A leading Yerevan-based analyst on Thursday strongly criticized Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian and downplayed Azerbaijan’s seeming acceptance of peoples’ right to self-determination as a core principle of resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
“I will say that it is the worst time in Armenian history to have one of the worst foreign ministers,” Richard Giragosian, director of the Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS), told journalists. Giragosian said the Armenian diplomacy has had more “missed opportunities” than achievements in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process, relations with Turkey and other major areas.
The Armenian-American pundit insisted that a Karabakh settlement is still a long way off despite upbeat statements made by the conflicting parties and international mediators. “The situation on the ground in Nagorno-Karabakh and the regions is mostly likely to stay the way it is for a long time,” he said. “In other words, there is no political will on any side. Even some agreement on the Madrid principles is only an agreement on the agenda of the peace talks.”
Nalbandian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov held a series of face-to-face talks and separate meetings with the mediators on the sidelines of an OSCE ministerial conference in Athens this week. The talks resulted in a statement in which the conflicting parties pledged to try to iron out their remaining disagreements over a framework agreement proposed by the OSCE Minsk Group.
Speaking to journalists on Wednesday, Nalbandian emphasized that Azerbaijan “for the first time” accepted self-determination as one of the main guiding principles of Karabakh peace.
Giragosian played down the significance of that fact. “Whether they [in Azerbaijan] are using new words is possibly true. But there is no sincerity of understanding behind these new words,” he said.
Vladimir Karapetian, the foreign policy spokesman for the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), shared Giragosian’s skepticism, arguing that the OSCE member states have also voiced support for the principle of territorial integrity championed by Baku.
“I find dangerous the fact that all 56 member states of the OSCE agree on the notion that the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict should take place also within the framework of territorial integrity,” Karapetian told RFE/RL. “I think this is a step back, a new phenomenon in the 15-year history of Nagorno-Karabakh peace talks. I assure you that this was not the case in the past.”
“Unlike territorial integrity, nations’ self-determination does not necessarily mean acquisition of independence,” he said. “It can mean independence or be exercised within the framework of territorial integrity. I am sure that Azerbaijan will further this notion with the help of its allies.”