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Armenian Opposition Alarmed At Possible Capitulation In Karabakh Talks

The Armenian National Congress (HAK) headed by former President Levon Ter-Petrossian issued a statement on July 13 registering concern that the revised Madrid Principles that form the basis for continuing talks on resolving the Karabakh conflict entail concessions on the part of Armenia of a magnitude that is tantamount to "treason."

That capitulation can only be averted, the statement continues, if "the population of Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and all concerned political forces" align to demand the resignation of Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian.

But Eduard Sharmazanov, who is a spokesman for Sarkisian's Republican Party of Armenia, said on July 14 that Sarkisian will not resign. "Unlike many people, Serzh Sarkisian is a politician and statesman with a high sense of responsibility, and together with his team he will complete what he has pledged to the people," Sharmazanov said.

He added that the latest developments in the peace process open up new prospects of de jure independence for the currently unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh republic.

On the sidelines of the Group of Eight summit in L'Aquila last week, the presidents of France, Russia, and the United States -- the three countries that jointly co-chair the OSCE Minsk Group that since 1992 has been seeking to mediate a solution to the Karabakh conflict -- urged the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan "to resolve the few differences remaining between them and finalize their agreement" on the most recent draft of the so-called Madrid Principles.

That joint statement listed six of those principles. French Minsk Group co-Chairman Bernard Fassier said at a press conference in Yerevan on July 8 that there are approximately 15.

The HAK statement of July 13 acknowledged that the complete text of the revised Madrid Principles is not available, and for that reason, "the HAK postpones its final evaluation until a future date when details revealing the essence of the document become clear."

The original Madrid Principles, presented by the Minsk Group co-chairs to the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan at the OSCE foreign ministers' meeting in Madrid in November 2007, were a revised version of the so-called Basic Principles that the co-chairs outlined in a statement in June 2006 to the OSCE's Permanent Council in Vienna. That statement was subsequently posted on the website of the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan.

"These principles include the phased redeployment of Armenian troops from Azerbaijani territories around Nagorno-Karabakh, with special modalities for Kelbacar and Lachin districts [separating Karabakh from Armenia proper]," the co-chairs said. "Demilitarization of those territories would follow. A referendum or popular vote would be agreed, at an unspecified future date, to determine the final legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh."

"An international peacekeeping force would be deployed," added the statement. "A joint commission would be agreed to implement the agreement. International financial assistance would be made available for de-mining, reconstruction, resettlement of internally displaced persons in the formerly occupied territories and the war-affected regions of Nagorno-Karabakh. The sides would renounce the use or threat of use of force, and international and bilateral security guarantees and assurances would be put in place."

Those provisions correspond very largely to the ones contained in a draft peace settlement proposed by the Minsk Group in May-July 1997, the key difference being that the 1997 document contained no specific mention of Kelbacar.

The mediators said the conflicting parties would also have to work out practical modalities of a referendum to be held at some future unspecified date on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. "Suitable preconditions for such a vote would have to be achieved so that the vote would take place in a noncoercive environment in which well-informed citizens have had ample opportunity to consider their positions after a vigorous debate in the public arena."

The HAK statement highlighted several key differences between the original Basic Principles of June 2006 and the version currently on the table, as summarized in last week's L'Aquila statement. The latter calls for "the return of the territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijani control," but does not stipulate that the withdrawal should be gradual, or differentiate between Lachin and Kelbacar, on the one hand, and the other five districts on the other.

It does call for "a corridor linking Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh," but fails to define that land link. It advocates "interim status for Nagorno-Karabakh providing guarantees for security and self-governance," with the region's "final legal status" to be determined "through a legally binding expression of will," but not necessarily a referendum. And it affirms "the right of all internally displaced persons and refugees to return to their former places of residence."

None of the successive versions of the "principles" touch on the future status of several districts that prior to 1988 were part of the then-Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast, but which Azerbaijan took control of in May-June 1991, expelling the Armenian population.

The HAK is not the only Armenian opposition group to criticize the L'Aquila statement. Kiro Manoyan, a leading member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation -- Dashnaktsutiun (HHD) told Arminfo on July 13 that the statement reflects Turkish interests and "is inadmissible for us" in that it "requires compromises from Armenia without reciprocal compromises from Azerbaijan." For that reason, Manoyan continued, the Armenian authorities should not sign any document based on the "principles."

Manoyan further argued that the Nagorno-Karabakh republic "should participate in the talks on its fate." The co-chairs have repeatedly said that Karabakh representatives should join the peace process after the signing of the Basic Principles in order to participate in the process of expanding those principles into a full-fledged framework peace agreement.

In a separate statement on July 14, the HHD governing board announced that it will convene a demonstration on July 16 outside the Armenian Foreign Ministry building to protest the L'Aquila statement. It said that statement violates the right to self-determination of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh and "predetermines a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict [that is] to the detriment of Armenia and the Armenians."

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.