On Apr 9, the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs visited Yerevan with a view to negotiate with the Armenian leaders. There they came across a group of youths protesting against the world community’s response to Azerbaijan’s aggression.
Who is to blame?
But people in Armenia were mostly interested what proposals the mediators had.
“Our key task was to help the parties to stabilize the situation and to prevent new combat actions. It was not our duty to find out who started first and who is responsible for what happened,” Russian co-chair Igor Popov told journalists in Yerevan.
The co-chairs evaded all questions concerning Azerbaijan’s crimes. US co-chair James Warlick just expressed concern about all reports of human rights violations.
What to do?
The mediators also refused to say what the parties should do. Russian co-chair Igor Popov was the most talkative of the co-chairs.
He said that the meetings in Yerevan and Baku had shown that the parties were committed to maintain the ceasefire established in Moscow but he did not say why despite this “commitment” the Azerbaijanis continued shelling Nagorno-Karabakh’s positions. Nor did he say what the mediators were planning to do to restore confidence between the parties.
Popov said that the key question was how to return the bodies of those killed in the April clashes. He said the ICRC was acting to that end, with Andrzej Kasprzyk’s group monitoring and coordinating the activities.
The co-chairs said nothing about Turkey and its destructive role in the events. Warlick said that Turkey had joined the OSCE Minsk Group’s Vienna statement about inadmissibility of violence in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone. So, according to him, the co-chairs were ready to cooperate with Turkey and the other members of the Minsk Group.
Returning territories and status of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic
One of the key news was the co-chairs’ statement about settlement principles. Popov said that the mediators’ proposals were based on three principles and six elements. The principles are nonuse of force, nation’s right to self-determination and territorial integrity. Of the six elements the key ones are return of territories and the status of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. These two elements, according to Popov, had to be considered as one whole, with no priority given to any of them.
Concerning the prospect of Nagorno-Karabakh’s re-involvement in the peace talks, Popov said that a framework agreement might be a basis for this.
When one of the journalists asked Popov to confirm that there was no way for Nagorno-Karabakh to become part of Azerbaijan no matter what status it would have, the Russian co-chair said that it was a subject for negotiation.
Expecting new battles
The co-chairs’ visit has given people no grounds for optimism. Even more, one of the key reasons why the four-day war in Nagorno-Karabakh started was the co-chairs’ reluctance to investigate incidents on the frontline, to force Azerbaijan to take its snipers away from the contact line and to ban use of new types of weapons in the conflict zone.
In fact, what the co-chairs said was that this time too they will not specify the responsible party. So, this may be a signal for Azerbaijan that the world community will continue closing its eyes on its aggressive steps.
In the meantime, Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said that there might be a “Turkish trace” in the last events in Nagorno-Karabakh. In this context, the statement of his deputy Dmitry Rogozin about Russia’s readiness to continue supplying arms to Turkey’s key ally, Azerbaijan, sounded quite strange – especially as, according to mass media, the Azerbaijanis are no longer rich enough to be able to pay for more arms.
People in Armenia have no illusions about the world community’s ability to influence Azerbaijan’s policy. Sanctions are the only way to keep Ilham Aliyev from a new war. But here we have one more option: if Azerbaijan attacks again, Armenia will have to immediately recognize the independence of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic instead of just warning that it will do it.
Hayk Khalatyan, observer (Yerevan), specially for EADaily