Mediated by Russia and the OSCE, a new round of negotiations between Armenia, Karabakh, and Azerbaijan toward settling the Karabakh conflict has been in progress in Moscow since November 8. The Azerbaijani delegation’s opening position remains, as before, to demand the withdrawal of the Karabakh troops from the formerly Azerbaijani Lachin corridor (situated between Karabakh and Armenia) and from the town of Shusha (situated deep inside Karabakh) which Baku wants to make into an Azerbaijani administrative unit. Baku also wants Karabakh, and by implication, Armenia, to create conditions for the return of Azeri refugees. Azerbaijan requires such concessions as first steps toward a political settlement. (13)
Baku’s demand for Lachin and Shusha touches on Karabakh’s most vital security interests. Lachin provides its sole overland lifeline with Armenia, and has already been incorporated into Karabakh. Shusha, a historic Azeri town, lies in the heart of Karabakh, and commands strategically the capital Stepanakert. Azeri insistence on these points dooms the negotiations to mark time. But Baku may be able to show flexibility on these points once the country’s general elections (which were held yesterday) are out of the way.
General Elections in Azerbaijan.