By Karine Kalantarian and Ruzanna Khachatrian
A senior Nagorno-Karabakh official reaffirmed on Thursday the Stepanakert government’s unhappiness with the existing international plan to end the Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute and said the international mediators are also to blame for the deadlocked peace process.
“Failure to include important provisions into the proposals [made by the OSCE Minsk Group] was to inevitably lead to a fiasco. Therefore their avoidance of responsibility is not justified,” Arman Melikian, a top aide to Karabakh leader Arkady Ghukasian, told RFE/RL.
He was commenting on a statement by the American, French and Russian co-chairs of the Minsk Group which disclosed the main elements of a framework peace agreement considered by Armenia and Azerbaijan. The statement, made public on Wednesday, warned that by failing to sign that agreement the conflicting parties would miss a unique opportunity to resolve the Karabakh dispute.
At the heart of the Minsk Group plan is the idea of determining Karabakh’s status in a referendum to be held years after the liberation of most Armenian-occupied territories in Azerbaijan and other confidence-building measures. Melikian reiterated that the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) has serious misgivings about the idea not least because the proposed vote would also involve Karabakh’s former Azerbaijani minority that fled the region during the war. He complained that the peace proposals do not allow for the return of Armenians displaced by the conflict.
“The current negotiating process does not seem to be aimed at finding a final and lasting solution,” claimed Melikian.
The Karabakh official also dismissed the mediators’ assurances that they have done their best to broker a peaceful settlement and that the onus is on the two sides to hammer out mutual compromise. “In essence, the co-chairs are trying to blame the lack of results in the negotiating process on the parties, Armenia and Azerbaijan,” he said. “They are taking a neutral stance and saying that the presidents are to blame for their failure to reach agreement.”
The remarks contrast with the position of official Yerevan which finds the proposed Karabakh deal largely acceptable. “Armenia finds that the basic principles, overall, on the table today remain a serious basis for continuing negotiations,” the Foreign Ministry said on Monday.
The Minsk Group was also essentially endorsed on Thursday by Vahan Hovannisian, a leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), the most hard-line of political groups represented in Armenia’s government. “Nobody, including the mediators, denies that this is only a basis for further clarifications,” he told RFE/RL. “We will never try to prevent our authorities from reaching such a framework agreement.”
“But when it comes to working out details of that framework agreement, there will certainly be debates, both here and in Azerbaijan,” added the deputy speaker of the Armenian parliament.
Hovannisian also praised the mediators for finally disclosing the essence of what they believe is the optimal peace formula. He suggested that ordinary Azerbaijanis will now see the huge gap between President Ilham Aliev’s public threats to win back Karabakh by force and his apparent stated readiness to let the Karabakh Armenians decide their status.
(Photolur photo: Arkady Ghukasian.)