Karabakh president Arkady Gukasian told a visiting group of journalists in Stepanakert that "serious differences" have emerged between Karabakh and Armenian president Levon Ter-Petrosian regarding resolution of the conflict with Azerbaijan. Gukasian charged that Ter-Petrosian’s readiness to settle for maximum autonomy of Karabakh within Azerbaijan is self-contradictory because it deprives Karabakh of the right of self-defense. Only the status of subject of international law would ensure that right, Gukasian stressed. He also targeted Ter-Petrosian’s virtual acceptance of the "step-by-step" approach, proposed by OSCE mediators and also favored by Azerbaijan. That approach ultimately leads to war, Gukasian warned. He also called for changing the negotiating format in order to reduce the "excessive prerogatives" of the OSCE mediating group’s three co-chairmen — the U.S., Russia, and France.
Gukasian expressed the suspicion that official Yerevan and the OSCE mediators are secretly dealing behind Karabakh’s back in order to settle the conflict on terms favorable to Azerbaijan. He complained that Yerevan was yielding to international pressure and had been influenced by promises that Armenia would be chosen as one of the transit countries for Azerbaijani oil on the route to Turkey. Gukasian charged that Ter-Petrosian, consequently, has come close to "pressuring" and "blackmailing" Karabakh, and he warned that Karabakh will let itself be used to solve Yerevan’s problems. (Noyan-Tapan, November 20, citing Gukasian’s interview in the Yerevan newspaper Azg, November 18; Reuter, November 18)
The latest recriminations are the strongest in a series of recent complaints from Stepanakert. Gukasian’s election as president in September coincided fortuitously with the shift in Ter-Petrosian’s position on the Karabakh conflict. Armenia’s prime minister, Robert Kocharian, who was President of Karabakh before becoming Prime Minister in Yerevan, has also distanced himself from Ter-Petrosian. In his latest criticism of the President, Kocharian stated yesterday at the end of a visit to Georgia that he objects to Ter-Petrosian’s acceptance of the step-by-step approach, and instead supports the "package solution" sought by the Karabakh leaders. (Armenpress, November 20) The package approach would maximize Karabakh’s bargaining power in the negotiations.
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