Vienna; Munich, Apr 2 (RFE/RL) - Diplomats say the long, drawn-out
negotiations aimed at achieving a settlement in the
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict are approaching a total impasse, with
neither side willing to make essential compromises.
A diplomat (anonymous) closely associated with the talks tells an
RFE/RL correspondent: "there's no panic and no talk of abandoning the
negotiations. But the fact is we are not getting any closer to a
settlement, because the parties lack the political will to do so."
The diplomat said a "breathing space" was needed to sit back and
examine the whole situation to see what could be done to move
His comments followed another meeting last week among Armenia,
Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh under the co-chairmanship of Russia
and Finland. Like most other recent meetings the talks produced no
concrete progress toward a settlement. Diplomats close to the
negotiations described last week's talks as extremely bad. One told
RFE/RL: "there was a lot of ill will and a genuine feeling of not
knowing what to do next."
Nagorno-Karabakh is an enclave within Azerbaijan. It is populated
mostly by ethnic Armenians. Fighting erupted in 1988, after
Nagorno-Karabakh's separatist leaders declared sovereignty. A
negotiated in May 1994 by the Organisation for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), but negotiators have been unable to
convert this into a permanent cessation of hostilities and a
A brief communique issued by Russia and Finland after last week's
talks in Moscow reflected the frustrations of the negotiators. The
statement said "the parties (Armenia, Azerbaijan and
Nagorno-Karabakh) did not display a readiness for conducting a
constructive dialogue or searching for compromises."
The statement said Russia and Finland intend to convene a special
meeting with the leadership of Armenia, Azerbaijan and
Nagorno-Karabakh "to inform them of its concern with the situation."
It said they expect the parties "to consider carefully the present
state of the negotiations."
Diplomats viewed as unusual the fact that last week's meeting did
not fix a date or a place for the next gathering. Normally, there is
agreement to meet again within a month in a specific city. This time
the communique said the co-chairmen of the negotiations, Russia and
Finland, will decide on the convening of the next round "in due
time". A diplomat said this could mean a delay before another meeting
is held to give all parties time to reflect on how to bring movement
into the talks.
The diplomats said that, despite the problems, there was no
likelihood that the OSCE negotiations would be suspended. They said
that neither Russia, Armenia nor Azerbaijan wanted a suspension, and
therefore, OSCE was obliged to keep trying for a settlement, which
could be recognised as fair and just by all sides.
Earlier this year, the negotiators had hoped Armenia and Azerbaijan
could be persuaded to accept what was called a "declaration of
principles," which could be signed during
this month's Moscow summit on nuclear issues (Apr 19). Diplomats said
these plans have been abandoned, because of lack of interest by the
They said Russia and the chairman of the OSCE, Switzerland's Foreign
Minister, Flavio Cotti, had separately offered very similar
proposals. However, a package offered by U.S. deputy secretary of
state Strobe Talbott during a visit to the region last month had gone
"The Americans tried to resolve the territorial dispute by giving
Nagorno-Karabakh more than simple autonomy - but less than
independence," a diplomat said. "the U.S. suggested that the enclave
legally continue to be Azeribaijan's territory, but in practise would
not be controlled by Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijanis would have
"de jure" (legally recognized) sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh -
but not "de facto" (but not in fact, or not in practice). However,
this was unacceptable," said the diplomat.
The U.S. also proposed the de-militarisation of the town of Shusha,
which is located above the strategic Lachin corridor linking
Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia. Washington also offered proposals on
the return of Azerbaijani territory captured by ethnic Armenian
forces in a 1993 offensive..
The diplomats said the U.S. had hoped to obtain support from the
presidential advisers of Azerbaijan and Armenia, who have held a
number of private meetings in recent weeks. However, it was not
forthcoming. Some diplomats say the private talks have also reached
OSCE diplomats believe outside events are also influencing the
parties to the negotiations. One factor is the Russia's presidential
election in June, and Armenia's election in September. Another is the
pressure which Russia is apparently applying on Azerbaijan. Diplomats
say Azerbaijani negotiators have frequently referred to this pressure
Diplomats, who have participated in the long negotiations, emphasise
that they have achieved a lot, including the 1994 ceasefire.
"However, what is lacking now is a breakthrough," a high-ranking
diplomat told RFE/RL. "The political will to go further is lacking.
We have to find a way to get that political will
from all sides," he said.