By Hrach Melkumian
The international efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will not be affected by the domestic political uncertainty in Azerbaijan and may even gather fresh momentum later this year, U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Ordway said on Tuesday.
“We anticipate that these negotiations will continue with whoever is in office in Azerbaijan as a result of what we hope and expect will be constitutional processes, whether it is the election scheduled for October or some other process that intervenes in the meantime,” Ordway told a news conference in Yerevan.
“Those negotiations will not take place in a vacuum. They will take place in the context and against the background of discussions and negotiations that have occurred over the course of a number of years.”
Prospects for a breakthrough in the Karabakh peace process, effectively frozen this year due to elections in Armenia and Azerbaijan, look even more uncertain now that Azerbaijan’s ailing President Heydar Aliev seems to be bequeathing power to his politically inexperienced son Ilham. The latter was appointed prime minister on Monday, reinforcing the widely held belief that he will soon take charge of the Azerbaijani presidency. Many observers have serious misgivings about the younger Aliev’s ability to press ahead with a Karabakh settlement that would require painful concessions to the Armenians.
But according to Ordway, Heydar Aliev’s possible departure should not be a cause for concern as far as the Karabakh peace talks are concerned. He indicated that the U.S. and the two other nations spearheading the process, Russia and France, may soon step up their push for a “long-lasting, durable settlement that is in the interest of both parties.”
He said: “There isn’t going to be an agreement until final agreement is reached on all of the details, until both sides can come to some common understanding of what is in their own mutual best interest. We will have just to see how that process develops as it picks up speed, hopefully, later in the year.”
Washington signaled on Monday that it will accept the first dynastic succession in the former Soviet Union if it is backed up by a clean presidential election. “The appointment of Mr. Ilham Aliev, the son of the president of Azerbaijan, it is fully consistent with the Azerbaijani constitution,” said a spokesman for the State Department, Philip Reeker. “We would look forward to working with Prime Minister Aliev as he assumes his new duties on a broad range of issues that comprise US-Azerbaijani bilateral ties.”
“We hope and expect that he will work for economic and democratic reform, including creating an atmosphere for an improved election process this fall,” Reeker said.