Representatives of the Armenian, Azerbaijani, and Turkish Foreign Ministries separately denied on February 11 a report printed earlier that day in the Turkish daily "Hurriyet" claiming that Turkey had mediated a "partial" settlement of the Karabakh conflict.
The paper said the "new," Turkish-brokered plan comprises the return to Azerbaijani control, according to a strict timetable, of "some" of the districts of Azerbaijan contingent to the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh republic (NKR) that are currently occupied by Armenian forces, and the repatriation of the former Azerbaijani population; the creation of a provisional administration for the unrecognized republic; the opening of road and rail communications between Armenia and Azerbaijan; the deployment of international peacekeepers in the region that lies between the NKR and Armenia; and the return of that Kelbacar region to Azerbaijani control after the final status of the NKR is determined.
Those provisions are not, however, new; on the contrary, they largely duplicate the Basic Principles that the OSCE Minsk Group unveiled in June 2006 and that have been the subject of many rounds of talks since then.
Noyan Tapan on February 11 quoted Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Tigran Balayan as saying that "no negotiations on the Artsakh [Karabakh] problem have been conducted through Turkey."
Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman Xazar Ibrahim for his part dismissed the "Hurriyet" report as "absurd."
Ibrahim added that Baku and Yerevan had previously publicly agreed more than once to the deployment of an international peacekeeping force, but he stressed that neither "neighboring countries" (presumably meaning Turkey) nor the three states that co-chair the OSCE Minsk Group (Russia, France and the United States) should contribute troops to such a force.
Armenian and Azerbaijani agencies further quoted Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Burak Ozugergin as telling Turkey's official Anadolu news agency on February 11 that while Turkey has an interest in seeing the Karabakh conflict resolved, the "Hurriyet" report that it has mediated a partial solution is not true.
In a statement
posted later on February 11, Richard Giragosian, director of the Yerevan-based Armenian Center for National and International Studies, noted that the "Hurriyet" report only complicates efforts to resolve the conflict. He said that "by its very nature, the closed and secretive process of mediation by the Organization for Security and cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group only fosters misunderstandings and misinformation, especially as neither the Armenian nor the Azerbaijani governments are doing enough to prepare their constituencies for a possible peace deal."
At the same time, Giragosian stressed that there is no viable alternative to the ongoing Minsk Group mediation, but added that its chances of success will remain limited as long as democratically elected representatives of the NKR are not afforded "a more direct and formal role" in the peace process.
Finally, Giragosian argued that "the recognition of the vital and primary role of the OSCE Minsk Group as the mediator for the Karabakh conflict also means that Turkey can have no direct role in the peace process" in light of its close diplomatic, economic, and military support for Azerbaijan.