By Hrach Melkumian
Armenia’s former chief Nagorno-Karabakh negotiator claimed on Friday that Azerbaijan has suggested a new peace formula that would postpone indefinitely a final agreement on the disputed region’s status.
Jirair Libaridian, who was former president Levon Ter-Petrosian’s top foreign policy adviser, said the Azerbaijani leadership is now favoring an altered version of the peace plan drafted by international mediators in 1997.
The plan, which called for the return of occupied Azerbaijani territories and the simultaneous lifting of Armenia’s blockade, was backed by Ter-Petrosian but rejected by his then prime minister, Robert Kocharian, and key government ministers. The disagreements led to Ter-Petrosian’s resignation in February 1998.
Libaridian, who was in Azerbaijan on a private visit last month, said Baku is now ready to open its border with Armenia if Karabakh Armenian forces withdraw from four out of seven Azerbaijani districts located south and southwest of Karabakh. According to him, the Aghdam, Kelbajar and Lachin districts would remain under Armenian control until the final settlement of the conflict.
Libaridian, who is a U.S. citizen of Armenian origin, was speaking at the Yerevan headquarters of Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh) party. He did not specify sources of the information, saying only that President Heydar Aliev now sees no other way of breaking the deadlock in the negotiating process.
The current leadership of Armenia and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) has always insisted on a “package” deal with Azerbaijan that would settle all contentious issues in a single peace accord. Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian has reaffirmed this position recently.
Libaridian, who returned to the United States after resigning in 1997 and has rarely traveled to Armenia since then, revealed that he met with Oskanian in Yerevan on his latest trip. He said he also traveled to Stepanakert where he had a “long conversation” with NKR President Arkady Ghukasian earlier this week. He did not give any details of those meetings.