Publication: Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 90

The two-day meeting of Armenian, Azerbaijani, and Georgian parliamentary leaders in St. Petersburg on peaceful solutions to conflicts in the Caucasus failed to issue a planned joint statement "To the Head of States and the Peoples of the Caucasus" on September 5. Instead, they reconvened on the 6th, in the hope of producing at least a lowest-common-denominator document. According to initiator and host Vladimir Shumeiko, chairman of the Russian Federation Council and of the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly, the meeting attempted to define the political and ethical foundations of conflict resolution in the Caucasus, and to prepare a general North- and Transcaucasus summit conference on the region’s conflicts, to be chaired by Boris Yeltsin later this month in Sochi. But the participants, according to Shumeiko, found that current Caucasus conflicts–Armenian-Azeri, Georgian-Abkhaz, Georgian-South Ossetian, North Ossetian-Ingush, and "Chechen" as Shumeiko referred to it–differed in their causes and nature, and did not lend themselves to a common approach acceptable to all participants. The examination of the draft document ground to a halt from its very preamble, which was to condemn "separatism" and "violation of the territorial integrity of states."

If Shumeiko is correct in saying that separatism is the stumbling block, the impasse was entirely predictable, and testifies to poor staff work at the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly in preparing this meeting. Moreover, behind Shumeiko’s theoretical explications may well lie the more prosaic fact that the Armenian delegation almost certainly vetoed the condemnation of separatism. That problem preoccupies Georgia and Azerbaijan, and more recently, also Russia. Russia now faces separatism in Chechnya after having itself fostered separatist movements in several newly independent countries. Shumeiko himself has recently campaigned against separatism. But in CIS and international forums, Armenia often resists blanket strictures against separatism, redefining the phenomenon in some situations as self-determination, particularly with reference to its kinsmen in Karabakh. 11

Karabakh Talks.