Armenia Being Tempted Into Nabucco In Exchange For More Flexible Pos


02.10.2008 18:04 GMT+04:00

/PanARMENIAN.Net/ Economics may hold the key to breaking the stalemate
in the Nagorno Karabakh peace process. Turkish and Azerbaijani
officials reportedly are seriously mulling the possibility of Armenian
participation in the long-planned Nabucco pipeline project as part
of a comprehensive Karabakh peace pact, EurasiaNet reports.

Turkey is leading efforts to energize the Karabakh peace
process. Turkish, Armenian and Azerbaijani officials met in New
York on September 26 to discuss the Karabakh issue and other security
matters. That meeting kindled hopes that a settlement could be achieved
by the end of 2008.

Although details of the recent discussions have been scarce, some
experts believe that the three sides have probed a possible bargain
under which Armenia would become part of the Nabucco pipeline plans,
in return for a greater degree of flexibility concerning Yerevan’s
position on Karabakh.

Yerevan’s willingness to modify its long-standing demand for Karabakh
independence would appear to be the key as to whether this latest
push for Karabakh peace can be successful. Azerbaijani officials seem
willing to work with Armenia on the Nabucco project, if Yerevan shows
sufficient flexibility on Karabakh. "Of course, Azerbaijan has set
political conditionality related to the Karabakh conflict on this
[Nabucco] issue," Elhan Shahinoglu, the director of the Baku-based
Atlas center for political research, said.

Turkish analyst Sinan Ogan, the chair of the Ankara-based TURKSAM
think tank, said that the topic of Armenia’s participation in the
Nabucco project came up during US Vice President Dick Cheney’s recent,
controversial visit to Baku. "There are serious plans to involve
Armenia in this project. Turkey and Azerbaijan were against this
idea at first, but now Armenia’s participation seems realistic,"
Ogan said in comments broadcast September 19 on Voice of America radio.

Initial indicators are that the three sides did not make significant
headway on the Karabakh issue during the September 26 meeting in
New York. On September 28, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan flatly
admitted that ‘there are no concrete results yet," according to a
report distributed by the RIA-Novosti news agency.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul also revealed that there has not yet
been any movement on the matter of Turkey ending its economic embargo
against Armenia. The AzerTaj news agency reported Gul as telling a
Turkish diaspora group on September 28 that "no talks over the border
[re-]opening with Armenia are possible before Armenia’s liberation
of Azerbaijani occupied territories."

While the notion of linking a potential Armenian role in Nabucco to the
Karabakh peace process has not been raised publicly, Gul came close
to making a public admission on September 10 during a diplomatic
trip to Baku. "No doubt that the fast liberation of the occupied
[Azerbaijani] territories would be an important step and it would
encourage very efficient economic cooperation in the region. Pipelines
and transport communications would cover the entire Caucasus region,"
Gul said in Baku.

Shahinoglu, the Baku political analyst, believes the peace process
is now at a delicate stage. Any potential breakthrough will likely
require the United States and Russia – two of the three co-chairs
of the OSCE Minsk Group – to set aside their present differences and
engage in diplomatic cooperation, Shahinoglu suggested.

"Obviously, there is a completely new dynamic surrounding the evolution
of talks on the Karabakh conflict, creating unique opportunities for a
breakthrough," Shahinoglu said. "However, this dynamic could [possibly]
result in resumption of the war, if the great powers – first and
foremost Russia and United States – continue to differ fundamentally
on their approach to the future of South Caucasus region."

Shahinoglu added that the Kremlin was not especially interested in
seeing the Turkish initiative concerning Karabakh succeed. He reasoned
that the normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations and the settlement
of the Karabakh question, as well as Yerevan’s potential involvement
in Nabucco, would all do considerable harm to Russia’s geopolitical
interests in the Caucasus.

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