Armenia and Azerbaijan have different interpretations of two key principles that are at the heart of a framework agreement to end the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict proposed by international mediators, President Serzh Sarkisian said in a newspaper interview published on Monday.
He referred to the internationally recognized territorial integrity of states and peoples’ right to self-determination.
The two tenets of international law are among the “basic principles” of a Karabakh settlement favored by the United States, Russia and France.
“They [Azerbaijan] regard the right to self-determination as a mere self-determination within the framework of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity,” Sarkisian told the Russian daily “Moskovskie Novosti.” “There is no such self-determination, this is a skewed, primitive self-determination. Therefore, as long as Azerbaijan does not understand the meaning of this principle, it will be very difficult to move toward the conflict’s resolution.”
Sarkisian also insisted that territorial integrity of states “doesn’t mean the inviolability of borders.” “Otherwise, new states would not have been established in the world,” he said. “And in the last 20-30 years, dozens of new states have appeared on the world map.”
The basic principles, which were first formally proposed to the conflicting parties in late 2007, call for a phased settlement that would start with the liberation of Armenian-occupied territories in Azerbaijan proper that surround Karabakh. In return, the disputed territory’s predominantly Armenian population would be able to determine its status in a future referendum.
President Ilham Aliyev and other Azerbaijani leaders have repeatedly said that the Karabakh Armenians would only vote on the extent of their autonomy within Azerbaijan. The Armenian side strongly denies, saying that the proposed referendum would in fact enable them to formalize Karabakh’s secession from Azerbaijan.
“Karabakh defended its independence in a bloody and bitter war, in extremely severe conditions, and it is naïve to think that the people of Karabakh could give up what they achieved,” Sarkisian.
These diametrically opposite interpretations of the mediators’ peace formula have for years raised questions about the parties’ ability to find a mutually acceptable solution to the dispute.
Sarkisian and Aliyev raised fresh international hopes for a breakthrough in the negotiating process following their early-March talks hosted by Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev. The U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group last month urged both sides to “finalize and endorse the Basic Principles and move to the drafting of a peace agreement.”
However, Sarkisian again claimed that Baku may be preparing another war for Karabakh. “I think there is such likelihood because I can’t understand why Azerbaijan is dragging out the negotiating process,” he told “Moskovskie Novosti.” “There are probably plans for a greater build-up of [military] forces and means so that they can unleash a new military adventure at the opportune moment.”
“This is a wrong approach because events could unfold under two scenarios,” continued the Armenian president. “The first one is a total war and subsequent occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is possible only in case of a complete extermination of the Nagorno-Karabakh people.
“And the second one is Azerbaijan’s defeat, loss of new territories. Azerbaijan would then complain about the loss of another five, six or more districts … All these scenarios are unpromising.”
The Azerbaijani leadership regularly threatens to forcibly win back Karabakh and surrounding lands if ongoing peace talks yield no agreement. It has also accused the Armenians of dragging out the process to prolong the status quo in the conflict.
Speaking to journalists on Monday, Azerbaijan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov said Baku is concerned about the lack of concrete results in the process. “We wouldn’t like the opposite side to abuse our goodwill and our time,” he said, according to 1news.az.