BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
A meeting held Wednesday in Vienna between Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers, Edward Nalbandian and Elmar Mammadyarov, was described by them as “positive,” as the two top diplomats discussed ways to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The meeting was so “positive” that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov issued a joint statement expressing “satisfaction with the intensified negotiations.”
The “positive” feeling was short-lived, however, when both foreign ministers addressed the 24th Meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council being held in the Austrian capital and each accused the other of not willing to cooperate to achieve lasting peace in the region.
In his remarks, Nalbandian listed nine instances where Baku has failed to live up to its part of standing agreements that have been negotiated with the mediation of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen.
“Azerbaijan’s uncompromising and maximalist stance has become a serious obstacle to the advancement of the peace process and has heavily contributed to the preservation of the status-quo. The Co-Chairs’ conflict settlement proposals are a way that could bring to the change of the status-quo. However, Azerbaijan rejects those proposals, doing everything to keep the status-quo intact at the same time claiming that allegedly it is advocating for the change of status-quo,” Nalbandian said after listing the nine points.
“Azerbaijan’s intentions can be easily tracked by its expenditures: Baku spends billions to buy influence in the world capitals, as once again became obvious through notorious ‘Laundromat’ affair, it spends much more for purchases of advanced weaponry, but it has not invested anything so far to prepare its population for peace, as the Co-Chairs have been continuously urging,” added Nalbandian.
“If Baku abides to the calls of the Co-Chairs to strictly respect the ceasefire, implements previously reached agreements, reiterates its adherence to the principles of the conflict resolution proposed by the Co-Chairs and constructively engages in the negotiations that will pave the way to move the peace process forward and change the status-quo,” said Armenia’s foreign minister.
In his turn, Mammadyarov accused Armenia of altering the demographic make-up of Azerbaijan referring to the day-to-day development and enhancement of Artsakh by its people.
“Yerevan continues its unlawful practice of altering the demographic, cultural and physical character in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan demonstrates its systematic policy aimed at consolidating the occupation and imposing a fait accompli. Opening of a church in the occupied Jebrayil district, which was solely populated by ethnic Azerbaijanis before its occupation in 1993, is yet another manifestation of Armenia’s gross disrespect for international humanitarian law. In parallel of its provocative actions on the ground, Armenia rejects our initiative to dispatch needs-assessment mission to the occupied territories comprising of relevant international institutions,” said Mammadyarov.
He, once again, enumerated certain United Nations resolutions, which were adopted during the Karabakh war and before the 1994 cease-fire agreement, which aimed at minimizing tensions during the war and are not applicable to today’s situation where the two countries are engaged in active negotiations to resolve the conflict.
A similar scenario played out in October when Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev met in Geneva in what was also deemed as “positive” by both leaders. However, the proverbial ink was barely dry when Azerbaijan accused Sarkisian of dishonoring diplomatic protocols and claimed that Sarkisian had spilled the beans—gave away confidential information—about the details of the talks when making a presentation to the Armenian community of Switzerland.
Given that details emerging from official communications following these meetings are scant, to say the least, one wonders whether these contentious issues are discussed behind closed doors and, if they are, then how can the meetings be called “positive.” Or, is it simply a “positive” that the two sides are sitting down around the negotiating table?
Either way, the only way to really make the negotiation process truly positive is if Artsakh returns to the negotiation table and is allowed a voice of its own that can clearly articulate the aspirations of its people. After all, the cease fire agreement, the provisions of which the parties are trying to uphold, was signed by Karabakh and Azerbaijan.
If Artsakh were included in the talks, then its representative could explain to Mr. Mammadyarov why a church was opened in Makhakavan, formerly known as Jebrayil.