The US Co-chair of the OSCE Minks Group, Matthew Bryza, announced Monday that the liberated territories surrounding the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic will be turned over to Azerbaijan with plans to resettle those areas with so-called Azeri refugees and that Karabakh will be granted a new status, the nature of which is the subject of negotiations.
This is an alarming revelation because, if true, it indicates that certain concessions have been agreed to in peace talks mediated by the Minsk Group.
Bryza also commented in an interview with Ekho Moskvy that the creation of a new status for Karabakh is the concession that Baku is willing to make as diplomatic gesture.
“When President Aliyev was in Moscow, he said very constructively, that first of all there must be a corridor linking Karabakh with Armenia. This is a huge step forward that he said this. And he spoke of the right to self-government for the population of Karabakh,” said Bryza who explained that “Before that [Aliyev] and Azerbaijani officials always talked about a regime in Karabakh that is criminal, that is illegitimate. Now he talks about self-government. That means, that step by step he reflects the reality, and he is preparing his population for compromises-difficult-but that will be made, I hope.”
Bryza’s optimism, however, goes counter to another point he made when he announced that any peace agreement should correspond with the Helsinki accords, which among other points include provisions that indicated that right to self-determination and territorial integrity go hand in hand in resolution of disputes. This means, that the so-called new leaf that Aliyev has turned should not be applauded as a concession, but rather a state following international norms. Are we at a point where leaders who have continuously violated these norms now are being rewarded for not embracing but merely hinting at their willingness to adhere to them?
Clearly, yes. Or else how do we explain the Obama administration rewarding Azerbaijan with a 20-percent increase in aid, which includes a significant boost in military aid? What happens when Aliyev doesn’t keep his promise and uses the military aid provided by the US against Armenian civilians in Karabakh? It was merely a year ago that Daniel Fried warned Congressional leaders that Aliyev’s bellicose statements were threatening the fragile peace process.
The people of Karabakh, in no uncertain terms, exercised their right to self-determination and through a referendum declared independence, adopted a constitution, which clearly stipulates that the liberated territories are part of Karabakh, and, since then have established democratic norms, the likes of which are far from reality in Azerbaijan, Armenia and even the US.
For Karabakh to not be included in the peace talks-a process that elevates the right to self-determination principle-further speaks to the absurdity of Bryza’s comments, while at the same time demonstrating the dangerous precedent being set in this and future conflict resolution processes.
It is dangerous and a threat to the national security of both Armenia and Karabakh if, according to Bryza, the current focus of the talks is the “status” issue, because it signals that an agreement already has been reached to return the liberated territories.
Armenian foreign ministry spokesperson Tigran Balayan issued a statement Monday saying that Armenian and Azeri presidents did not discuss the return of territories during their meeting in Prague, but rather focused on the status issue, since “it is the focal point of the Karabakh conflict resolution.”
This glaring contradiction in statements by a Minsk Group co-chair and the Armenian foreign ministry raises another critical point in this process, and leads one to believe that Armenia is not being forthcoming and through evasive responses to one-off questions is attempting to veil the possibility that it has, in fact, agreed to the return of the liberated territories.
As this circuitous diplomatic banter continues, Karabakh and the entire Karabakh liberation movement is being jeopardized with consequences so far reaching that it will impact every Armenian around the world.