Kocharyan and Aliyev Are Again Invited to Paris
[May 8, 2006]
Following the Rambouillet failure, the international mediators in the Karabakh settlement are attempting to organize yet another meeting of the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents. It's possible that Robert Kocharyan and Ilham Aliyev will again negotiate in Paris. The president of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, Pierre Lellouche, has invited the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan to participate in the work of the assembly at the end of May. Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Eldar Mamadyarov has announced that President Ilham Aliyev has accepted the invitation and will address the Parliamentary Assembly in Paris on May 30, 2006.
Last Friday Vartan Oskanian told reporters that t he co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group believed that Presidents Kocharyan and Aliyev should meet again and that the meeting would, in all probability, take place in the early June. "But neither the venue nor the date of the meeting has been ascertained yet.A great deal depends on the political will of Azerbaijan. I don't want to blame only one party to the conflict for everything, but lately Armenia has taken certain steps and we expect the Azerbaijani side to take appropriate steps in order that we be able to move forward," Oskanian said.
President Robert Kocharyan's spokesman, Victor Soghomonyan, told RFE/RL that final agreement on the Armenian-Azerbaijani summit was likely to be reached after the Oskanian-Mammadyarov meeting later this month on the sidelines of the high-level Council of Europe meeting in Strasbourg and the upcoming visit to the region by the co-chairmen of the Minsk Group. On May 2 nd and 3 rd the American, Russian and French Minsk Group co-chairs held consultations in Moscow, after which the French mediator, Bernard Fassier, visited Yerevan and Baku and met with Kocharyan and Aliyev.
The invitation of Kocharyan and Aliyev by President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly Pierre Lellouche is noteworthy first of all because Lellouche is a supporter of settlement with a "deferred referendum" and is the first high-level official who has publicly spoken about this. Moreover, he authored an article on the subject in a major newspaper.
After his Fall 2004 visit to Nagorno Karabakh Pierre Lellouche, together with Former Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio, published an article in the French Le Figaro (December 20, 2004) opining that Armenia should take "temporary control of Nagorno Karabakh", the further status of which would be determined at a referendum in the course of five or ten years.
Just four days after it was published, Vartan Oskanian advised Armenian reporters to pay attention to the article, which, according to the Armenian foreign minister "expresses today's general trends regarding the Nagorno Karabakh conflict." The foreign minister noted that the realization of the right to self-determination might not be immediate, from the point of view of time. To state it clearly - the present Armenian authorities have in practice adopted the resolution variant that the first president of Armenia Levon Ter-Petrossian considered acceptable.
If we put trust in authoritative international media and in our sources within the Foreign Ministry of Armenia, Kocharyan and Aliyev failed to reach an agreement in Rambouillet on the "deferred referendum" proposal regarding one key issue - the question of Kelbadjar. To put it plainly, Yerevan didn't agree to return to Azerbaijan the Kelbadjar region, which is strategically extremely important for Armenia and Karabakh. As regards the other territories under Karabakh control, they, with the exception of the Lachin corridor, will be returned to Azerbaijan.
The dominant view within political circles and the media in Baku as well as in Yerevan is that after Ilham Aliyev's April 26-29 visit to the United States and his talks with president George W. Bush, Azerbaijan's standing in the Caucasian region has strengthened unprecedentedly, especially in comparison with Armenia, and this is the reason that the Baku authorities are much less ready for compromises in the Karabakh settlement than before.
But the Armenian foreign minister doesn't share this view. "I disagree with these estimations. I think Azerbaijan [Ilham Aliyev] was clearly told in Washington that a military solution is not an option, and we find that positive. Azerbaijan will be ready for compromise only if it rules out that option. If Azerbaijan considers the military resolution a reserve option, naturally, it will be hard to make the necessary compromises," Oskanian said.
Incidentally, after returning from Washington, Aliyev's first public statement contained certain peaceful elements, in contrast to his numerous other bellicose statements. In his statement on May 5 th at the 9 th Summit of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) Aliyev said, "Azerbaijan wants the Nagorno Karabakh conflict to be solved in a peaceful way and finds that that there still are possibilities for it." However, he didn't fail to say that "the patience of the Azerbaijani people is not endless."
During the conference " Armenia and the Council of Europe: Five Years of Membership" held in Yerevan on May 5 th , Oskanian stressed that when joining the Council of Europe one of the obligations by both Armenia and Azerbaijan was the peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict, and Baku should not forget about that. "We hear more and more often bellicose statements and rhetoric coming from the other side. They speak more about resolving the conflict through military means in Azerbaijan. This is extremely worrisome for all of us, because if Azerbaijan has a military resolution in its mind, it will be extremely hard to expect that they will make compromises - will strive for a peaceful settlement. The threats of using force must be excluded from the settlement process. The Council of Europe has a role to play here, to clearly state to Azerbaijan that the military way is not a choice and that this choice must be put aside," the minister said.
These several weeks, let us remember, contain a number of memorable and very important anniversaries. On May 8-9, 1992 the Armenian self-defense forces liberated Shushi, which for months had been used by the Azerbaijani Army for the artillery bombardment of Stepanakert and other settlements. On May 3-5, 1994, the Bishkek Protocol was signed in the capital of Kyrgyzstan. And on May 12, 1994, the bloodshed came to an end as a result of a cease-fire agreement signed in Moscow.
It is at this time that the Azerbaijani leaders, Ilham Aliyev and the Defense Minister Safar Abiyev in particular, are using every opportunity to threaten to resolve the Karabakh conflict through military means and label the Artshakh Armenians "separatists, guerilla, terrorists". In the spring of 1994 the same Abiyev, who headed the General Staff of the Azerbaijani Army and Ilham's father Heydar Aliyev were begging for the cessation of the war. Former Minister of Defense of Nagorno Karabakh Samvel Babayan provided us with some documents showing that in the correspondence sent at the time by Abiyev and other Azerbaijani high-level officials they used forms of address like this one, for example: "To the Minister of Defense of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic, Samvel Babayan."