By Karine Kalantarian in Stepanakert
The leader of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic finds that 2006 may become a year of positive shifts in the settlement of the long-standing dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh.
In an RFE/RL interview President Arkady Ghukasian said that international mediators perhaps see an opportune moment as “parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan are ending and there are no elections in Karabakh, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, or the United States.”
“The feeling is that the mediators are in a hurry,” Ghukasian said, adding Azerbaijan is showing a more constructive approach hoping for a positive conclusion about its parliamentary elections.
“Of course, I consider it positive that today Azerbaijan speaks about the status of Karabakh, does not avoid discussions. If you remember, in the past Azerbaijan spoke only about issues of particular interest to them. Today one can assume that Azerbaijan is perhaps ready to work in a more constructive field,” Ghukasian said. “But I find it difficult to say what the degree of this constructivism is and whether it will prove enough for the settlement of the problem. On the other hand, I am convinced that the international community is in a hurry to speed up the process of settling this problem.”
As regards Nagorno-Karabakh’s involvement in the peace process, Ghukasian does not think it right to say that it is not a party to the general process at all.
“On the one hand, there is no active negotiating process on our part within the framework of the Minsk Group. Meetings are held only between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan. On the other hand, during their regional tours the Minsk Group cochairmen always pay visits to Nagorno-Karabakh, meaning that they negotiate with us as well,” said Ghukasian.
As for the current format of negotiations in which Armenia and Azerbaijan are represented as parties, the Karabakh leader thinks it is a forced step considering Azerbaijan’s reluctance to have direct contacts with Nagorno-Karabakh.
“I think it is a big obstacle to the process and the formula according to which Karabakh should join the talks only later is unclear to me,” he said. “Negotiating with Armenia only, Azerbaijan is dragging out the process. Meanwhile, its negotiations with Karabakh will mean that
Azerbaijan is ready for a settlement.”
Ghukasian believes that dealing with Armenia only, Azerbaijan is pursuing its goal of getting the international community to recognize Armenia as an aggressor in the conflict and to apply sanctions against it.
“There is an absurd opinion in Azerbaijan that negotiating with Karabakh will mean recognition of its independence. We have much more serious arguments for our independence than negotiations with Azerbaijan,” said Ghukasian.
The Karabakh leader expressed his strong opinion that any settlement plan should first of all consider the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh’s status as a priority.
“I see that the international community is showing a clear approach today that the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh’s status is really on the agenda,” Ghukasian said. “While Azerbaijan did not even want to speak about the status of Nagorno-Karabakh before, then now it is forced to discuss this issue.”