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February 11, 2009

ACNIS Director Richard Giragosian Comments on Turkish Press Report Claiming “Breakthrough” over Nagorno Karabagh

Yerevan—Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) Director Richard Giragosian issued a statement today commenting on a recent report in the Turkish daily newspaper Hurriyet claiming that a new “partial agreement” has been reached between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno Karabagh, brokered by Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan.  The report alleged that Armenia and Azerbaijan reached a new agreement on four key points of a draft peace plan, including the reopening of road and rail links between Azerbaijan and Armenia and the deployment of an undefined international peacekeeping force to the region.

While today’s report in the Turkish media remains unsubstantiated by any Armenian, Azerbaijani or Turkish officials, the rather sensational claims of a sudden breakthrough over the unresolved Karabagh conflict raises several concerns.  Most notably, the unconfirmed report reveals the danger posed by the overall lack of transparency and inadequate public awareness of the status of the peace process.

By its very nature, the closed and secretive process of mediation by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Minsk Group only fosters misunderstandings and misinformation, especially as neither the Armenian nor the Azerbaijani governments are doing enough to prepare their constituencies for a possible peace deal.

At the same time, however, there is no viable alternative to the OSCE Minsk Group as a mediator for the Karabagh conflict.  The Minsk Group is the sole international body empowered to manage the mediation effort aimed at resolving the Nagorno Karabagh conflict and has been long engaged in conducting delicate diplomacy toward that end.

But the OSCE Minsk Group format is also structurally flawed by the absence of the democratically-elected representatives of the Nagorno Karabagh Republic (NKR) which, as a party to the conflict, must be afforded a more direct and formal role in the peace process.

Moreover, the failure to incorporate Karabagh in the peace talks as a party of equal standing only questions the viability of reaching a negotiated resolution capable of meeting the minimum standards of security and sustainability.

The recognition of the vital and primary role of the OSCE Minsk Group as the mediator for the Karabagh conflict also means that Turkey can have no direct role in the peace process.  By virtue of its close strategic relationship with Azerbaijan, and in terms of Turkey’s open diplomatic, economic and military support for Azerbaijan, including its ongoing blockade of Armenia, Turkey can not been accepted as a neutral broker or mediator of the Karabagh conflict.

On a broader level, the lack of information concerning the peace process only leads to misinformation, endangering the already fragile and delicate peace talks.  For Armenia, the lack of information only fuels misunderstanding and fosters a deeper sense of apathy among the population.  The Armenian government must do much more to educate and involve its citizens in the peace process.

Equally important, Azerbaijan has also failed to properly prepare its public for any possible progress in the peace talks.  In addition, the secrecy surrounding the peace talks has only strengthened the militant rhetoric of its leadership and has radicalized the discourse within Azerbaijani society.  Although the August 2008 war in Georgia only reaffirmed the danger of a sudden outbreak of hostilities in the region, Azerbaijani leaders continue to dangerously promote an irresponsible language of aggression and threat, tending to exacerbate regional insecurity.

Therefore, the recent revelations of the Turkish media suggesting a secret peace deal over Karabagh only serves to complicate efforts to forge a fair and lasting peace.  Most crucially, the lack of information and transparency encourages a dangerous trend of misinformation and disinformation that entrenches stereotypes and emboldens more extreme views.  Thus, the failure of all sides to prepare and engage their publics in the peace process only reveals the deficit of prudent statesmanship and proper leadership.

Founded in 1994 by Armenia’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs Raffi K. Hovannisian and supported by a global network of contributors, ACNIS serves as a link between innovative scholarship and the public policy challenges facing Armenia and the Armenian people in the post-Soviet world. It also aspires to be a catalyst for creative, strategic thinking and a wider understanding of the new global environment. In 2009, the Center focuses primarily on civic education, democratic development, conflict resolution, and applied research on critical domestic and foreign policy issues for the state and the nation.

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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Armenian version