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July 8, 2010

US Against Resumption of Hostilities in Conflict Area

News.Az interviews Manvel Sargsyan, an expert at the Armenian Center for National and International Studies.

How do you assess the results of the visit of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the South Caucasus? What has caused this interest to the region on US part?

I suppose the visit of the US Secretary of State had a great importance since it clarified US position on most important issues. The point of negotiations with the officials of the regional countries is certainly unknown but the essence of these negotiations can be understood. It is important that US has declared readiness to support Azerbaijan’s statehood, since according to Clinton the US concerns about the threat to independence and territorial integrity of the country is becoming clear. Meanwhile, this means not the relations of Azerbaijan with Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia, we are speaking of the threat coming from some countries that “do not take into account Azerbaijan’s independence”. It is clear that they mean a wider regional context of security.

Another important circumstance has become the demonstration of her position by the US Secretary of State regarding the future of the Armenian-Turkish relations. The visit to the memorial of the victims of 1915 genocide in Yerevan and the statement that the “ball is on Turkey’s side” has become a signal to Turkey about some US outrage with its position on Armenia. Some resentment in this sphere of regional problems was demonstrated on Azerbaijan too-the blocking of normalization process of the Armenian-Turkish relations by Azerbaijan annoys the United States.

But the most important conclusion from Clinton’s visit can be the conclusion that the United States does not accept the resumption of hostilities in the conflict area. In conditions of the passive period in the resolution of the Karabakh conflict, this US position is acquiring serious international importance since this position is primarily connected with the issue of attracting the troops of any country to the region which is not ruled out by Azerbaijan. As is seen, the United States does not welcome such intentions.

Is it possible to expect this visit to attach dynamics to the process of negotiations on Nagorno Karabakh?

Dynamics is a relative concept. Clinton said “the United States cannot settle the conflict”, it can only provide assistance in reaching agreement between the direct parties to the conflict. This position reduces the intention of the conflict parties to settle the problem in their favor by means of any influential state to zero. It also reduces to zero the intention to  attain agreement for the forced resolution of the conflict. In fact, the US Secretary of State has pointed to the only way of settlement-recommendations of the presidents of the United States, Russia and France of June 26, as well as the Helsinki principles not allowing the use of force and threat of force while settling disputable problems. The words of the senior official of the superpower are not only the position but also something more. No one will often repeat such words. Therefore, dynamics in negotiations primarily depend on how much the conflict parties understand the said circumstance.

In their statement the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs have urged the parties to reach peace, come to an agreement on main principles of settlement. How can you comment on this statement?

The curiosity of the situation is that Armenia and Azerbaijan understand the essence of the proposed main principles and the text of hypothetical agreement differently. Azerbaijan has been stating for about half a year that the “updated Madrid principles” are the only document while Armenia is speaking of the “Petersburg proposals” made by the parties on 17 June of this year. The co-chairs say that it is not necessary to look for any Madrid or other proposals-everything has been said by the presidents of the co-chairing countries in Toronto in their statement of June 26. Meanwhile, the principles proposed by the presidents have turned vaguer than those spoken off in the Aquila statement of 10 June 2009. Thus, the negotiating parties will first have to clarify the texts of the main principles and then seek agreement.

Do you think the mediator countries are really interested in the settlement of the Karabakh conflict?

It depends on what you mean by saying “settling”. The conflict parties have their own understanding: Azerbaijan is willing to spread its control over the whole territory controlled by Nagorno Karabakh through negotiations; Armenia wishes to attain recognition of the independence of Nagorno Karabakh. For the third countries the settlement is a method of strengthening their positions in the region or the method of stimulating favorable political process. Wide international consensus is required to settle the conflict situation. It is bad that few people are interested in Karabakh-most are interested only in the “policy of lands” and the status quo built on regional parameters. Meanwhile, the conflict parties are trying to get something for themselves from this policy of other states.

The foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia are expected to meet in mid July. What can be expected from this meeting?

If they are able to agree at least on some subjects of negotiations, it will be possible to consider it a great achievement. I do not think that Astana is a place where there can be a favorable aura for cordial talks.

Considering the intensification of meetings and visits, are the achievements in the Karabakh issue expected in the nearest future?

Unless the conflict parties believe in the possible forced solution and possible attainment of their goals by means of the third parties, there will be no achievements in the negotiation process. It is impossible to impose the settlement to an opposite party and it is necessary to come to an agreement. And thus it will be possible to establish stable peace.

Kamala Mammadova

The Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) is a leading independent strategic research center located in Yerevan, Armenia.  As an independent, objective institution committed to conducting professional policy research and analysis, ACNIS strives to raise the level of public debate and seeks to broaden public engagement in the public policy process, as well as fostering greater and more inclusive public knowledge. Founded in 1994, ACNIS is the institutional initiative of Raffi K. Hovannisian, Armenia’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs.  Over the past fifteen years, ACNIS has acquired a prominent reputation as a primary source of professional independent research and analysis covering a wide range of national and international policy issues.

For further information on the Center call (37410) 52-87-80 or 27-48-18; fax (37410) 52-48-46; email root@acnis.am or info@acnis.am; or visit www.acnis.am.

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