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06 09 30 - Tatul Hakobyan
After the Fires, Protracted Conflicts Appear on the UN Agenda Vartan Oskanian: “It’s a new challenge for us” [September 25, 2006]The General Committee of the sixty-first session of the UN General Assembly recommended not to include a new item entitled “Protracted conflicts in the GUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Republic of Moldova) area and their implications for international peace, security and development” in its work program, but the General Assembly, following a contentious procedural debate, decided by a recorded vote of 15 in favor of the recommendation and 16 against with 65 abstentions to enter the item on its current agenda. Thus the GUAM states have in their second attempt succeeded in moving the discussion of “protracted conflicts” to the UN. The voting results are noteworthy. The GUAM initiative was supported by the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Guatemala, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, Romania, Turkey and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, who have quite complicated relations with Russia. Those against were: Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Cyprus, Eritrea, Greece, Guinea, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nigeria, Panama, the Russian Federation, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Zimbabwe. 65 countries abstained and 96 were absent. “Russia considers that the insistence on including the item is aimed at undermining existing mechanisms of negotiating settlements of the conflicts in Karabakh, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Transdnestria,” the official representative of the Russian foreign ministry, Mikhail Kaminin, stated. Incidentally, Russia and Armenia voted against the inclusion of the item on the General Assembly agenda. Official Yerevan is no less concerned about the recent developments. Armenia's foreign ministry has immediately reacted to the deliberations at the UN. “Armenia's position on this question is always the same. We consider it senseless. We think we should focus on the OSCE Minsk process if we want to achieve results. If there are other objectives, it is a different question. Armenia would not like to enter these games. We consider there is a serious proposal on the table and there are opportunities. If Azerbaijan takes the talks and their content seriously, then it should focus on the OSCE Minsk Group process instead of trying to distort the process by transferring it to other structures,” Vartan Oskanian told journalists last week. At the same time, the foreign minister considered the discussion of the Karabakh issue at the UN to be a challenge. “For us it's a new challenge, since here we have qualitative and quantitative changes. We're dealing here not only with Azerbaijan but with four other countries, each of them having its own circle of friends, and their common interests widen the stakeholders' circle,” he told an annual gathering of Armenian diplomats accredited abroad last Saturday. Yerevan has already warned Baku that if Azerbaijan keeps transferring the consideration of the conflict to other organizations and thus deviating from the Minsk process it will have to negotiate with Stepanakert. The Armenian side has in its arsenal other methods of exerting pressure, if of course, one can qualify those as means of pressure. Oskanian said that if the processes are taken to the UN, Nagorno Karabakh should certainly be involved. “We can't take upon Armenia the fate of Nagorno Karabakh and leave it to a vote by some Latin American countries. That is why Nagorno Karabakh must take part in the process if the negotiations are taken beyond the framework of the Minsk Group. Armenia can continue its involvement only in the presence of Stepanakert,” the minister said, and referred to four UN Security Council resolutions adopted between April and November of 1993 calling on Armenia, among other things, to continue to exert its influence on Nagorno Karabakh to establish a cease-fire and promote the settlement of the conflict. “Stepanakert must be ready to deliberate on the settlement of the Karabakh conflict within any format and in any organization,” the foreign minister of Nagorno Karabakh, Georgy Petrosyan, said. In reference to the GUAM initiative to discuss the issue of “protracted conflicts” at the UN General assembly, Petrosyan noted that the world was changing and that the Karabakh conflict was a complicated one and could be discussed at various organizations and that it was necessary to be prepared for that. We remind you that last year the GUAM member-states attempted to include the issue of protracted conflicts in the GUAM area on the agenda of the sixtieth session of the General Assembly, but the Assembly rejected the initiative. Official Yerevan maintains that Azerbaijan is keep trying to divert the attention from the Minsk process, which might abort the progress achieved in negotiations lately. According to a preliminary arrangement, a meeting between the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan might take place in New York at the end of September, though the statements by Oskanian don't leave the impression that such a meeting will take place. Perhaps this is another means of “pressure”. According to Oskanian, Baku had earlier agreed to most of the principles included in the two-and-a-half-page document presented to the parties by the Minsk Group, but to all appearances is now trying to reverse the process. Now Azerbaijan has chosen to divert attention from the Minsk process and to take the issue to the UN. “So it's questionable whether there will be a meeting of the foreign ministers in New York or not, unless it's clear what directions the processes at the UN will take. We are ready for meetings at any time but we need a favorable atmosphere to achieve results,” Oskanian said. The chairman of the Armenian parliament's Standing Committee on Foreign Relations, Armen Rustamyan, maintains that as a result of deliberations at the UN General Assembly, a conclusion will be reached to continue the OSCE intermediary mission. The GUAM initiative, according to Rustamyan, doesn't mean that the UN will take the settlement mission away from the OSCE. Besides, the UN cannot lead the settlement process and there is no consensus in New York that the format of co-chairmanship of the Minsk process has failed. A member of the board of the Armenian National Movement and former negotiator, David Shahnazaryan, insists that if before 2006 the Karabakh settlement processes were moving in the wrong direction for Armenia, since 2006 they have been moving in a very wrong direction. “The foreign policy of Armenia, especially vis-à-vis the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, resembles a game that has been lost. The issue is vigorously moving to the UN at various levels. The foreign ministry declares that if the process is taken to the UN, Armenia will withdraw from the negotiating process, and the next day it turns out that the item ‘The situation in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan' appears on the General Assembly agenda with Armenia's consent,” Shahnazaryan stressed, pointing out that, in essence, Armenia for the first time agreed that it had occupied territories. Shahnazaryan also says that Armenia's political and economic isolation is deepening and that our country has, in fact, no allies. He is concerned that with the implementation of new regional projects, Armenia's situation will worsen. “I think the construction of the Kars-Akhalkalak-Tbilisi railroad will begin and Armenia's role in the region will move towards zero.” He also notes that if in 1997 Armenia had accepted the step-by-step proposal, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline could have passed through the territory of Armenia. Turning back to the GUAM initiative, we must note that it is adverse for Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh that the four conflicts in the post-Soviet space are considered on the same plane and are jointly taken to the UN General Assembly. Baku is trying by any means to put the Karabakh and the three other conflicts on the same plane to present them as “aggressive separatism”, whereas the international community and the Minsk Group co-chairs – the United States among them – in the first place clearly distinguish these four conflicts. Washington officials have repeatedly stated that if the Abkhazian and South Ossetian conflicts should be solved within the framework of the territorial integrity of Georgia, and the Transdnestrian conflict should be settled within the framework of the territorial integrity of Moldova, in the case of Nagorno Karabakh its status should be agreed upon as a result of negotiations between Yerevan and Baku. In other words, Baku's insistence on preserving the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan is questioned. It is perhaps not by accident that the recent proposals presented to the parties by the Minsk Group clearly state that the future status of Nagorno Karabakh will be determined through a referendum. Whether this is good for Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh or not is a subject of serious discussion, but it is clear that the mere term “referendum” makes Baku nervous and it is Azerbaijan who laid the most bricks in the construction of the most recent dead-end.


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