In an interview with Armenia’s three leading television channels, President Robert Kocharian hailed the OSCE mediators’ new position on Karabakh as a “victory of common sense.” Kocharian singled out for praise the principle of a “common state” of Azerbaijan and Karabakh, which forms the basis of the new plan. Noting as well that the plan no longer mentions the OSCE’s principle of territorial integrity of existing states, Kocharian stated that “the change of leadership in Armenia played a great role” in securing these gains for the Armenian side (Itar-Tass, Noyan-Tapan, December 1). That remark, in effect, claimed credit for last February’s coup in which Kocharian and the military ousted then president Levon Ter-Petrosian, who had been prepared to settle for Karabakh’s autonomy within Azerbaijan.
The three co-chairmen of the OSCE’s mediating group recently presented the plan in Baku, which predictably rejected it, and in Yerevan and Stepanakert, which just as predictably approved it (see the Monitor, November 12 and 13; Fortnight in Review, November 27). The OSCE’s chairman-in-office, Bronislaw Geremek, visiting the three capitals last week, failed to induce Azerbaijan to accept the “common state” principle. In a long and tense meeting from which “they emerged red-faced and obviously agitated” (Reuters, November 26), President Haidar Aliev remonstrated with Geremek not only over the plan’s substance–“inventing a new form of state, the ‘common state'”–but also over the procedure followed by the OSCE. It departed from the OSCE’s own norms, blindsided Azerbaijan virtually on the eve of the OSCE’s year-end conference, “placing Azerbaijan on the spot there,” and appeared designed to shift onto Baku the blame for the mediators’ ineffectiveness. Presidential foreign policy adviser Vafa Guluzade for his part focused on Russia’s authorship of the “common state” principle (Turan, Assa-Irada, November 26, 28).
What Aliev did not mention publicly, but almost certainly mentioned in the private meeting was the ill-advised political timing of the mediators’ intervention. Aliev is currently under strong attack from the nationalist opposition in the aftermath of a controversial presidential election. While committed to a negotiated political solution of the Karabakh conflict, most of the opposition advocates a “military solution” and has often described Aliev’s position as treasonable. The president could not possibly have accepted the OSCE’s new plan at this juncture without serious political risks. They seem to have underestimated that factor.
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