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By Ruzanna Stepanian
Russia’s former chief Nagorno-Karabakh negotiator, Vladimir Kazimirov, made a case for a gradual resolution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict on Wednesday, saying that the Armenians should drop their insistence on a “package” peace deal.

Meeting with journalists and representatives of non-governmental organizations in Yerevan, Kazimirov reiterated his belief that the conflicting parties are too far apart in their positions to be able to reach agreement on Karabakh’s status at this point. He argued that they need years of confidence-building measures to bridge their differences on the main bone of contention.

“You get this in return for giving up that and so on,” he said, referring to a single peace accord demanded by the Armenian side until now. “That is great, but not realistic. Who is going to sign [such an agreement]? Find a signatory from the opposite side.”

“Go and look for them. I haven’t found anyone [on the Azerbaijani side,” Kazimirov said, adding that signing a peace deal formalizing Karabakh’s independence would be suicidal for any Azerbaijani leader.

Kazimirov represented Russia in the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in the early 1990s, helping to negotiate the Russian-mediated ceasefire agreement that stopped the Armenian-Azerbaijani war for the disputed territory. He was invited to testify at special hearings on the Karabakh problem that were held by the foreign relations committee of the Armenian parliament.

The retired diplomat said the hearings, also attended by senior government officials, showed that there is growing acceptance in Armenia of the so-called phased strategy of conflict resolution which was favored by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian. It would indefinitely agreement Karabakh’s status until after an Armenian withdrawal from surrounding Azerbaijani territories and restoration of economic contacts between the two
South Caucasus neighbors.

“Whereas in the past the Armenians were saying, ‘Package, package and nothing other than package’, it looks as though they are now considering phased options as well,” Kazimirov said.

The current leaders of Armenia and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic insisted until recently that the return of the occupied territories should part of a package peace accord that resolves all contentious issues. But they now appear ready to accept other international guarantees of continued Armenian control of Karabakh such a future referendum of independence.

“We could make concessions on the condition that Azerbaijani side gives clear guarantees of not restarting the war which would be certified by authoritative international organizations and states,” Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian told the parliament hearings.

The Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers are scheduled to meet in London later this month to discuss the Minsk Group’s new peace proposals. The confidential proposals are thought to contain at least some elements of phased settlement.

(Photolur photo)
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