By Karine Kalantarian
Armenia will refuse to hold further peace talks with Azerbaijan if the latter persists in trying to get the United Nations to deal with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian indicated on Monday.
Oskanian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov are tentatively scheduled to meet in Paris or London next week to discuss ways of kickstarting the Karabakh peace process. Officials in Baku and Yerevan have said the meeting could pave the way for another crucial Armenian-Azerbaijani summit before the end of this year.
“We have not yet confirmed the September 12 meeting,” Oskanian told reporters. “I don’t know whether it will take place. It will depend on developments unfolding at other bodies.”
He was clearly referring to a joint appeal to the UN which was made last week by Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The four ex-Soviet states aligned in the pro-Western GUAM grouping reportedly asked the UN General Assembly to discuss the unresolved ethnic conflicts in the South Caucasus and Moldova at its upcoming session. They argued that international efforts to settle those conflicts have yielded no results.
Armenia has always been opposed to UN involvement in Karabakh peace talks, insisting that the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe remain the main international body brokering a solution to the Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute. It apparently fears that Azerbaijan would enlist the backing of other Muslim nations to push pro-Azerbaijani resolutions through the General Assembly. Speaking to RFE/RL last month, the Armenian ambassador at the UN, Armen Martirosian, warned that Yerevan will pull out of the negotiating process if the Karabakh issue is included on the assembly agenda.
Oskanian did not deny this, saying that the additional “obstacles” created by Azerbaijan would render further negotiations meaningless. Speaking to Armenian state television at the weekend, he accused Baku of toughening its position on the issue and being reluctant to accept the Minsk Group’s most recent peace plan.
The plan, which was disclosed by the group’s American, French and Russian co-chairs in June, calls for a gradual settlement of the conflict that would culminate in a referendum on Karabakh’s status. The authorities in Yerevan have largely accepted the proposed deal, saying that it upholds the Karabakh Armenians’ right to self-determination.
“Today there is no other document on the table,” Oskanian said on Monday. “I think [further talks] will center on it.”
The Azerbaijani reaction to the proposed settlement has been more ambiguous, with President Ilham Aliev repeatedly stating in recent months that he will never agree to any deal that could legitimize Karabakh’s secession from Azerbaijan. Aliev’s top foreign policy aide, Novruz Mammadov, accused the mediators last month of “ignoring” his country’s territorial integrity and warned that Baku might turn to the UN.