Armenian-Azeri Dialogue: The Karabakh Factor In The Opening Of Turke

By Naira Hayrumyan

ArmeniaNow correspondent

Underlying processes in the Karabakh settlement draw a multitude
of opinions and comments. New arguments and directions appear in
the negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, namely that the
border between Turkey and Armenia could have been opened without the
parliamentary ratifications of the normalization agreements signed
between Yerevan and Ankara last October (but stalled in the two
countries’ parliaments). But Azerbaijan insists that this should happen
after the withdrawal of Armenian troops from some districts surrounding
the former Nagorno-Karabakh autonomous region now controlled by the
Karabakh military.

Deputy Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Araz Azimov stated recently
that the border could be opened after the Armenian pullback from five
districts and the Lachin corridor and that "this would show the good
intentions of official Baku towards Yerevan." "The opening of the
border could become a major instrument for the start of trilateral
trade between Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan or for cooperation in
some other sphere," he said.

Vladimir Kazimirov, a former Russian chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group,
an international format co-headed by Russia, the United States and
France that advances a negotiated peace in the Karabakh conflict,
issued a tough statement in this regard, calling on Baku to proceed
on the basis of the current reality. "Now it is being erased from
memory how many Armenians there were in Nakhijevan. Imagine that they
want to go back there and do so within a short term. What will Baku
say to that? What is the use of repeating who lived where and in
what number centuries ago? One should shape attitudes based on the
current situation rather than the situation that existed a century
ago," said Kazimirov.

The former Karabakh negotiator also noted that none of the documents
say that Armenia committed aggression. "One can often hear complaints
in Azerbaijan that the international community does not properly
demand the [Armenian] withdrawal from occupied lands. But the fact
is that many states and international organizations do not have such
a simplistic view of this intricate conflict as the Baku propaganda
is trying to present," said Kazimirov, pointing out that it wasn’t an
armed attack by Armenians, but was a more complex and multidimensional
escalation of mutual hostility.

In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service this week United States
Ambassador to Armenia Marie Yovanovitch said she didn’t think any
country demanded that the parties to the Karabakh conflict should make
unilateral concessions that would threaten their national security.

Rather, she said, any agreements between the sides either in the format
of the OSCE Minsk Group or any other format, should be reached on the
basis of their interests. However, the ambassador stressed, the parties
should realize that mutual concessions are needed for a solution.

It is clear that an attempt to establish relations and open the border
without concluding ultimate agreements and solving territorial problems
is being made both in the Karabakh settlement and the Armenian-Turkish
process. Director of the European program of the International Crisis
Group Sabine Fraizer stated the expedience of opening the border
before the ratification of the protocols. "Armenia is trying to
achieve it without any preconditions, Turkey is doing everything to
‘win’ at least two districts for Azerbaijan," said Fraizer.