By Anna Saghabalian
Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian indicated on Wednesday that Armenia and Azerbaijan are currently discussing a peace deal on Nagorno-Karabakh that contains elements of the so-called “phased” strategy of conflict resolution favored by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian.
“What we are trying to do today, and I see the possibilities of that, is to get the international community to recognize the Nagorno-Karabakh people’s right to self-determination with an agreement resolving the problem,” he told a news conference. “The implementation of that self-determination may not necessarily be immediate.”
The remarks appeared to be relating to Karabakh understandings which Oskanian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov claimed to have reached during a series of meetings in Prague this summer. They lent credence to Azerbaijani claims that the two men agreed a framework deal calling for a liberation of some of the Armenian-occupied Azerbaijani districts around Karabakh before an agreement on the disputed enclave’s status. Oskanian and other Armenian officials have not explicitly denied that.
The current Armenian leadership insisted until recently on a “package” peace accord that would resolve all sticking points, notably Karabakh’s status, at once. Ter-Petrosian, by contrast, advocated a phased settlement in the months leading up to his 1998 resignation. His ideas were rejected as “defeatist” by then Prime Minister Robert Kocharian and other key government members.
That the Kocharian government’s Karabakh strategy has somewhat changed was signaled last week by Vahan Hovannisian, a leader of the governing Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) that has accused Ter-Petrosian in the past of “selling out” Karabakh. “If tomorrow our interests are secured with phased variants I will immediately become an advocate of the phased [settlement],” Hovannisian told the “Aravot” daily.
Oskanian likewise said the Armenian side should now be “flexible” in the choice of time frames for conflict resolution. He also denied Ter-Petrosian’s recent statement that the Armenians will never get what they were offered in 1997.
The Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers are expected to resume their face-to-face meetings in the Czech capital next month. Oskanian cautioned that the success of the process is not a forgone conclusion.