STEPANAKERT (RFE/RL)–Ashot Ghulian, the speaker of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s parliament, on Friday brushed aside talk of an impending end to the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, saying that attempts to “hasten” its settlement would be counterproductive.
Ghulian specifically criticized an upbeat statement made on Thursday by Goran Lennmarker, the Karabakh conflict rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Speaking during an international seminar in Yerevan, Lennmarker said the conflict may well be resolved in the near future. “There is a possibility of real compromise,” he said. “I think the difficulty now is more inside the [conflicting] countries to get public support [for compromise.] The solution, in a way, is there.”
“You have probably noticed that officials like Mr. Lennmarker have been saying in the last few years that this year is going to be decisive for the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” scoffed Ghulian. “But the process does not seem benefit or suffer from that.”
The Karabakh leader said attempts to artificially speed up the negotiating process are fraught with a “danger of making very big mistakes.” “As long as the full-fledged participation of the Karabakh side is not ensured, the Karabakh side will have no expectations that the problem can be solved very quickly,” he said, reaffirming a long-standing view of the authorities in Stepanakert and Yerevan.
Lennmarker made clear that he is against the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s direct involvement in the Karabakh peace talks at this point. “I say no, see to it that you will fulfill it now in the present format, as soon as possible,” he said. “Because otherwise, I am very afraid [a peaceful settlement] will be delayed.”
Speaking at the Yerevan forum, Bernard Fassier, France’s top Karabakh negotiator, made a similar point, arguing that former Armenian President Robert Kocharian himself decided to represent the NKR in the talks in 1998. But he said the Karabakh Armenians will return to the negotiating table at a later stage in the peace process.
Ghulian made the comments in Yerevan as he spoke to journalists after meeting with Joao Soares, the visiting president of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. He gave no details of the meeting, saying only that it was “very useful” and “very pleasant.” Soares, for his part, made no public statements.
Like other Karabakh leaders, Ghulian avoided clarifying whether the Karabakh government agrees with the essence of the basic principles of Karabakh peace proposed by the French, Russian and U.S. co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. The Karabakh Armenians have serious misgivings about the proposed peace formula.
Ghulian’s skepticism about peace prospects is in tune with statements made by Armenia’s leaders in recent months. In a January interview with RFE/RL, Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian cautioned against excessive expectations from the negotiating process in the coming months. “I see no point in artificially accelerating the process, and I think everybody agrees with that,” he said.