By Emil DanielyanForeign Minister Vartan Oskanian has implicitly held Azerbaijan responsible for the latest deadlock in the Nagorno-Karabakh negotiating process, saying that Baku is reluctant to go along with international mediators’ peace proposals acceptable to Armenia.
In a weekend interview with the private Shant television channel, Oskanian said acceptance of the plan put forward by the OSCE Minsk Group is the maximum concession which the Armenian side is ready to make for a peaceful settlement of the conflict. “I think what we have agreed to is the utmost line beyond which Armenia really cannot go,” he said. “Azerbaijan has not yet reached that line. Therefore, a lot now depends on Azerbaijan.”
"There is a balanced variant [of a settlement] on the negotiating table which may be painful for both sides and at the same time provides great opportunities. This chance cannot be missed. Azerbaijan should make its share of compromises,” added Oskanian.
The peace plan, which was apparently discussed by the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents in France last month, has still not been officially disclosed by the conflicting parties or the Minsk Group’s U.S., Russian and French co-chairs. Still, information leaks suggest that it is based on the idea of enabling the Karabakh Armenians to decide the disputed territory’s status in a referendum to be held at least a decade after the start of the liberation of Armenian-occupied districts in Azerbaijan proper.
Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliev reportedly rejected the idea shortly after the two-day Armenian-Azerbaijani summit that was held near Paris on February 10-11. He said restoration of Baku’s control over Karabakh must be at the heart of any peace deal.
Oskanian dismissed such statements as being intended for “domestic use.” He also shrugged off Aliev’s renewed threats to resolve the conflict by force, saying that the Azerbaijani army is still weaker than its Armenian adversary. He also argued that renewed fighting in Karabakh would also spell an end to the ongoing development of Azerbaijan’s substantial oil reserves by Western multinationals. "Nobody will allow Azerbaijan to unleash war against Armenia," he claimed.
The remarks came ahead of this week’s visit to Baku and Yerevan by two senior U.S. officials dealing with the Karabakh dispute. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Dan Fried and the U.S. co-chair of the Minsk Group, Steven Mann, are expected to try to kick-start the peace process into life. According to Oskanian, the U.S. pressure will be on the Azerbaijani side.