U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s upcoming visit to Armenia and Azerbaijan is unlikely to prove decisive for the long-awaited resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, a spokesman for President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK) said on Thursday.
Clinton is due to hold talks with the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders Sunday on a tour of Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus. U.S. officials have said she will press both sides to finalize the “basic principles” of a Karabakh settlement proposed by the United States, Russia and France.
The HHK spokesman, Eduard Sharmazanov, said he does not expect a breakthrough in the talks because “Azerbaijan is not prepared for the conflict’s resolution.” Like other senior Armenian officials, he accused Baku of seeking to torpedo the peace process.
“There is no need to put pressure on Armenia,” Sharmazanov told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “Armenia is acting like a reliable partner, and it is Azerbaijan that must prove that it wants peace in the region.”
Representatives of the country’s leading opposition forces echoed Sharmazanov’s skepticism. “I don’t see big progress in the near future,” Davit Shahnazarian of the Armenian National Congress (HAK) alliance told a news conference.
Giro Manoyan, the foreign policy spokesman for the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), claimed that the Azerbaijani leadership is not prepared for “real steps” to end the Karabakh dispute. “So on the Karabakh issue, Clinton will come away empty-handed,” he predicted, speaking to RFE/RL.
Both the HAK and Dashnaktsutyun have been very critical of a joint statement on Karabakh that was issued by the U.S., Russian and French presidents on Saturday. The latter urged Sarkisian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to “complete the work on the Basic Principles” envisaging a gradual settlement.
Citing those principles, Shahnazarian claimed that the peace process is continuing “to the detriment of Armenia and Karabakh.” “It is not clear what Armenia gets in return,” he said, referring to Armenian withdrawal from occupied Azerbaijani territories sought by the mediators. “Does Nagorno-Karabakh’s security increase? No.”
Official Yerevan’s reaction to the statement was positive, however. Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said on Sunday that it reaffirmed the Karabakh Armenians’ right to legitimize the disputed territory’s secession from Azerbaijan.