Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 156

As anticipated (see the Monitor, August 24), the Karabakh leadership and Azerbaijani opposition parties are attacking Presidents Robert Kocharian and Haidar Aliev in the aftermath of their Geneva meeting, at which the presidents explored mutually acceptable solutions to the Karabakh conflict. In Yerevan yesterday, Kocharian briefed the unrecognized Karabakh republic’s leader Arkady Gukasian on the Geneva meeting, only to be publicly rebuked by Gukasian for failing to include Karabakh in the negotiations from the outset. Gukasian, moreover, maintained that Karabakh has not authorized Armenia to discuss the future of Karabakh with Azerbaijan, that it would authorize Armenia to do so if the unification of Armenia and Karabakh is placed on the agenda, and that as long as that is not the case, the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan are free to discuss any issues of mutual interest other than the Karabakh problem. Meanwhile, Karabakh is “consolidating its independent state, [which] means that Armenia can not settle the problem for us,” Gukasian admonished.

Vahan Hovhanissian, leader of the nationalist Dashnaksutiun party–relatively weak in Armenia itself but influential in the diaspora and in lobby groups–similarly warned against “concessions.” Describing Karabakh’s secession from Azerbaijan as the sole achievement of which Armenia can boast since becoming independent, Hovhanissian insisted that only Armenian and Karabakh troops can protect Karabakh in the future. He specifically came out against deployment of international peacekeeping troops–an objection which fits in with Russia’s opposition to an international peacekeeping operation in the region.

In Baku, opposition presidential aspirants Etibar Mamedov and Isa Gambar charged that Aliev was bowing to “pressure from great powers”–meaning the United States, that he had “embarked on a policy of concessions” and that “his frequent statements about the need for a compromise arouse concern.” Democratic Party Secretary Aidyn Kuliev in turn accused Aliev of “whetting Armenian appetites” through concessions. Mamedov was the runner-up to Aliev in last year’s presidential election; Gambar heads the Musavat Party; and Kuliev’s Democratic Party is remote-controlled from Washington by the expatriate former parliamentary chairman Rasul Guliev, who also aspires to succeed the 77-year-old Aliev as president.

The Azerbaijani Popular Front (PFA) has not, as yet, rushed to attack Aliev. Should this restraint hold, it would reflect a newly won ability of younger and westernized PFA leaders to resist the nationalism of Abulfaz Elchibey, the Front’s chairman and former president of the country. Elchibey and other PFA hardliners had attacked Aliev–in terms similar to those used by Gambar and Mamedov–after the first Aliev-Kocharian meeting in Geneva last week. The two Geneva meetings have, with U.S. encouragement, launched Armenian-Azerbaijani unmediated negotiations, thereby limiting Russia’s opportunities to manipulate the conflict as mediator (Snark, Noyan-Tapan, Turan, August 24-25; see also the Monitor, July 22, August 24).