By Emil Danielyan
Opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian insisted on Tuesday that the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan have moved closer to resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict despite the lack of specifics in their joint declaration.
Ter-Petrosian also stood by his earlier claims that the West is sidelining Russia to impose a “unilateral” solution on the conflicting parties, downplaying the fact that Moscow has clearly taken the initiative in the Karabakh peace process of late.
That initiative resulted in Sunday’s talks outside Moscow between Presidents Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham that were hosted by their Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev. The talks came amid the Russian and Western mediators’ renewed hopes for brokering an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace deal by the end of this year. In their joint declaration with Medvedev, Aliev and Sarkisian announced no concrete agreements, even if they pledged to intensify the peace process.
In an interview with the A1Plus.am news service, Ter-Petrosian claimed that the Moscow declaration is only “the tip of the iceberg” and that “underneath it is a much a more substantive protocol.” “The signatures put on the Moscow declaration by Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliev heralded the start of the final stage of the Karabakh settlement,” he said.
“That process is now continuing in Europe and it will come to a close, most probably in December, in the United States,” added the former Armenian president. “Although the honor of launching the settlement process was seemingly granted to Russia, the monopoly on finishing it will belong to the West.” Aliev and Sarkisian had only reluctantly agreed to attend the Russian-sponsored summit, he said.
Ter-Petrosian insisted at the same time that by signing up to the declaration the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders officially agreed to the so-called Madrid principles of a Karabakh settlement which the U.S., Russian and French mediators formally proposed to the parties in the Spanish capital in November last year. The proposed framework agreement calls for a phased solution to the dispute that would end in a referendum of self-determination in Karabakh.
In what might be a sign of persisting Armenian-Azerbaijani disagreements, the Moscow declaration makes only an implicit reference to these principles. It says that the two sides should only “take into account” what they discussed with the mediators in Madrid.
Ter-Petrosian again declined to specify whether he thinks the Madrid document is largely acceptable to the Armenian side. He instead expressed concern about some of the declaration’s provisions, notably its reference to international documents relating to Karabakh. That, he said, amounts to an endorsement of UN General Assembly and Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly resolutions that demanded an unconditional Armenian withdrawal from Azerbaijani territories surrounding Karabakh.
Addressing thousands of supporters in Yerevan on October 17, Ter-Petrosian cited an impending “denouement” in the Karabakh peace process as the reason for his decision to halt his year-long campaign of anti-government protests. He said the Armenian opposition will thereby stave off greater Armenian concessions to Azerbaijan. He alleged that Sarkisian is ready to “put up Karabakh for sale” in return for securing Western support for his rule.
Government officials and Sarkisian allies have shrugged off the allegation.
The Karabakh conflict was reportedly on the agenda of Ter-Petrosian’s meeting on Tuesday with Marie Yovanovitch, the recently appointed U.S. ambassador to Armenia. A short statement by Ter-Petrosian’s office gave no details of their conversation.