President Serzh Sarkisian on Wednesday sounded cautiously optimistic about the upcoming Armenian-Azerbaijani summit in Russia which international mediators hope will result in a framework agreement to end the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Speaking at the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), Sarkisian said the onus is on his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev to make the meeting, to be held in the Russian city of Kazan on Friday, a success.
“I will be going to Kazan filled optimism and will really want us to reach a common denominator because both Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh are deeply interested in a quick solution to the problem,” he said. “We need a solution that would establish a just and lasting peace.”
“So if we meet with a constructive approach, if the Azerbaijani side doesn’t come up with new and additional proposals, then I think that we will be able to expect positive results,” he added during a question-and-answer session that followed a 30-minute speech delivered by him at the Strasbourg-based assembly.
Sarkisian and Aliyev will discuss in Kazan the basic principles of the conflict’s resolution drafted by the United States, Russia and France. Late last month, the presidents of the three mediating powers urged them to agree on the proposed settlement without “further delay.”
The Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers reported significant progress towards that settlement after holding in talks in Moscow earlier this month.
“Of course, this is not a document that the Armenian side has dreamed of,” noted Sarkisian. Even so, he said, Yerevan has “no reservations about settling the conflict along the lines of these principles,”
Asked about the remaining obstacles to a breakthrough, Sarkisian singled out the conflicting parties’ differing public interpretations of some of the basic principles, notably people’s self-determination. He pointed to repeated statements by Azerbaijani leaders saying that that Karabakh’s predominantly Armenian population can only determine the extent of its autonomy within Azerbaijan.
The framework peace accord proposed by the mediators envisages that Karabakh’s final status would be determined in a referendum to be held in the disputed territory years after Armenian withdrawal from Azerbaijani districts surrounding it. It is still not clear whether the two sides agree on the time frame and key practical modalities of the would-be vote.
Sarkisian stressed that the Karabakh Armenians must be able to “independently decide their fate in their own land.” He also complained about what he described as “anti-Armenian racism reigning in Azerbaijan” and Baku’s regular threats to end the conflict by force.
“In our case, it means that we are make concessions to someone who is waiting for an opportune occasion to shoot at us,” said the Armenian leader. “In this situation, it will be very hard for anyone convince the publics in Armenia and Karabakh … that it is necessary to make some concessions to a country where there is so much intolerance and extremely racist sentiment towards Armenians.”