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Wednesday, 12 March 2003

PEACEFUL INITIATIVES IN THE ARMENIA-AZERBAIJAN CONFLICT

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By Gulnara Ismailova (3/12/2003 issue of the CACI Analyst)

The world community is revitalizing efforts to settle the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict and to normalize relations between Yerevan and Baku on the one hand, and between Yerevan and Ankara on the other. Between 13 and 15 May, two meetings were held almost simultaneously in order to pursue these aims. Under the patronage of the cochairmen of the OSCE\'s Minsk group, the personal representatives of the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia, deputy ministers of foreign affairs Araz Azimov and Tatul Markaryan, held a meeting.
The world community is revitalizing efforts to settle the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict and to normalize relations between Yerevan and Baku on the one hand, and between Yerevan and Ankara on the other. Between 13 and 15 May, two meetings were held almost simultaneously in order to pursue these aims. Under the patronage of the cochairmen of the OSCE\'s Minsk group, the personal representatives of the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia, deputy ministers of foreign affairs Araz Azimov and Tatul Markaryan, held a meeting. And in Reykjavik, during the sessions of the Euro Atlantic partnership meeting, trilateral meeting between the ministers of foreign affairs of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Armenia (Vilayat Guliev, Ismail Cem and Vardan Oskanyan) took place.

The co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk group assessed the session as useful. A statement of the OSCE press-service released on the completion of negotiations stated that the sides will submit to the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan the results of their meeting, and a timetable of further meetings of the personal representatives will be agreed.

Meanwhile, Vilayat Guliev noted that regional problems and the solving of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict were discussed during negotiations in Reykjavik. Moreover, according to the Minister, the issue of diplomatic and economic relations between Turkey and Armenia was not considered. The Armenian side did not even raise it, as the position of official Ankara is absolutely clear: relations can only be developed after the liberation of occupied Azerbaijan lands.

Nevertheless it is known that the negotiations in Prague and Reykjavik were completed without particular success, given that the representatives of Baku, Ankara and Yerevan all remained at their previous positions. Thus the mediatory efforts of Turkey in solving the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict did not succeed.

In an interview to the Turan news agency, Vilayet Guliev noted that a common opinion is that regional countries, in particular Turkey, must participate more actively in the process of conflict resolution. \"No concrete results were reached either in Prague or in Reykjavik. The aim was not to solve any issues, but to begin contacts\". Meanwhile, Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Ismail Cem noted that \"it is only possible to establish as diplomatic relations and economic links between Yerevan and Ankara only after Armenian military forces will leave the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.\" According to the Turkish daily Hurriyet, Cem expressed four principles in order to solve the problems between Ankara and Yerevan: Firstly, to stop the falsification of history with political goals. Yerevan must discontinue statements about the alleged genocide and leave this issue for the consideration of historians. Secondly Armenia must exclude from its constitution items containing territorial claims toward Turkey. Thirdly, Armenian forces must leave occupied territories in Azerbaijan. Finally, a security corridor should be opened between Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan.

In the opinion of independent political scientist Vafa Guluzade, Armenia most of all desires to establish economic cooperation with regional countries, and to participate in large-scale economic projects beginning to take place in the region. But is known that the ministers of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan and Turkey expressed strong protests, and declared that the main factors impeding the construction of an \"East-West\" transportation corridor, including oil and gas pipelines is the separatist regimes pandering to international terrorism in the region.

At present, official Baku has several options. It may choose the way of speeding up the negotiation process and trying to achieve a peace agreement. It is necessary to take into account at the present stage that the terms of peace may not be in Azerbaijan\'s favor, but better than what was proposed to Baku even a year ago. Azerbaijan has not strengthened its positions on the international scene during the last year, but the United States and Russia have begun to treat such regional conflicts in a different way.

Secondly, official Baku may try to change military situation. It is possible to make a blitzkrieg-operation and in a short period of time liberate a series of districts adjoining to Nagorno Karabakh, and only after that sit at the negotiating table. Hence a military-political option to solve this conflict is being contemplated. This risk may be a reason for the world community to try to solve the conflict peacefully. If concrete results toward solving the matter are not achieved this year, then in 2003 year it will be much more difficult, as presidential elections will take place in Armenia in the beginning of the year and in Azerbaijan at the end of the year.

The negotiations in Prague and Reykjavik come in a different light in view of these prospects. Though they produced no results, it is likely that the world community will increase pressure on the parties during this year.

Gulnara Ismailova

Copyright 2001 The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst. All rights reserved

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