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Vladimir Stupishin

RESOLUTION OF THE KARABAKH CONFLICT WITHOUT KARABAKH PEOPLE?

In reply to the article Who failed the Karabakh resolution by Alan Kasaev and Armen Khanbabyan. See appendix.

The peace in the Transcaucasus depends on answers to questions raised in “Who has Failed the Karabakh Resolution” article by Alan Kasaev and Armen Khanbabyan.

The authors strongly exaggerated the prospects of a solid peace in the Transcaucasus. They suggest that those possibilities are bound to develop once Presidents Putin and Bush bring the resolution process under their direct control. The Russian President, by saying that “only Armenia and only Azerbaijan are able to reach an agreement,” has ruled out one of the parties, the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh. This Republic has an immediate interest in those prospects. But Mr. Putin’s position has shut down a real opportunity for resolution, which is possible ONLY if the conflicting parties negotiate (i.e., as in this case, negotiations between the Republic of Azerbaijan (RAz) and the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh (NKR)) with each other. Any alternative setting is doomed to be unsuccessful. I do not know what Mr. Bush thinks of all that. But, it is highly unlikely that he is more informed than Mr. Putin.

However, both presidents would like to play their part here as well. Why? It is widely assumed that they have “arrived to a common opinion that the peacemaking process has long as shifted to a stage of simulation, by which all meetings are strictly formal in nature and by definition cannot lead to any noticeable improvements.” Certainly they cannot, since others, not just enemies but friends as well, are trying to solve the problems of Karabakh for it and without it. All that is happening despite the fact that the people of NKR have been successfully taking care of their problems for more than a decade. This nation has created its governance in full compliance with international law, recognizing the right of any nation of self-determination and choice of a political status. The people of NKR have defended (armed, when forced to) their independence from RAz in full ordinance with the Soviet law of 1990 upon exit from the Soviet Union. The law was broken not by the Karabakh people, but by the politicians in Baku, at the time of disintegration of the Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan.

Yet, why would the “great powers” care whether Armenia and Azerbaijan, who are in conflict with each other not just because of Karabakh, do “simulate” or do not “simulate” their readiness for serious talk? It is no secret that Heidar Aliev has voiced more than once his territorial claims on Armenia, including as he has once said, the “Erivan khanate.” Armenia does not have any territorial claims to Azerbaijan, but it could have and on more legal and just grounds than its neighbor. Armenia could have claimed back Nakhichevan, which had been part of the Erivan gubernia until 1918 and had been transferred, by Bolsheviks and Kemalists, under the “protectorate” of self-declared Azerbaijani Republic, which had appeared on the territories where before 1918 there had been no sign of Azerbaijan at all. So, even if Mr. Aliev is “simulating,” perhaps it is a good idea to let Armenia and Azerbaijan alone: let them “simulate” as much as they want, as long as they do not go to war with each other.

Not by chance, probably, but because of some Freudian impulses a suggestion that the American administration is “somewhat inclined to accept Moscow’s priority right over geopolitical influence in the post Soviet Transcaucasus” has the fashion word “somewhat” in it. It is not a parasite, but a true reflection of the way things are: the Americans are indeed SOMEWHAT inclined to accept our prerogative role in the Transcaucasus, for it is not one of their foreign policy interests. Well, perhaps they do need to have security in the region in order to work out the transportation and oil-pipeline related plans of the Western companies (however, those so-called “plans” are actually policies directed to shifting Russia out of the Transcaucasus). Why should we, at the cost of our Armenian ally, support all that? “Pax Americana” in the Transcaucasus, that is not doing any favors for Russia; it will work against our national and state interests.

I absolutely disapprove the notion of Meghri transfer to Azerbaijan. Such a transfer not only would lead to surrounding and “choking” of Armenia by the Turks, but would also be a starting point for eventual realization of the ideas of Pan-Turkism on the way to the “Great Turan.” How could one ever forget, that these plans, which contradict Russian interests, have been initiated and supported for more than ten years by the US State Department?

It is unclear, why anyone, given such a setting, would ever tell me that “today Moscow and Washington have a lot in common in their approaches to a resolution.”

The declaration that “today the problem (i.e. obviously, Karabakh problem –V.S.) has finally shifted from the setting of nations’ self-determination into a territorial quarrel between the two states (i.e. Azerbaijan and Armenia)” seems to be rather odd. Even stranger are the words that “there is not anything say” about any mutual understanding between Russia and Armenia, that in reality there is a confrontation between Karabakh and Azerbaijan. Has the Russian diplomacy gone so mind-numbing that it has completely taken the side of a “small empire” that is refusing to give up Nagorno Karabakh, even cut in pieces, which the Soviet Azerbaijan had received from the Bolsheviks in 1921? Why is it a “finally” and a “not anything to say” process? There is still a room for maneuvering. The nations’ right of self-determination is not something that is given by any state, but comes from God and is sealed by International Law. There could be, and could not be, some territorial disputes between Armenia and Azerbaijan. However those have no relation to the problem of the Karabakh Armenians. Even the Soviet power had recognized their right for their own territory within the autonomous oblast, which was documented in the Soviet laws, according to which Armenia and Azerbaijan lived. They (Karabakh Armenians – AVG) opted out Azerbaijan with that “own territory”, which had never belonged to the Turks. They did so without breaking any territorial integrity of neither the Turks, the Lezgins, the Talishes nor of any other nation living in the artificially created state, which had not existed at all until 1918, and which has recently been coming up with some “native rights” to the lands of different nations.

If “there is not anything to say” about it, does this mean that we are also done with the International Law?


APPENDIX

Alan Kasaev and Armen Khanbabyan
[ Nezavisimaia Gazeta Russian Daily, May 05, 2001 ]

WHO FAILED THE KARABAKH RESOLUTION

Mr. Putin and Mr. Bush can take control over the peacemaking process

Map of Karabakh conflict zone

The widely advertised meeting in Geneva between Azerbaijani and Armenian presidents, Messrs Heidar Aliev and Robert Kocharyan, has been postponed until further notice. That means that an anticipated framework agreement regarding the principles of the Karabakh resolution in the near future, is not to be signed either. The failure of the current stage of the peacemaking process is self-evident. The situation is even more scandalous because all that has happened amid highly promising declarations of determination by both sides to come up with forward-looking solutions this year. The “timeout” cannot ber changed to Aliev nor Kocharyan nor by the co-chairs of the OCSE MINSK GROUP, but rather to a direct agreement between the presidents of Russia and the USA. That could mean a complete change in circumstances surrounding the Karabakh resolution, which have been surrounding it so far.

The immediate intervention of Vladimir Putin and George Bush in the peacemaking process suggests that neither Moscow nor Washington are pleased with progress or lack of any progress of the Minsk group. Aside from that, they deny aspirations about direct negotiations between the leaders of the conflicting parties. Apparently both the Russian and American leaders have concluded that the peacemaking process has long as shifted to a stage of simulation. Translation: all meetings are strictly formal in character and by definition cannot lead to any noticeable improvements.

That itself may mean an actual rejection of the Minsk Group format and transfer of the negotiations process under the direct patronage of the two powers. It could be advantageous for Moscow and Washington in two respects. First, such a move would neutralize any possible claims to enlarge their influence on the formation of a regional solution by some members of the forum (e.g. Germany or Turkey). Second, it would bar any influential regional powers from the compromise reaching process. For example, consultations with Tehran have shown that any consideration of Iran’s interests it would make it difficult to reach any results. Nevertheless, Russia and the USA are both interested in reaching an agreement for many reasons, including the ones unrelated to the conflict in question.

One can presume that the American administration is somewhat inclined to accept Moscow’s priority right over geopolitical influence in the post Soviet Transcaucasus. It is safe to assume that the American interest is in carrying out highly promising transnational transportation, energy and investment projects – the Traseka and Inogate projects. But the unresolved Karabakh conflict slows down the realization of these projects. Most likely, Washington no longer considers traditional geopolitical priorities as the primary ones. Instead, the establishment of peace and revival of economic life, restoration and development of the transport and pipeline network of the region are seen as the primary stimuli for the inflow of the Western investments and eventual strengthening of the American influence. Apparently, some people in the Bush administration believe that will neutralize the increased military and political influence of Russia, one that is hardly capable of realizing an adequate financial and economic expansion.

Having said all this, the fate of the so-called “Meghri corridortakes on special importance.” That track of the Armenian territory separates the Azerbaijani autonomy, Nakhichevan, from the metropolitan center and most importantly obstructs direct land communication between Azerbaijan and Turkey. There are quite a few proposals for territorial exchange, by any of which Armenian could lose (dejure or defacto) its control over the region. For example, there is a suggestion to exchange Meghri for Lachin. That would allow removal of the Armenian blockade off Nakhichevan and exclude any possibility of the Azerbaijani blockade of Karabakh, which would be reconnected with Armenia. That could be worked out within a framework of transport corridors under international supervision without any border changes. The problem is, though, that the importance of the Meghri province reaches far beyond Armenian-Azerbaijani relations and regional circumstances. A transfer of Meghri to Azerbaijan or to the international supervision would signify the start of the globalization process of the Turkish world, in other words,the appearance of the new “Great Turan.” Indeed, should that take place; there would be no obstacles on Ankara’s ambitious plans on the vast territory from Albania to Sintszian. That possibility greatly concerns Tehran, fearful of a possible territorial carve up of Iran, the Northern parts of which, bordering with Turkey and Azerbaijan, are entirely populated by the Turkish element (Azeri). Inflexibility of the Iranian side highly annoys Washington that has recently unsuccessfully tried to attract Tehran to the resolution process. The existence of the “Meghri corridor”, and actually its expanded state, thanks to the occupation of the bordering regions of Azerbaijan by the Karabakh army, suits the Iranians quite well.

Therefore it is obvious that a compilation of the American and Russian efforts with minimization of other factors of influence on the peacemaking process could bring some results. For one it steals from the Azerbaijani and the Armenian diplomacy a tested “weapon” such as the use of controversies among the intermediaries. Moreover, Moscow and Washington today have a lot in common in their approaches to the resolution principles. The Russian side, for reasons that are clearly understood, has a negative attitude towards the Karabakh claims to an international recognition of its independence. Moscow is reviving and expanding its ties with Azerbaijan, without hiding that that country still presents a great interest for Russia – at least an interest no smaller than its traditional ally, Armenia, has.

Most importantly – a transfer of the negotiations process under the aegis of the presidents of Russia and the USA, dealing directly with the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia, highlights the fact that today the problem has finally shifted from the setting of nations’ self determination into a territorial quarrel between the two states. That seriously has weakened the position of the Armenian side that previously argued successfully that the issue was one of confrontation between Karabakh and Azerbaijan. That had found its understanding in Moscow earlier. Now, there is nothing to say about that former mutual understanding on this principle.

One should also keep in mind a recent cool down of relations between Moscow and Yerevan. There are some people in Russia who believe Armenia is conducting a more and more anti-Russian foreign policy.

Acknowledgements:

Source: "Nezavisimaia Gazeta" Russian Daily
Translated by Aleksandr V. Gevorkyan
Edited by Bob Shabazian

See also:

This article is also available in Russian
Vladimir Stupishin - How we can hold the South Caucasus

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