Each Administration Is Responsible For Its Documents


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Saturday, 18 July 2009 18:00

Vartan Oskanian’s interview to the Yerevan Daily, 168 Zham Newspaper

Mr. Oskanian, the Madrid principles as they’ve been made public,
are they more acceptable to Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh or to
Azerbaijan? In general, how do you assess that proposal?

If we’re speaking about the resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh
conflict, public sentiment can theoretically be divided into two
segments. For one segment, any sort of concession is unacceptable. For
this segment then, any document that emerges from Armenian-Azerbaijani
negotiations, is in and of itself unacceptable. This approach is
understandable but then, in this case, we must accept that we do not
need negotiations, and that option depends solely on the price that
Armenians are prepared to pay.

Nevertheless, if the issue is to reach a negotiated settlement, then
it is important to understand that any document that is the product
of Armenian-Azerbaijani talks must be viewed from two different

First, the principles on which the document is based. Second,
the document itself in all its detail. For example, if one of the
principles is that the people of Nagorno Karabakh have the right
to self-determination, that principle is naturally considered acce
ptable. But in the final document, how this principle is actually
formulated, is a different matter.

Another example: If one of the principles is the return of
territories surrounding Nagorno Karabakh, that, at first glance, is
unacceptable. But if, as a result of negotiations, it is possible to
reach an agreement that the return of those territories of strategic
significance take places only after the right of self-determination is
realized, and even then, not in their totality, that is an altogether
different matter. Therefore, principles are an important basis,
but the details are the determinants.

During my years as minister, we couldn’t reach an agreement with
Azerbaijan over the document’s details. There was a clear bar which
we had set for ourselves, based on our national interest; we were
not willing to lower that bar and we did not do so.

In your view, compared to the earlier ones, is this a move in a
positive direction or a negative one? Please cite concrete facts
and examples.

I don’t know what this ‘renewed’ document is that they’re talking
about. But in the one I’m familiar with, the right of the people
of Nagorno Karabakh to self-determination has been codified, and
so that document is more favorable in comparison to those that came
before. But as negotiators say, nothing is agreed until everything
is agreed, so whether this is a good or bad document depends largely
on how effectively and prudently the Armenian side will conduct the

Is it not a negative development for Armenians that the OSCE Minsk
Group’s prior language — ‘withdrawal of Armenian forces from occupied
territories’ or ‘contiguous land border’ — has been replaced by
the phrases ‘the return of territories adjacent to Nagorno Karabakh
to Azerbaijani control’ or ‘land link’? And, in general, are the
interests of the Minsk Group co-chair countries in the resolution
of the Nagorno Karabakh issue more congruent with the interests of
Armenians or Azerbaijanis?

In general, the objective of the co-chairs has been to bring
the positions of the two sides closer. For them, under normal
circumstances, how and what kind of a resolution is reached is not
as important as simply the fact of reaching a resolution. Of course,
from time to time, the co-chairs will make an announcement which
causes dissatisfaction for one or another side.

But that shouldn’t worry us so much as when co-chair countries, for
whatever reason, feel the necessity to resolve the Nagorno Karabakh
issue at all cost, in order to ‘disentangle’ another knot. In such
a situation, other factors too will come into play. As I have often
said, Turkey’s masterful exploitation of Armenia-Turkey relations
may provide such an excuse.

How do you interpret the=2 0view that the current unfavorable situation
of the Nagorno Karabakh process is the product of your and former
President Kocharian’s policies?

Each administration is responsible for its term in office and for
documents it has signed. During the past 10 years, we had succeeded in
moving away from the Lisbon principles which provided Nagorno Karabakh
with a maximum of autonomy within Azerbaijan, to a point where the
right of the people of Nagorno Karabakh to self-determination was
reinforced. Further, during this time, there were no concessions on
the issue of Nagorno Karabakh. On the contrary. Nagorno Karabakh
with its surrounding territories and with an unobstructed link
with Armenia, not only survived but also registered noticeable
development. Nevertheless, each new administration has a right to
step back from what it has received from the former administration,
if it so wishes. A change of administration offers such a historic
opportunity. In 1998, that opportunity was used. So, today’s processes
are the responsibility of those in charge today. And we should judge
the situation, not only based on the content of the document, but
also on the circumstances which have been created around us as a
result of our own foreign policy.

In your view, is it necessary that Nagorno Karabakh become a full
party to negotiations? If yes, then why was that presence not assured
during the Kocharian years?

Nagorno20Karabakh’s participation in the negotiations was disrupted in
March 1997 when the Minsk group negotiations themselves were broken
off. But Nagorno Karabakh has not been left out of the process. It
was only in a rare instance that the co-chairs would visit the region
and not go to Stepanakert or not visit with the Nagorno Karabakh
authorities. Of course, taking into consideration the fact that
there cannot be a resolution without the agreement of the authorities
and people of Nagorno Karabakh, the direct participation of Nagorno
Karabakh is desirable, and even essential, and that’s always been
acknowledged. Nevertheless in 1998 when the Republic of Armenia was
faced with a dilemma – to carry out the negotiations inherited from
the former administration, and to do so at the presidential level,
or to generally withdraw from negotiations, the decision was made
in favor of continuing negotiations. But again, any administration,
faced with such a choice, can make a different determination.