Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 66

During the CIS summit held on April 2 in Moscow, Presidents Robert Kocharian of Armenia and Haidar Aliev of Azerbaijan discussed the Karabakh conflict in a separate, three-hour session, in the second half of which Russia’s Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov participated. The Russian side had sought to project itself as the mediator, in an attempt to upstage the mediating Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) group. It fell short of that goal, however–particularly after Aliev sidestepped last week’s invitation from Yeltsin to a Russian-Azerbaijani-Armenian summit in Moscow to discuss the Karabakh conflict.

In the session with Kocharian and Ivanov, Aliev pledged that Azerbaijan would continue to adhere to the ceasefire and to the search for a negotiated political solution, but rejected the Russian concept of creating a “common state” of Azerbaijan and Karabakh. Kocharian, for his part, argued that the “common state” represented a major retreat from the original goal of uniting Karabakh with Armenia, and fell short of outright independence for Karabakh. He rejected any solution based on Karabakh autonomy, however far-reaching, as long as Karabakh is defined as a part of Azerbaijan. “There can be no concession here,” Kocharian said after the session. Kocharian was the only one of the twelve presidents to disagree with the point in the summit’s declaration which pledged respect for the territorial integrity of states and inviolability of their borders (Itar-Tass, Armenpress, Turan, April 3, 5).

Baku’s resistance to a “common state” indirectly helps two other countries represented at the CIS summit: Georgia, which has been under Russian pressure to accept that scheme in Abkhazia; and Moldova, which has seen its position considerably weakened after accepting the “common state” concept in a key document on the principles of settling the Transdniester conflict.

Emerging from the closed-door meeting of the CIS heads of state, Russian President Boris Yeltsin had ostentatiously embraced Kocharian, notwithstanding the latter’s challenge to a principle deemed sacrosanct by all CIS leaders. In Baku, Russian Ambassador Aleksandr Blokhin just as demonstratively told the local press that Russia is within its rights to supply arms to Armenia and station troops there, and that it will continue doing so. Blokhin chastised Baku for inching closer to NATO and for supporting the latter’s actions against Serbia, and went so far as to advise Baku to take Russia’s nuclear strike capabilities into account when making decisions on Azerbaijan’s relations with NATO and with Russia (Turan, April 3, 5).