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June 18, 2004




Uneasy Talk About Peace: Karabakh and Armenia face different problems advisor says


A political advisor to Karabakh president Arkady Ghukassyan says he sees a “new situation” evolving in efforts to strike a peace agreement with Azerbaijan.

Speaking at a seminar in Yerevan Manvel Sargsyan said: “It is not accurate to talk about the conflict the way it was talked about a year ago.”

Sargsyan said that while the Minsk Group has been successful in enforcing the 10-year cease fire between Azerbaijan and Karabakh, its negotiating efforts have stagnated. The Minsk Group, the advisor said “has expired”.

Manvel Sargsyan.

The advisor says that in the past year the interests of European Union and Council of Europe have intensified and that the “European structures” approach a settlement from the standpoint of human rights and rule of law.

This approach, he said, is a renewed pro-active attitude toward settlement in an atmosphere in which ceasefire had seemed to be the final conclusion of Minsk negotiations.

Sargsyan’s comments came during a seminar sponsored by the National Citizens Initiative, attended by journalists, politicians, political scientists and government officials. And his words were not all easily received, especially when Sargsyan described Armenian policy toward Karabakh as “a mess”.

Stating that the “Karabakh problem also belongs to Armenia,” at the same time Sargsyan expressed an opinion that situations and problems are different for Armenia and Karabakh.

“For Armenia it is a matter of safety of a population residing outside its territory while for Karabakh it is a matter of achieving self-determination and becoming an independent state,” Sargsyan said. “If it concerns territorial factors, then Karabakh can solve that matter with Azerbaijan.”

Asked if he represented the view of official Stepanakert, Sargsyan replied: “The president of NKR presents the official position of Karabakh, however, what I said is not too far away from that.”

Leaders of Armenia’s political community reacted sharply to Sargsyan’s characterization of Armenia policy.

“We have always been taking Karabakh and Armenia as one territory,” replied leader of the National Democratic Union Vazgen Manukyan. “But according to your statements it turns out that we only help Karabakh (but not participate in its survival). If we thought this way then we would lose the war.”

Journalists, politicians, political scientists reacted to Sargsyan's analyses

Participants at the seminar speculated that Sargsyan’s comments and audience responses would draw fire from officials both in Stepanakert and in Yerevan. The political advisor’s opinions, some say, reflect a budding division between Karabakh and Armenia which, before now, had only been spoken about in private.

While maintaining that changes in European attitudes are shifting, Sargsyan also noted that: “None of the representatives has concretely explained what it means, however, we believe there is a change which concerns primary problems of the conflict.”

Sargsyan pointed to a visit to Karabakh earlier this year by Terry Davis on behalf of the Council of Europe as an indication that interests has increased on behalf of the European community.

“The line of direct connections has begun and it was interesting that approaches of all European representatives are the same,” Sargsyan said. “It is Terry Davis’ well-known thesis, about which he spoke in Baku, that he is not interested in territories, he is interested in people.”

Sargsyan also pointed out that there has been no involvement in the peace process by Russia in the past year. And the advisor speculates that Russia’s silence is evidence of an agreement between Russia and the Europeans, to allow the latter more influence.


According to Agnes
 

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