By Emil Danielyan
President Robert Kocharian on Friday sought to end renewed talk of an impending resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, saying that he will not sign any agreements with Azerbaijan before next spring’s Armenian parliamentary elections.
Kocharian argued that his political opponents would exploit “even the best” peace deal in order to undermine his power and win the polls.
“There are people in Armenia who are impatiently hoping that the negotiating process will enable them to exploit the Karabakh problem,” he said in an interview with Armenia’s three leading television stations. “They are openly saying that President Kocharian will be forced to make some concessions [to Azerbaijan] and that they will use them during the election campaign.”
“I want to disappoint them,” added Kocharian. “Before the elections to the National Assembly, there will be no active negotiating process. And the main reason for that is the following. I find it immoral to use the Karabakh issue in the pre-election struggle.
"They will try to discredit even the best peace proposal made during the pre-election period.”
The Armenian leader did not specify whether he will be prepared to cut any compromise deals later in 2007 or some time before Armenia’s next presidential election due in early 2008. Azerbaijan is also scheduled to hold a presidential ballot in 2008.
The unusually blunt remarks came amid fresh international hopes for about Karabakh peace that were raised by Kocharian’s November 28 meeting in Minsk, Belarus with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev. Both men indicated after the talks that they made further progress towards a long-awaited settlement.
"There is a very good chance that we can (resolve) this conflict in the course of next year," Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht, also present at the Minsk talks, said last week. "We have made really substantial progress, if not a breakthrough."
However, Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian was quick to cool the talk of a Karabakh breakthrough, saying that the conflicting parties have yet to fully agree on the main point of the existing peace plan drafted by the French, Russian and U.S. mediators. Oskanian avoided anticipated face-to-face talks with his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov on the sidelines of an OSCE ministering meeting that took place in Brussels on December 5-6.
The two ministers were expected to discuss the possibility of holding another Armenian-Azerbaijani summit later this month. According to Mammadyarov, Yerevan has asked for more time to weigh up “complementary elements” to the peace plan that were proposed by the mediators.
The mediators co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group had hoped that Aliev and Kocharian will sign a framework agreement in the course of this year, well before the Armenian and Azerbaijani elections. It was widely suggested that their failure to do so would keep the conflict unresolved at least until 2009.