By Emil Danielyan
Armenia criticized a senior U.S. official on Monday for disclosing key details of the most recent framework agreement to end the Nagorno-Karabakh which was put forward by the U.S., Russian and French mediators.
In an interview with RFE/RL late last week, the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza said the conflicting parties have been discussing a gradual solution to the dispute that would culminate in a referendum on Karabakh’s status. Bryza said the vote would determine the disputed region’s status “at some point” in the future after the liberation of Armenian-occupied lands in Azerbaijan proper.
President Robert Kocharian appears to have been taken aback by the remarks. His press secretary, Viktor Soghomonian, claimed that Bryza unveiled only “some elements of the document proposed to the parties which do not reflect the whole essence of the draft [Karabakh] agreement.”
“If similar revelations appear in the media in the future, Armenia will publish all the documents discussed at the talks in the last seven to eight years,” Soghomonian told the Russian news agency Regnum. “Namely, the  draft agreement based on the principle of a `common state', the document discussed in Key West [in April 2001] and the draft agreement which was recently discussed in Bucharest. I am sure everything will be crystal clear then.”
“Incidentally, all three draft agreements were rejected by Azerbaijan," Soghomonian said.
Bryza, who has just taken over as the new U.S. co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, essentially confirmed Karabakh-related information leaked by Armenian and Azerbaijani officials last year. It is therefore not clear why official Yerevan was irked by the move, especially considering the fact that the proposed referendum would likely legitimize Armenian control over Karabakh.
Azerbaijan’s reaction to Bryza’s remarks was far more positive, with a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry in Baku saying over the weekend that they “reflect the state of affairs” in the Karabakh peace process. The Azerbaijani newspaper “Zerkalo” quoted the official, Tahir Tagizade, as claiming at the same time that the referendum would be held not only in Karabakh but also Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev insisted on Friday that he will “never let Nagorno-Karabakh be separated from Azerbaijan” and that “this cannot be a subject of negotiations.”
The referendum option clearly envisages the possibility of international recognition Karabakh’s secession from Azerbaijan, though. It is believed to have dominated two rounds of unsuccessful negotiations held by Aliev and Kocharian in Bucharest and outside Paris last February. The fiasco has all but dashed hopes for a speedy resolution of the Karabakh conflict.
Bryza said he and the two other Minsk Group co-chairs have decided to take “a bit of a pause throughout the summer” to see whether Aliev and Kocharian have the political will to make “tough compromises.” “The Minsk Group has decided that there's no sense in us trying to arrange another round of presidential meetings or trying to broker an agreement, because we have taken the process as far as we can, and all that's left to do is for the presidents to make these tough decisions,” he said.
“We just don't know where the presidents are right now,” added the U.S. official. “We're encouraging them, we're nudging them by taking a step back. Nudging them to show that they have this political will.”
(Photolur photo: Victor Soghomonian.)