Will Sargsyan stick to guns on return of lands to Baku?

Mon 25 September 2017 10:39 GMT | 14:39 Local Time

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Existing proposals, voiced by Hoagland, constitute a measured and much discussed guidance to follow.

The New York meeting of foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia – Elmar Mammadyarov and Edward Nalbandian was rather technical, in which the parties to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict discussed the ways out of the stalemate observed in the region.

During the meeting Mammadyarov and Nalbandian agreed to continue serious talks on documents on the negotiation table. It is no secret which proposals and projects are on the table: the essence of these documents was voiced by former US co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group Richard Hoagland in midsummer. This is now an open public document, in which the withdrawal of Armenian forces from the occupied lands of Azerbaijan beyond the occupied Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh comes first. This is what the Armenian Foreign Minister meant when he recently spoke about the points discussed between Baku and Yerevan. 

In New York, the parties also discussed the possible meeting of the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia, which, according to the statement of the OSCE MG co-chairs, is expected in the coming future. This meeting has a sense, if the negotiators and the parties to the conflict have a clear and specific agenda to be discussed by President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan. And, judging by the co-chairs’ enthusiasm, such an agenda does exist, and the parties are ready for substantive talks to discuss concrete rather than abstract steps on settlement.

Existing proposals, voiced by Hoagland, constitute a measured and much discussed guidance to follow. In case they are approved at the meeting of the leaders, it will  be necessary to start implementation of these agreements, with the withdrawal of Armenian troops from the occupied lands of Azerbaijan around Nagorno-Karabakh coming first. 

By the way, the so-called Lavrov plan envisages the same. Moscow offered the same, insisting that all that should be really done at the moment is to attain the withdrawal of Armenian armed forces from the territories around Nagorno-Karabakh and to start the return of internally displaced persons to their native lands – in other words, to lift tensions in a dangerous situation in the region and to create prerequisite for real trust. 

Today the instability in the Middle East which threatens to last for many years has become a common problem. Involved in several conflicts, including in the Middle Eastern confrontation, Russia cannot afford one more conflict threatening to grow into a full-pledged war in the Caucasus, therefore, it seeks to avert such a script.  

By the way, Richard Hoagland’s statement shows that American and Russian negotiators are unanimous on many points, being the main architects of the plan of settlement. France supports the major development, which means the EU’s support. UN also supports this process.

However, the question No 1 in this situation is whether Sargsyan will support this process or avoid taking specific steps, again accusing Baku of something. The sad experience of negotiations shows that at a time when the negotiation table holds concrete proposals, Sargsyan does everything to retreat. For example, following the meeting in St.Petersburg last year, when a definite action plan was negotiated, Sargsyan staged a tragicomedy with hostages in Armenia in order to avoid necessary steps to resolve the conflict. 

By the way, leaving out all details of Sargsyan’s disastrous speech at the UN General Assembly, it is possible to extract one amazing moment – not touching upon the status of Karabakh, like he did previously, Sargsyan simply said that Karabakh Armenians will live as they live now. However, there is no confrontation with Azerbaijan’s position in this statement, since Baku always said the same. Armenians of Karabakh will continue to live where they live now and their security will be ensured, while the issue of status is the issue of that future when Azerbaijanis that were forced to flee their lands will return to their homes in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Considering Nalbandian’s statement at the meeting with Diaspora when he hinted at the release of some lands, it is possible to assume that Armenia prepares public opinion to the new developments around Nagorno-Karabakh. But this will happen only in the case if Armenian authorities have enough courage and political will for this and do not avoid concrete steps that the entire world expects from Yerevan.

Elmira Tariverdiyeva, head of Trend Russian Service 




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