By Anna Saghabalian
Vartan Oskanian, who stepped down as Armenia’s foreign minister last week after serving for a decade in this capacity, has shrugged off criticism that Armenian diplomacy remained passive during his time in office which ostensibly resulted in a number of failures, including the latest UN resolution on Karabakh.
In an interview with RFE/RL, Oskanian, in particular, called the mid-March resolution of the United Nations General Assembly that refers to Karabakh as an internationally recognized part of Azerbaijan a “tactical error” of Azerbaijan.
Earlier, Oskanian downplayed the impact of the resolution by saying that only 39 UN member states, most of them affiliated with the Organization of Islamic Conference, voted for it, while over 150 other nations abstained or did not vote. Remarkably, the states that co-chair the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), including the United States, Russia and France, were among the seven nations that voted against the resolution.
Oskanian believes the resolution was rather a sign that Azerbaijan was on the defensive, showing “nervousness” in its foreign policy.
“They [Azerbaijan] are trying to take the issue to the UN, dissolve the whole Minsk process, do away with the Prague process and the document that has been produced as a result of our joint work with Azeris and the co-chairs during the past two years,” Oskanian told RFE/RL. “Clearly Azeris are not happy with the content of that document which has been formalized by depositing at the OSCE Secretariat where Karabakh’s right to self-determination has been clearly codified and this is what makes Azeris very nervous.”
“What they did at the UN is not a pre-emption. It’s a reaction to the Minsk process. The document is a reaction to the co-chairs’ move to deposit for the first time ever in the history of this conflict a document that they thought has reached the maturity which can be put at the OSCE Secretariat as a clear guideline and clear principles that have been codified as a result of the joint work of the past two years.”
Oskanian, who was succeeded in office by Armenia’s former ambassador to France Eduard Nalbandian earlier this week, said Armenia’s options in the Karabakh process remained limited but refrained from prejudging what might happen under the new administration.
“At this moment it is difficult to predict what the next president will do. It’s his choice what kind of foreign policy he will implement, whether he will maintain the notion of complementarity or not. But given my experience I don’t think Armenia’s room to maneuver is very wide. Our options are limited. What can be done is simply to make some changes in the accents not necessarily in direction,” Oskanian said.
“My expectation will be that there will not be major changes, but again I don’t want to speak prematurely without waiting to see what decisions will be taken by the new president and the foreign minister.”
“Given Azerbaijan’s positions and change of heart I do expect that there will be some modifications in our foreign policy that will be done by default, because Azerbaijan itself seems to be deviating from the established path. If Azerbaijan changes direction, then Armenia has no choice but to make corresponding adjustment in its policy. What exactly those changes will be, we have to wait and see,” Oskanian concluded.