STEPANAKERT (RFE/Hayots Ashkhar)–In an interview with key players in the Karabakh peace process–journalist Svetana Paskaleva–whose weekly program on Karabakh was canceled by government authorities on Armenian television–delved into issues surrounding the most recent meeting between Minsk Group representatives and Karabakh leaders.
Nagorno-Karabakh President Arkady Ghoukassian said that the "convergence" of the positions held by Azerbaijan and Armenia–today–occurred on Baku’s terms–which "cautions and alarms us."
Commenting on the most recent visit of the Minsk Group co-chairmen to Stepanakert–Ghoukassian said there were "no new approaches" on their part: "the same stuff: a phased settlement and subordination to Azerbaijan in accordance with the Lisbon principles … Unfortunately–their latest peace proposals are not based on realities and are pro-Azeri. What we are offered is an obvious restriction of Karabakh’s capabilities in the peace process. I believe that the attempt to separate the issue of territories from the entire context [of the conflict] is very dangerous and may upset the balance of military and political forces–which will lead to another war and not peace," Ghoukassian argued.
Ghoukassian continued–"I always try to be optimistic–but one gets the impression that we (i.e.–Karabakh and the mediators) do not fully understand each other. Everybody keeps sticking to his own convictions. We are not inclined to accept the argumen’s of the co-chairmen–and they ignore ours," said the Karabakh leader.
Ghoukassian–commenting on the talks–said that the negotiations were not moving forward in a significant manner–because the proposals by the Minsk co-chairs from the very beginning dismissed all of the principles of Karabakh’s stance. "If the proposals suggest that we need to be subordinate to Azerbaijan–then that–right there–throws everything off balance–because in no way will Karabakh be able to function as part of Azerbaijan," said the leader.
On the other hand–according to Ghoukassian–even direct talks were to take place–the results of the talks are unpredictable because if the Azeri side pushes its agenda through the Minsk Group–then Karabakh–stressed the leader–is not in a position to discuss any of that.
Yuri Yukalov–the Russian co-chairman of the Minsk Group–said the latest round of talks were "very interesting and tense." Georges Vogier of France said the Karabakh side "lacks flexibility," arguing that Stepanakert "posed peculiar conditions that are not altogether clear to us. It is very hard to understand Karabakh’s position."
According to US negotiator Lynn Pascoe–"We are not here to impose a formula running counter to the interests of the Karabakh people. Nobody will benefit from a peace more than Nagorno-Karabakh will."
To the inquiry of whether direct talks between Karabakh leaders and the Azeri side is a realistic prospect–Pascoe–according to the report–reluctantly admitted that the issue had been brought up during the discussions–but that he was not in a position to go too in-depth into the question. "While I cannot speak about the details of the negotiations–I can tell you that Baku knew very well that we would stop in Stepanakert on our way to Yerevan–and Baku is at the same time positively aware of who the sides to the conflict are," explained Pascoe.
The American diplomat characterized the current visit to the region as fruitful–"…because every time we meet–we do make progress."
According to Yukalov–the talks with Karabakh leaders were very interesting and intense.
Vogier–on the other hand–was less forthcoming on the results and condition of the talks.
The French representative on the Minsk Group refused to answer any substantial questions–saying that he saw the Azeri side as the agreeable side–for they had already accepted the terms and methodology to negotiations–however–according to Vogier the Karabakh leaders were not ready to take those conditions.