Security zone can become a battlefield

Agency WPS
August 8, 2005, Monday


SOURCE: Voenno-Promyshlennyi Kurier, 1, 28, August 3-9, 2005, p. 3

by: Samvel Martirosyan


The Karabakh conflict regulation seems to come on another level.
Though the negotiation process between Armenia and Azerbaijan is
carried out in a closed regime, there were several leaks that caused
discussions last month.

On July 11, the Armenian service of the radio station Svoboda
informed, alluding to an anonymous senior source in diplomatic
circles, that the parties concerned nearly reached a consensus.
According to the data of the source, at the time of the negotiations
the parties agreed upon many questions, the parties work at “solving
several lasting contradictions in the text of the agreement”, and by
the end of this year or by the beginning of next year the conflict
could be solved.

The diplomat noted that, in accord with preliminary agreements, in
10-15 years there’ll be a referendum in Nagorny Karabakh. Based on
it, the status of the Nagorny Karabakh republic will be determined;
either joining Armenia, or becoming an independent state, or joining
Azerbaijan. “The variant of the referendum was suggested several
months ago, but then it was spoken of in Azerbaijan and in Nagorny
Karabakh, and now the matter concerns the referendum, which will take
place not only in Nagorny Karabakh, the radio station Svoboda cites
the words of the diplomatic source. And Azerbaijan admits the status
of Nagorny Karabakh, that is its right for self-determination. Lachin
(the region connecting the Nagorny Karabakh republic with Armenia. –
author’s commentary) stays under the control of Karabakh. As for
Azerbaijan lands, situated under the control of Armenia, they will be
returned instead of an agreement on referendum”.

Speaking about security guarantees, the interlocutor of Svoboda noted
that it is suggested there should be peacekeeping forces stationed in
the conflict zone. The countries that will be presented for the
peacekeeping mission are not known yet. There’s only one condition:
peacekeepers mustn’t represent countries that are members of the
Minsk group of the OSCE in the Karabakh conflict. According to
Svoboda, this condition satisfies Armenia and Azerbaijan, Yerevan
comes out against participation of Turkey, and Baku is against
Russian participation. The diplomat also informed that the new format
of regulation includes Armenian-Turkish relationships, including
opening of the Armenian-Turkish frontier. From the moment of signing
the treaty Turkey will open the frontier with Armenia, and Azerbaijan
will deploy communication routes.

Already on July 15, from the Azerbaijan party concerned, a not
indicated diplomat came out, informing that between the parties the
question of the security zone had been solved, 7 regions around the
Nagorny Karabakh republic, which are controlled by the Karabakh army.
According to the resource, the Armenian troops will be withdrawn
first from the territory of five regions; Gubdalinsk, Zangilansk,
Fizulin, Djebrail and Agdaman. After, these territories will be
passed over to the control of Azerbaijan; the parties concerned will
sign a peace treaty. Then the Armenian troops will leave Kelbadjir
and later Lach regions (they are situated between the Nagorny
Karabakh republic and Armenia). Moreover, if after signing the treaty
the withdrawal of troops is not carried out “in accord with the
plan”, then the document will lose its force.

At the same time, not less sensational statements were made by
co-chairpersons of the Minsk group of the OSCE of the Karabakh
conflict regulation, and representatives of other mediator
organizations. So unusual speeches were made at the 14th session of
the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE, which took place in
Washington from July 1-5. Here they discussed the report of Goran
Lenmarker, special representative of the chairman of the OSCE in the
Karabakh conflict. Mr. Lenmarker prepared a resolution concerning the
Karabakh conflict, in which there’s a strange clause. The
Parliamentary assembly “recommends Azerbaijan and Armenia follow the
way of forming a situation of “victory-victory”, on the basis of
available suggestions, supported by European structures”. It’s clear
that it is impossible to achieve such a situation in the Karabakh
question: any decision will lead to defeat of one of the parties
concerned. Every Armenian and Azerbaijanian knows this, and special
representatives of the Karabakh question are obliged to know it.
Moreover, Gorlan Lenmarker called upon creation of the commission
“Justice and Reconciliation”, which is to find the historical truth.
Creation of such a commission can knock out the negotiation process.
For all these years the mediators have been trying to take the
question out of the historical justice plane (since the number of
historical arguments from both the parties concerned goes amounts to
infinity), turning it to the sphere of real lawful and political

But this resolution was not passed. The OSCE also rejected the
project, presented by Azerbaijan. However, during presentation of his
report Mr.Lenkmarker made a rather unexpected declaration. In his
opinion, the best way to secure safety in Nagorny Karabakh can be its
joining Armenia. In fact, the special representative repeated the
thesis of US ambassador in Armenia John Avans, who created a furor
not long ago. We’ll remind that at the end of February, at the
meeting with the Armenian diaspora in San-Francisco the ambassador
said, “Everybody admits that it is impossible to return Nagorny
Karabakh to Azerbaijan”. However, after that Mr. Avans said that it
was his personal opinion, but the stone was thrown and the circles
can be seen up till now.

It’s necessary to pay attention to the interview of Goran Lenkmarker
to Azerbaijanian agency AzerTAdj. The special representative of the
OSCE said in it that Armenian forces must free the so-called security
zone, seven Azerbaijan regions around Karabakh, which are under the
control of the Karabakh army. So the position of international
structures is in division of questions on the status of Karabakh and
withdrawal of the Armenian army from the security zone. This approach
has long-run aims. On the one hand, the status of Karabakh will not
be determined for many years and will stay a factor of political
wrangling for the parties concerned. On the other hand, it is
possible to solve the question of creation of the security zone.
Moreover, this envisages bringing in peacekeeping troops to the zone.
>From the part of NATO, Europe and even Ukraine there are suggestions
concerning the matter.

Co-chairpersons of Minsk group of the OSCE were also very enigmatical
at the time of the visit to the region. On July 13, in Stepanakert,
when during the break between negotiations with the Nagorny Karabakh
republic, President Arkady Gukasyan met with journalists and made a
rather pessimistic forecast. “As for the agreement on the Karabakh
conflict regulation, the parties are very far from this”, said
Russian co-chairperson Yuri Merzlyakov. His American colleague Steven
Mann added that in many questions the parties hadn’t reached consent.

But on July 15, in Yerevan the co-representatives were changed. Here
Yuri Merzlyakov said, “The parties have really made a compromise, and
there’s a real possibility for promotion in the process of
regulation”. Moreover, Steven Mann almost repeated the thesis of an
anonymous Armenian diplomat, and said to Svoboda, “During the last
year a serious break-through has been made in the negotiation
process. There are serious grounds for hope that by the end of this
year, we’ll be able to reach this, but there are no guarantees that
this will be accomplished… But there’s a process and a great
possibility in the conflict regulation by the end of this year”. A
bit later, on July 18, Araz Azimov, deputy of the Foreign Affairs
Minister of Azerbaijan, claimed that the chances to regulate the
conflict are very good.

How much is the possibility of the statements of anonymous sources
about the possibility of referendum in the Nagorny Karabakh republic?
And is withdrawal of Karabakh forces from the buffer zone real?

The referendum was first spoken about in December 2004, on the pages
of the French periodical “Le Figaro” by Pierre Lelush, head of the
Parliament Assembly of NATO, and Ana Palacio, former Foreign Affairs
Minister of Spain. Their suggestion is, “Europeans, Americans and
Russians are to find a compromise together, in accord with which
Armenia would get temporary control over Karabakh, further the status
of Karabakh would be determined in the course of a referendum, in
five or six or ten years. The Minsk group of the OSCE, working under
control of the USA, Russia and France, could guarantee achievement of
a compromise and help to carrying out the policy of economical
help… Finally instead of collaboration with Azerbaijan in this
conflict the West must have close partner relationships with this

However, it is not quite clear what kind of referendum is meant. If
in Azerbaijan, then it is clear that the question will be solved in
favor of Baku. And if the matter concerns a referendum only on the
territory of Nagorny Karabakh, the answer will be predetermined. Even
if mediators achieve return of the Azerbaijan population to the
Nagorny Karabakh Republic, the Armenians will prevail. The exact
population of Nagorny Karabakh today is unknown. It’s rather possible
that it is the idea of a referendum, made the authorities of the
republic hold the first since the time of declaration of
independence, a population census from October 18-27 this year.
According to the latest population census, which took place in
January 1989, the population of the Nagorny Karabakh autonomous
region was 189,085 people, 145,450 (76.9%) of them are Armenians and
40,632 (21.5%) are Azerbaijanian.

In any case holding a referendum will let the West bring in
peacekeeping troops to the region, providing its military presence on
the pretext of defense of peaceful agreements of the Karabakh
question. In addition, as for withdrawal of Karabakh forces from the
buffer zone, the Armenian generals and most political forces
negatively treat such a turn of events. Withdrawal is only possible
on condition of the Nagorny Karabakh Republic’s presenting of
concrete international status. Moreover, Arkady Gukasyan also claimed
that Lachin can’t be an object of negotiations. “This is a road
connecting us with the outer world, and we have serious arguments why
Lachin can’t be discussed in the context of compromises. There won’t
be any opportunistic changes in this question from our part”, the
president of the Nagorny Karabakh Republic is sure.

It’s also clear that until Nagorny Karabakh becomes a party of
negotiations, not a single decision, even if it is passed by Yerevan
and Baku, will be realized. This is the opinion of official
Stepanakert. In this situation, it is difficult for the parties
concerned to really reach a final compromise or even approach it.
However, it is not excluded that Western mediators simply try to
suppress Yerevan and Baku, achieving maximal compromises.

For the last year and a half, Europe and the USA, coming out in the
person of the European Community, the Council of Europe, PACE, OSCE,
NATO and other structures, have been carrying out a rather remarkable
policy of taking out the Karabakh conflict regulation from only the
Minsk group. That is they aim at decreasing the role of Russia.

In spite of constant assurances of mediators in the approaching
break-through in the conflict regulation, it is clear that in the
near future we shouldn’t wait for any progress on this question. In
November, in Azerbaijan, parliamentary elections are expected, they
can seriously destabilize the situation in the country. Here they
often speak about a possible “colored” revolution. In autumn in
Armenia, it is planned to hold a referendum on Constitution reform.

This means that international mediators, who represent the interests
of the West, try to maximally disorient the Armenian and Azerbaijan
public, by suggesting new things that are often contradictory. Such a
decision allows strengthening of the Western impact in the region,
playing on constant changes of social stress. Everybody knows that
the question has become the main one for Armenia, Azerbaijan and
Karabakh. Political elites are closely connected with this problem,
that’s why they can’t make serious deviations from the general line
that is rooted in public opinion. And the constant changes of formats
for determining the situation of Karabakh, reconsideration of
approaches from the part of international structures hold the
authorities of the struggling republics in a state of tension, making
them vulnerable for reports and resolutions. But will they be more
compliant because of this?


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