ANKARA: OSCE co-chair sees risk of clash in Nagorno-Karabakh

OSCE CO-CHAIR SEES RISK OF CLASH IN NAGORNO-KARABAKH

Today’s Zaman
July 22 2009
Turkey

While efforts by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in
Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group, which mediates between Yerevan and Baku to
resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, have been somewhat successful,
a co-chairperson of the OSCE Minsk Group has warned about the risk
of clashes in the region if an eventual resolution does not occur.

Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan and Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev
met in Russia on Friday in a Moscow-brokered attempt to solve one of
the most bitter disputes in the region, which is a direct result of
the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

While the Azerbaijani side said talks in Moscow were unproductive,
the Armenian side hailed them as "constructive." Armenian state
television, meanwhile, reported that the two leaders plan to meet
again in October. Earlier this month, the international mediators in
the Nagorno-Karabakh talks — Russia, France and the United States —
issued a special statement at a G-8 summit in Italy urging all sides
to resolve the issue.

Bernard Fassier of France, one of the three co-chairpersons of
the OSCE Minsk Group, speaking with Today’s Zaman, underlined that
their primary goal was maintaining a "rapprochement" between the
two sides. An eventual decision concerning the final status of the
Nagorno-Karabakh dispute could be made afterwards, Fassier said.

With each passing year, the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute
is becoming more difficult, Fassier told Today’s Zaman.

"I very much hope that a war does not occur," Fassier continued,
stressing that last year’s clashes between the two countries, in
which 30 people were killed, prove there is still a risk of war.

In addition, incidents in March involving the use of guns and mortars
brought the two countries to the brink of war, he said, adding:
"Thank God we were able to stop the escalation of violence. If not,
a new war might have erupted."

Noting that the OSCE mediation process has been under way for 15 years,
Fassier mentioned "grudges" between Armenians and Azerbaijanis and
the use of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue by both countries’ politicians
as a tool for domestic policy as the two main reasons behind the
lengthiness of the process.

"Maintaining national unity by showing a neighbor as the enemy has
always been easy. I believe that the issue would have been resolved
a long time ago if both sides used this issue less in their domestic
policies and instead had shown greater political courage," Fassier
added.

No place for Turkey’s mediation During the interview, Fassier also
touched upon suggestions about whether Turkey would play a role in
the Nagorno-Karabakh resolution process.

Turkey, in a show of solidarity with Azerbaijan, closed its border and
severed diplomatic ties with Armenia in 1993. Ankara and Yerevan,
however, are now in talks to normalize relations and have been
holding closed-door meetings to discuss the matter. Azerbaijan,
Turkey’s regional and ethnic ally and a key energy supplier, has
expressed concern over the Turkish-Armenian rapprochement, fearing
it would lose key leverage in the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute.

Ankara says the Turkish-Armenian and Azerbaijani-Armenian processes are
separate, although progress on one will positively affect the other.

Recalling that Azerbaijan and Turkey consider themselves "one nation,
two states," Fassier ruled out the possibility of Turkey’s mediation in
the process, indicating that Turkey was actually a party in the issue.

"Turkey’s mediation in this process is not possible. Common sense
demands this," he said, while reiterating that the Nagorno-Karabakh
process and the normalization efforts between Ankara and Yerevan
should be considered two independent processes. Fassier, nonetheless,
called the two issues "two processes within the same regional area"
and admitted that any progress in one of the two processes might have a
"positive and useful" impact on the other process.

The Nagorno-Karabakh issue has sometimes been used in domestic policy
in Turkey, and linking the Turkish-Armenian and Azerbaijani-Armenian
processes might lead to no resolution for either of the problems,
he also warned.

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