Public statements made by foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan at the OSCE Ministerial Council in Athens call into question the “progress” that was touted Tuesday by that organization’s Minsk Group Co-chairmen, who also pressed the sides to intensify negotiations to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
With the 17th meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council as a stage, Azeri and Armenian foreign ministers Elmar Mammadyarov and Eduard Nalbandian presented conflicting views on the process with Mammadyarov characterizing Armenia as an aggressor, while Nalbandian condemning the terse military rhetoric directed toward Armenia by Azerbaijan.
“The Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict still remains a major source of instability and impediment to the economic development and integration of the entire region of the South Caucasus into the European and Euro-Atlantic architecture,” said Mammadyarov.
“As a result of this conflict almost 20 percent of the territory of Azerbaijan has been still occupied by Armenia, around 1 million ethnically cleansed Azerbaijani population has become internally displaced and refugees, thousands of Azerbaijani historical-cultural heritage items on the occupied territories devastated and looted,” the Azeri leader added.
Mammadyarov also said that “Providing self-governance for Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan will be a just and durable solution, as well as it can dramatically reduce tensions and challenges for peace and stability in the region,” and the “withdrawal of Armenian troops in a fixed time framework from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan will open a tremendous opportunity for the region.’
All of this came after Mammadyarov urged his international colleagues to fully adhere to the Helsinki principles, based on which the OSCE was founded in 1975.
“The pattern of non-compliance of one State, Azerbaijan, to the core arms control regime, particularly by substantially exceeding maximum levels of holdings in at least two categories of armaments set by the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, combined with the war rhetoric, raises concerns about that country’s real intentions. Azerbaijan violates one of the basic principles of the OSCE – the principle of non-use or threat of use of force,” emphasized Nalbandian in his remarks to the Council.
“We [Armenia] are convinced that in order to create an opportunity for the progress in the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the parties should commit to refrain from the steps that could hamper the peace process, including the attempts, which have been made here in the speech of the Azerbaijani minister, to misinterpret the essence of the conflict and of the ongoing negotiations,” added Nalbandian, who also blasted efforts to use the Karabakh resolution as a precondition for the Armenia-Turkey rapprochement process.
“Armenia is committed to a peaceful solution of the conflict, based on the norms and principles of international law, particularly the principles of non use or threat of use of force, self-determination and territorial integrity, which were reflected yesterday in the Joint Statement by the Heads of Delegation of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries, Armenia and Azerbaijan,” emphasized Nalbandian.
And then there was Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu who told the Council that Armenia-Turkey relations could not normalize without a resolution to the Karabakh conflict. He also expressed the same sentiment to Mammadyarov in a separate meeting, but, reportedly, did not discuss Karabakh while meeting with Nalbandian.
Nalbandian’s comments at the OSCE Council were a mere slap on the wrist for Azerbaijan, whose president Ilham Aliyev last week threatened war again ahead of a presidential meeting, which, according to conventional wisdom, should have never taken place in light of the threats.
Armenia’s position on the military threats has been soft, at best. If Mammadyarov’s remarks are an indication, Azerbaijan is unwilling to budge from its position and Turkey continues to insist that without a Karabakh agreement there will be no ties with Armenia.
We can analyze ad nauseam about which minister was more forceful in his diplomatic overture, but the truth remains that despite the illusive inroads in the talks, the true harbinger of things to come is the joint statement by the Co-chairmen, who unanimously call for the intensification process. This can only mean one thing: a deal on the conflict is imminent and Armenia, once again, will be cornered to sign an agreement that will compromise its national security.