Paper Questions Russia’s Claim to Act as NK Settlement Mediator

Armenian paper questions Russia’s claim to act as Karabakh settlement

Golos Armenii, Yerevan
24 Aug 04

Text of Aris Kazinyan’s article “Vladimir Putin’s statement: there are
more questions than answers” published by Armenian newspaper Golos
Armenii on 24 August

“Russia can be a guarantor and mediator in settling the Nagornyy
Karabakh conflict,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said on 20 August
during his Sochi meeting with Armenian President Robert Kocharyan.
Putting it mildly, the Russian leader’s statement is not very clear:
how is Moscow going to become a mediator, if it became one long ago?

Does Vladimir Putin’s statement mean that official Moscow is
displeased with the trilateral institute of the OSCE Minsk Group
co-chairmen? Does it mean that in future Russia sees itself if not the
only then at least the main mediator in the negotiating process on
peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict? Or should the Russian
president’s words be taken as a claim to Russia’s exclusive authority
in settling conflicts in the South Caucasus? If so, who this claim is
addressed to? Is it addressed to Washington, Paris or maybe to Tbilisi
in connection with the Georgian-Ossetian conflict? The way he was
speaking about “South Ossetian autonomy abolished by the Georgian
authorities” one would think that the sovereignty of the Russian
Federation was at stake.

Finally, there is the time bomb of Javakh [Georgia’s Armenian-populated
Samtskhe-Javakheti Region], which may be put in operation if needed.
“We inherited many conflict situations. In some places these conflicts
are in a dampened state, while in others they have flared up with a
new force,” the Russian president said at a joint news conference
[with Kocharyan].

The Russian president’s statement about the possibility of Russia
becoming a “guarantor” in the peaceful settlement of the Karabakh
conflict is even less clear. What does it mean to be a guarantor in
this political conflict? By the way, once Moscow had almost the same
powers: in January 1989 a new form of government was introduced in the
Nagornyy Karabakh Autonomous Region [NKAO] and in effect the region
was taken out of direct subordination to Azerbaijan. Under a
resolution of the USSR Council of Ministers, all organizations and
enterprises of NKAO were re-subordinated to the relevant Soviet
departments. This legal status was the last for NKAO during the Soviet

Can Moscow, which does not want to recall this aspect of the Karabakh
settlement, become a guarantor of a fair settlement of the conflict?
Talking about today’s stage, why does not Moscow remember that earlier
Armenians in Karabakh were fighting against [Chechen rebel warlord]
Shamil Basayev? Of course it is up to the Kremlin to ignore absolutely
obvious realities, but after all this it hardly has the right to claim
the role of so-called “guarantor”.

Still, what does it mean to be a “guarantor” in the Karabakh
settlement? Can this statement be interpreted as an intention to bring
in Russian peacekeeping force to the conflict zone or to deploy it at
the security line? In all probability, the Russian leader meant this
too, but again with Georgia in mind. Russian peacekeepers are
“guarantors of the peaceful settlement” of the Geo rgian-Ossetian
conflict, are they not?

Given the above, President Robert Kocharyan’s words said at the same
news conference, acquire quite a peculiar sense: “There is a great
difference between the Georgian-Ossetian and the Karabakh
conflicts. There is security line in the Karabakh conflict
zone. Everything is under control there.” Unlike in the
Georgian-Ossetian conflict.

The Sochi meeting of the Russian and Armenian leaders did not look
like a meeting of strategic allies. It was more like a talk of the two
countries’ prime ministers outlining common economic interests in the
region. The Russian president made it clear once again that Moscow
wants to make friends with Yerevan and Baku equally. As for our
problems with transport communications conditioned by the “known
geopolitical situation of Armenia”, alas, they are difficult to
overcome. Vladimir Putin mentioned the prospective “North-South”
railway corridor. A decision on its construction was adopted in May in
Moscow at a meeting of the railway ministers of Russia, Azerbaijan and
Iran. This railway link via Derbent, Baku, Astara, Rasht and Qazvin
should provide Russia with direct access to the Indian Ocean. And this
is not “an hour-long flight to Sochi,” this is strategy!