By Ruzanna Stepanian
The leadership of Nagorno-Karabakh does not share international optimism regarding the resolution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, a senior official said on Thursday in a further sign of Stepanakert’s misgivings about the peace formula currently discussed by the parties.
Leonid Martirosian, a senior official at the Foreign Ministry of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, told RFE/RL that the NKR government does not think that any peace agreements will be signed in the course of this year.
International mediators and even officials in Baku and Yerevan hope that the upcoming meeting between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan will result in a breakthrough. Upbeat statements have also been made by other Western leaders. Belgian Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht indicated on Wednesday that a compromise peace deal may well be cut in 2006. De Gucht, whose country has just assumed the rotating presidency of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, is scheduled to visit Armenia and Azerbaijan later this month.
Martirosian found his optimism misplaced. “Of course, we too want the issue to be resolved,” he said. “But the situation shows that there are no real grounds for such optimism. The positions of Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh are too polarized.”
The Karabakh official echoed remarks made by NKR President Arkady Ghukasian last after his talks in Yerevan with the visiting co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. “We are pretty far from a settlement today,” he said.
Ghukasian’s statement was construed by some observers as a covert disapproval of an agreement all but finalized by Baku and Yerevan. It reportedly envisages a phased resolution of the conflict that would culminate in a referendum on independence in Karabakh. Such a vote would reportedly take place in 10 to 15 years from the start of an Armenian withdrawal from occupied Azerbaijani territories surrounding the disputed region.
Martirosian sounded cool towards the idea, saying Stepanakert insists that the return of those lands should start only after some sort of an agreement on Karabakh’s status.