On Mon., May 11, the U.S. co-chair of the OSCE Minks Group, Matthew Bryza, announced that the liberated territories surrounding the Nagorno-Karabagh Republic would be turned over to Azerbaijan with plans to resettle those areas with Azeri refugees. He also said that Karabagh would 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, in an interview with Ekho Moskvy, said that the creation of a new status for Karabagh is the concession that Baku is willing to make as a diplomatic gesture.
“When President Aliyev was in Moscow, he said very constructively that first of all there must be a corridor linking Karabagh 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 Karabagh,” said Bryza who explained that previously, Aliyev “and Azerbaijani officials always talked about a regime in Karabagh 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 indicating that the right to self-determination and territorial integrity go hand in hand in dispute resolution. This means that the so-called “new leaf” that Aliyev has turned should not be applauded as a concession, but rather viewed as a state deciding to follow international norms. Are we at a point where leaders who have continuously violated these norms are now being rewarded for not embracing but merely hinting at their willingness to adhere to them?
Clearly, yes. How else 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 U.S. against Armenian civilians in Karabagh? It was merely a year ago that Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried warned Congressional leaders that Aliyev’s bellicose statements were threatening the fragile peace process there.
The people of Karabagh, in no uncertain terms, exercised their right to self-determination and, through a referendum declared independence, adopted a constitution, and have since established democratic norms, the likes of which are far from reality in Azerbaijan, Armenia, and even the U.S.
For Karabagh to be excluded from the peace talks further speaks to the absurdity of Bryza’s comments, while at the same time it demonstrates 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 Karabagh if, according to Bryza, the current focus of the talks is the “status” issue, because it signals that an agreement has already been reached to return the liberated territories.
The spokesman for the Armenian Foreign Ministry, Tigran Balayan, issued a statement on May 11 that the 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 Karabagh conflict resolution.”
This glaring contradiction in statements by a Minsk Group co-chair and the Armenian Foreign Ministry has led many to conclude 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 return the liberated territories.
As this circuitous diplomatic banter continues, Karabagh and the entire Karabagh liberation movement is being jeopardized with consequences so far reaching that it will impact every Armenian around the world.
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