Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 93

Yesterday’s fifth anniversary of the Armenian-Azerbaijani ceasefire–which took effect on May 12, 1994 under Russian mediation–prompted both parties to reflect on the current state of that unresolved conflict. Both pledged continued allegiance to the ceasefire and commitment to the negotiating process, but otherwise differed in essential respects. Azerbaijani President Haidar Aliev, convalescing after cardiac surgery in the United States, issued a special statement calling for the “ultimate evacuation [by Armenian/Karabakh forces] of all occupied territories of Azerbaijan.” In Baku, presidential foreign policy advisor Vafa Guluzade made the point that Armenia’s military victory in Karabakh has forced the country into a risky dependence on Russia. “Inasmuch as Russia entered that war to retain a hold on the Caucasus, Armenia will be used and then abandoned,” he elaborated. “Armenia is merely a weapon in Russia’s hands.” He went on to predict that Armenia will be unable to settle the conflict on its terms and that it will lag behind Azerbaijan and Georgia in terms of economic development and foreign investment “until it becomes free of Russian influence.”

Azerbaijani opposition leaders Abulfaz Elchibey and Isa Gambar, for their part, criticized the Aliev government’s commitment to a “humiliating” ceasefire and failure to prepare the army and the populace for a military solution.

In Yerevan, politically powerful Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisian declared that the Armenian military victory has conclusively settled the Karabakh problem de facto. Sarkisian predicted that a solution de jure will eventually follow, but implied that the latter is less relevant than the former. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ara Papian urged the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and, specifically, the co-chairmen of the Minsk Group of mediators to resolve the conflict by creating a “common state” of Azerbaijan and Karabakh. Papian made the case that a solution providing for the autonomy of Karabakh within Azerbaijan would be unworkable because European standards of regional autonomy are not applicable in Azerbaijan. “The bitter experience of sixty-five years [of Karabakh autonomy within Azerbaijan] gives us no hope,” Papian concluded, citing the experience of the Soviet model of autonomy.

Sarkisian, Papian and the leaders of Karabakh expressed in unison the conviction that continuation of the ceasefire depends on the preservation of the existing balance of forces. The formula implies retention of the military superiority enjoyed by Armenia and a buffer zone beyond Karabakh in Azerbaijan proper. Karabakh leaders reaffirmed their rejection of a return to “vertical subordination” of Stepanakert to Baku. Only a “horizontal relationship” is acceptable to Karabakh. Yerevan and Stepanakert described this solution as renouncing the earlier goal of outright unification of Armenia and Karabakh and, therefore, as the only possible basis for a political compromise with Azerbaijan (Turan, AzadInform, Noyan-Tapan, Azg, May 11-12).