Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 186

Karabakh is prepared to discuss renouncing its demands for full independence and future unification with Armenia, according to the recently elected president of Karabakh, Arkady Gukasian, in an interview just published in Yerevan and Moscow. Given reliable and effective guarantees of its security, Karabakh can settle for "abridged statehood" — "abridged in Azerbaijan’s favor," Gukasian added. The arrangement would entail horizontal relations with Azerbaijan, common external borders, a limited right of external representation for Karabakh, and above all the status of subject of international law that would entitle Karabakh to defend itself and to be defended.

Gukasian called for security guarantees on three distinct levels: first, international legal guarantees authorizing the defense of Karabakh from attack; second, operative guarantees from Russia, the U.S., and possibly Iran, not as a group but from each of these countries individually; and third, recognition of Armenia’s right of automatic intervention to defend Karabakh. He further called for changing the negotiating format by starting direct talks between Karabakh and Azerbaijan; redefining Turkey’s role from that of member of the OSCE’s mediating group to that of a party to the conflict; and coopting Iran into the OSCE mediating group because of Iran’s "moral, political, geographic, and historic rights" in the region, "which was part of Persia before being joined to Russia." (Respublika Armenia, October 4)

In an accompanying interview, Armenia’s first deputy foreign minister Vardan Oskanian seconded Gukasian’s objections to the "phased" or "stage-by-stage" resolution recently proposed by the OSCE mediators. That approach envisages essentially the withdrawal of Karabakh Armenian forces from the six Azerbaijani districts they occupy outside Karabakh proper, in return for international security guarantees, to be followed by negotiations on Karabakh’s political status. But according to Oskanian, Karabakh will not be persuaded to take the risk of giving up those buffer areas as long as the OSCE merely offers it autonomy within Azerbaijan. The OSCE’s December 1996 Lisbon document, which "prejudged" the settlement in that sense, has made the proposed "phased" solution impossible, Gukasian and Oskanian said. (Noyan-Tapan, October 6)

In Baku, President Haidar Aliev’s foreign policy adviser, Vafa Guluzade, confirmed Aliev’s recent initiative to begin direct tripartite negotiations with Armenia and Karabakh concerning the opening of communications and borders and Karabakh’s future political status. Baku’s condition is that the political status negotiations concern only the level of Karabakh’s autonomy within Azerbaijan. (Turan, October 6)

On September 26, Armenian president Levon Ter-Petrosian, in an unusual press conference statement, proposed deferring consideration of Karabakh’s future status, strongly implying that complete independence from Azerbaijan was unrealistic.

Gukasian’s offer, in a similar spirit, represents a significant concession and an opportunity to overcome the impasse that followed the Lisbon declaration. That document exacerbated Karabakh’s and Armenia’s security concerns, created unrealistic expectations in Baku, and helped cement Yerevan’s alliance with Moscow. This latter factor also explains Oskanian’s insistence that security guarantees to Karabakh be provided by individual countries. Russia, by virtue of geographic proximity and its alliance with Armenia, would be able to intervene unilaterally. That would not be the case if security guarantees were extended by a group of countries acting collectively.

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