Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 96

The co-chairmen of the OSCE’s mediating group–Lynn Pascoe of the United States, Yuri Yukalov of Russia, and Georges Vaugier of France–paid a five-day visit to the region to ascertain the situation in the wake of Armenia’s presidential election.

The leaders of Armenia and Karabakh outlined their position as follows: (1) A package settlement, involving a trade of Karabakh-occupied land in Azerbaijan proper in return for political status to Karabakh. No “phased” approach that would involve the withdrawal of Karabakh troops from Azerbaijan proper in the first stage and the determination of Karabakh’s political status in the following stage. (2) No autonomy for Karabakh as a legal component of Azerbaijan. Only a coequal, “horizontal” relationship acceptable. (3) Direct talks between Baku and Stepanakert “without preconditions,” that is, irrespective of the OSCE’s position formulated in 1996 and 1997 (see below). (4) A secure land link between Karabakh and Armenia through the Lachin corridor.

The leadership of Azerbaijan presented its position: (1) A “phased approach” as opposed to a “package” settlement. (2) Far-reaching autonomy for Karabakh as a legal component of Azerbaijan, with security guarantees for Karabakh’s Armenian and Azeri communities after the return of Azeri refugees. (3) Direct talks between Baku and Stepanakert conditional on the agenda being confined to details of Karabakh autonomy within Azerbaijan. (4) Retrocession to Azerbaijan of the Lachin corridor and of the Karabakh town of Shusha in the second stage of the negotiations. (5) Adherence to the OSCE’s December 1996 Lisbon document and to the OSCE mediators’ 1997 settlement proposals. Armenia had rejected the Lisbon document from the outset. President Levon Ter-Petrosian accepted the 1997 proposals and was forced out office as a result.

On the positive side, Yerevan, Stepanakert and Baku reaffirmed their adherence to the cease-fire and to continuing negotiations within the OSCE framework. But this minimal consensus can hardly disguise the intractable disagreement on the substance of a settlement.

Armenian President Robert Kocharian took office committed to the very terms he presented to the mediators. Azerbaijani President Haidar Aliev is in no position to make concessions in advance of the presidential election scheduled for October. The Azerbaijani opposition would concede a far lesser degree of autonomy to Karabakh than Aliev would. It also accuses Aliev of treason, openly calling for a military solution if negotiations remain deadlocked as they currently are. No progress can be expected until after the Azerbaijani presidential elections. (Noyan-Tapan, Turan, AFP, May 14 through 18)