yuri Merzlyakov of Russia and Henry Jacolin of France,
pointed out the need for reconciliation, compromises and concessions,
without which a peace resolution would be impossible.

One of the co-chairs said that no third party will be able to resolve
the conflict and that the conflicting parties need to come to terms
on their own. The gist of all statements made by the co-chairs is
that Azerbaijan must submit to occupation, give up its demands on
restoring its territorial integrity and accept the independence of
Upper Garabagh. Addressing the meeting, former state adviser,
political scholar Vafa Guluzada said explicitly that such statements
are absolutely unacceptable, as they are aimed at compelling
Azerbaijan to relinquish its struggle for the liberation of its
territories. Guluzada told reporters after the reception that the
co-chairs are trying to blame Azerbaijan for the protracted conflict.
Azerbaijan is a victim of aggression, and instead of considering
liberation of its land, the co-chairing countries demand the country
to submit to occupation. The co-chairs are deliberately making this
blatant mistake by regarding the aggression as a conflict, Guluzada
said. The former state adviser emphasized the four resolutions,
passed by the UN Security Council on liberation of Azerbaijan’s
occupied territories. Particularly reprehensible is the position of
Russia, which is supplying arms to Armenia and has a military
cooperation agreement with this country, Guluzada said. Guluzada’s
statement caused confusion among the co-chairs, who subsequently
suggested that another speaker take the floor, but the other
participants supported Guluzada with an applause. Guluzada also said
he was confident that the goal of the meeting was to convince the
Azerbaijani public that the country must make concessions to Armenia.
Nonetheless, this attempt has failed again. The position of the OSCE
MG co-chairs has triggered a public outcry in Azerbaijan. Chairman of
the Party of National Independence of Azerbaijan (PNIA) Etibar
Mammadov said the co-chairs are making the same mistakes as before.
He said that they are not interested in a fair settlement of the
conflict and demand concessions only from Azerbaijan. Mammadov
further voiced his approval of Guluzada’s statement, saying that it
reflects the real state of affairs. “The co-chairs must understand
that neither the authorities nor the opposition of Azerbaijan will
make any concessions”, Mammadov said. Leader of Musavat Party Isa
Gambar also censured the position of OSCE MG co-chairs. He approved
of Guluzada’s statement, confirming that Azerbaijan will not make any
concessions to Armenia. Former Foreign Minister Tofig Zulfugarov said
the co-chairs must criticize the non-constructive position of one of
the conflicting parties. As for Guluzada’s statement, it was overly
emotional, Mammadov said and added that he still agrees with some of
its parts. Another political scholar Eldar Namazov gave a negative
assessment to the co-chairs’ utterances. He said the co-chairs do not
understand the real state of affairs and that nothing has changed in
their position. Moreover, the OSCE MG is absolutely unaware of the
public opinion in Azerbaijan and this statement by Guluzada was
unexpected for the co-chairs, Namazov said. “Vafa Guluzada gave a
very harsh response”, he added.

In a meeting with the co-chairs on Friday, President Ilham Aliyev
expressed his dissatisfaction with the inefficient activity of the
OSCE Minsk Group. He underlined that the co-chairs are well aware of
Azerbaijan’s position stated during the meetings of Azerbaijani and
Armenian presidents and foreign ministers. Aliyev said his country
aspires to a conflict settlement within international legal norms and
noted that all conflicts should be settled this way. The President
underlined that Armenia has not honored the UN Security Council’s
four resolutions on an unconditional withdrawal of its armed forces
from the occupied lands of Azerbaijan. On the same day, the MG
co-chairs held a private meeting with Foreign Minister Elmar
Mammadyarov. Commenting on the results of the meeting, Jacolin told
journalists that it was fruitful.

UN resolutions rejected
A heated debate unfolded during a meeting of Azerbaijani Defense
Minister, Colonel General Safar Abiyev with the OSCE Minsk Group
co-chairs on Friday. Jacolin stated that peace talks have entered a
new stage. “If the conflicting sides do not make compromises, there
will be no progress in the Upper Garabagh conflict settlement. Any
incident occurring on the contact line of the military troops may
lead to military action.” General Abiyev underlined that Armenian
armed forces must pull out of the occupied Azerbaijani lands. “It is
necessary to comply with the UN Security Council’s four resolutions
on unconditional withdrawal of Armenian armed forces from the
occupied land of Azerbaijan in order to fully settle the conflict.
Finally, the OSCE should pass a relevant decision on the matter.”
With regard to the MG co-chairs, Abiyev said that the group’s mission
is to settle the conflict and ensure that the conflicting sides come
to terms. The US co-chair Steven Mann argued that the Upper Garabagh
conflict should be solved by the governments of Azerbaijan and
Armenia, but not by the OSCE Minsk Group. He added that the co-chairs
would only assist in this. In reply to General Abiyev’s question on
the priorities for the conflict resolution and the principles the MG
proposed to the conflicting sides, the Russian co-chair Merzlyakov
said international legal norms envision a peaceful solution and
litigation as options for settling conflicts. “Today, the UN
resolutions may not be executed as they were adopted in a different
atmosphere and new versions for a conflict resolution should be
sought” Merzlyakov noted. In reply, the Minister said that the UN
resolutions are still in force. “These resolutions have already been
executed in Yugoslavia and Iraq and one day they will be applied to
the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict,” Abiyev said.

Co-chairs indifferent to public opinion
In a news conference dedicated to the results of their tour of the
region at the International Press Center of Baku on Friday, the
co-chairs failed to elaborate on the work they carried out to resolve
the Garabagh conflict. The US co-chair Mann said that they were
confident of the peaceful settlement of the Upper Garabagh conflict.
Russian co-chair Merzlyakov said all the three countries co-chairing
the OSCE MG support the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and do
not recognize the independence of the “Upper Garabagh Republic”.
Unlike in a meeting with Defense Minister, Merzlyakov, touching upon
the issue of observance to the mentioned UN resolutions, said he
believes they are still in effect. Some of the resolutions on
stopping military action adopted in 1994 have been observed. As for
other regulations, for instance, one on stopping the hostilities by
the conflicting parties, the MG continues working in this direction,
Merzlyakov added. Commenting on a possible mediation by Turkey,
Merzlyakov said that this country is already playing an active role
in the Minsk Group. “We are working closely with Turkey”, he said.
The French co-chair Henry Jacolin, in his turn, noted that the peace
talks entered a new stage after Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev’s
death and Vilayat Guliyev’s dismissal from the position of Foreign
Minister. Jacolin stressed that it would take Azerbaijani and
Armenian presidents as well as foreign ministers a certain period of
time to bring their positions closer. Asked about Minsk Group’s
failure in solving the Upper Garabagh conflict, the MG co-chairs
underlined that Azerbaijan and Armenia should be blamed for this.
They declined to answer a question about the occupation of
Azerbaijani lands. Asked about the Azerbaijani public’s distrust in
the Minsk Group, Jacolin admitted that the co-chairs were not
concerned over this, as they are recognized by the Presidents of
Azerbaijan and Armenia. He noted that neither the UN nor the European
Union have assumed responsibility for mediating the conflict.

Unplanned meeting
Although the OSCE MG co-chairs did not plan to meet with the
leadership of the Azerbaijani community of Upper Garabagh, the
meeting took place on the insistence of the community leader Nizami
Bahmanov. Bahmanov said that if the co-chairs meet with the
separatist regime of Garabagh, they are obliged to meet with the
Azerbaijani community as well. The MG co-chairs, in turn, said that
they could not meet with the leadership of the Azerbaijani community
due to their busy schedule. Just like in the previous meetings, the
co-chairs did not come up with any concrete proposals.

>From The Editor-in-Chief
I was among those who attended the meeting of the OSCE Minsk Group
co-chairs with the Azerbaijani public on the first day of their visit
to Baku. The Azerbaijani public came out strongly against the
statements made by the co-chairs, backing their statements with
convincing arguments. I will try to look into the reasons behind such
a harsh objection by the public. First, it was apparent that the MG
co-chairs came to Baku to impose the idea of surrender on Azerbaijan.
Second, the MG co-chairs are far from recognizing the aggression of
Armenia, a country which has occupied Azerbaijan’s lands, driven out
about one million people from Garabagh by pursuing a policy of ethnic
cleansing, destroyed ancient historical monuments and residential
areas in this region. Third, the co-chairs claim that the mentioned
UN Security Council resolutions are no longer ‘valid’, as they were
adopted in ‘different conditions’. Fourth, they call on Azerbaijan
‘to accept realities’, saying that ‘if Azerbaijan does not make any
compromises today, the conflict will not be resolved for the next 60
years’. Although the co-chairs declined to explain what compromises
should be made, it is common knowledge that Azerbaijan is expected to
give up Upper Garabagh, the city of Shusha and the Lachin District,
which is unacceptable. Neither Azerbaijani authorities nor the
opposition can agree to sign such an unfair and disgraceful peace
agreement… It is amazing that Russian co-chair Merzlyakov expressed
conflicting opinions on the same issue in various meetings. These
utterances are not accidental and reflect the policy Russia is
pursuing in the region. It is common knowledge that Russia, a
mastermind of conflicts ongoing in South Caucasus, is not interested
in their settlement. Besides, Russia is still able to keep the two
countries under pressure using the Garabagh problem. I am amazed that
the United States, a superpower, which is, contrary to Russia,
interested in establishing stability in the region, is taking a
passive stance on the issue and following Russia’s path