In a joint weekend statement, the presidents of the United States, Russia and France urged their Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts to “complete the work on the Basic Principles” of Karabakh peace that were first formally put forward by them in late 2007.
Official Yerevan was quick to welcome the statement, with Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian saying that it “re-endorsed” principles which Armenia regards as “a basis for negotiations.” Nalbandian singled out the three leaders’ belief that Karabakh’s final status must be determined by “a legally-binding expression of will.”
HHK spokesman Eduard Sharmazanov likewise said the mediators’ statement is in tune with the three main tenets of the Armenian position in the conflict: the Karabakh Armenian’s right to self-determination, a land corridor linking Armenia with the disputed territory and international security guarantees for its population.
But he questioned other principles cited by the three presidents: the return to Azerbaijan of the Armenian-controlled territories around Karabakh and an “interim status for Nagorno-Karabakh guaranteeing security and self-governance.”
“The sequence of steps stemming from those principles raises questions,” Sharmazanov told journalists. “In our view, the sequences of steps must be as follows: As long as the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh’s status is not resolved all other issues are secondary.”
“Otherwise, we would head not for the conflict’s resolution but its imitation,” he said.
The opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and Zharangutyun (Heritage) Party have been far more critical of the mediators’ statement, saying that it does not make clear that Karabakh’s future status will be decided by its predominantly Armenian population.
“There is no clarity on the expression of will,” Zharangutyun spokesman Hovsep Khurshudian told reporters. “Azerbaijan can say that the expression of will must take place in the entire territory of Azerbaijan.”
Khurshudian also expressed concern about the mediators’ renewed calls for Armenian territorial concessions to Azerbaijan. He said their statement is therefore “a step back for the Armenian side.”