The OSCE Minsk Group Co-chairmen issued a statement Sunday after the meeting between Armenian and Azeri presidents on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The representatives of France, Russia and the US expressed optimism on the progress of the peace talks, but failed to condemn Azerbaijan and its president, Ilham Aliyev, for inciting violence by threatening military action against Armenia and Karabakh one day before sitting down with his Armenian counterpart.
“That meeting must play a decisive role in the process of negotiations,” Aliyev said late on Friday, in comments broadcast by state television on Saturday and in reference to the meeting in Germany.
“If that meeting ends without result, then our hopes in negotiations will be exhausted and then we are left with no other option,” he said, saying Azerbaijan had the right to use force to “liberate” Karabakh. “Azerbaijan is spending billions on buying new weapons, hardware, strengthening its position on the line of contact,” he said.
“We are doing that because we never excluded and we do not exclude that option. We have the full right to liberate our land by military means,” he added.
The above statements should have been enough to raise red flags for all parties involved. If the Minsk Group mediators truly were committed to the peace process they should have not only canceled the meeting, but issued a terse warning to Azerbaijan, which has used military rhetoric.
On the other hand, in the absence of a Minsk-Group-initiated cancellation, Armenia should have pulled out from the meeting in protest of Aliyev’s remarks, sending a clear signal that it does not negotiate with parties that threaten the national security of Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.
However, there was an interesting and bold announcement from President Serzh Sarkisian’s spokesperson Samvel Farmanyan, who on Monday told reporters that an official recognition of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic by Armenia was not being ruled out in the event that Azerbaijan continues its military rhetoric.
The series of events call into question the optimism expressed by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen, as well as the validity of the peace process. One wonders if the parties involved have adopted another—still elusive—definition of the word “peace” given that the atmosphere in which the Munich talks were held were tainted from the onset and before any matter of relevance could be placed on the agenda.
Was Farmanyan’s statement another knee-jerk reaction from Yerevan, or one that may actually have legs?
Azeri foreign minister, Araz Azimov, on Monday told the press and his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu, that the talks were encouraging. All sides are now looking at the OSCE summit in Athens to continue the process, or the progress, depending on which angle this is being viewed.
The Armenian side has not commented about the talks, but Farmanyan’s remarks indicate that Armenia did not see any progress in the talks after Sunday’s Munich meeting.
In fact, the diplomatic back-and-forth prior to the meeting demonstrated that neither party is on the same page. On one hand, Azeris said that the focus was on the timetable by which Armenia allegedly would “return lands” to Azerbaijan. On the other hand, Armenia called into question whether they and the Azeris were taking part in the same peace talks, because the focus, in Armenia’s opinion, was determining the status of Karabakh.
This, coupled with continued assurances by Turkey that Turkey-Armenia relations are dependent on the outcome of the Karabakh peace process, as well as announcements by Karabakh authorities that they have never been presented with the so-called “Madrid Principles,” at best paints a dubious picture of the ongoing peace process.
In this climate, Armenia must act resolutely and put in motion the processes that are outlined by Farmanyan in his statement, and before another round of talks between the “sides” insist on Karabakh’s complete participation in the peace process. At the same time, the Armenian Foreign Ministry should also engage in diplomatic talks with Minsk Group co-chairing countries urging them to condemn Azerbaijan for its continued military rhetoric and non-peaceful disposition that it has demonstrated and advocated from the onset of the talks.
Furthermore, until such a condemnation is issued by the Minsk Group co-chairs, Armenia should refrain from taking part in the peace talks.