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Caucasus Report: June 10, 1999

10 June 1999, Volume 2, Number 23

Baku Encouraged By Outcome Of Armenian Elections. Vafa Guluzade, the senior foreign policy advisor to Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, told RFE/RL's Baku bureau last week that the outcome of the 30 May Armenian parliamentary elections did not surprise him. He pointed to the passive attitude of many Armenians toward the vote and also to what he said was widespread pessimism about prospects for any improvement in their standard of living. The state advisor argued that the victory of the Miasnutyun alliance does not constitute a victory for the communists, nor does the former partocrat Karen Demirchian represent the Communist Party. Guluzade stressed that Vazgen Sargsian reflects Moscow's point of view.

During his interview, Guluzade said that Demirchian's success reflected the population's longing for the more stable and prosperous times when he was in charge. Moreover, Guluzade said, Demirchian may have gained support because Armenians believe his close ties to Aliyev could allow for a rapid settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In short, Guluzade said, Demirchian's victory is an expression of Armenians' desire for peace.

Concerning the impact of the election results on Yerevan's future priorities, Guluzade said that Armenia's present leaders are very well aware that the country needs peace. But he suggested that it remains very unclear whether Moscow is interested in the same thing. And he noted that recent developments in the Transcaucasus--Azerbaijan's oil policy, investments in the region by foreign companies, the western export pipeline for Caspian oil, and the desire of Georgia and Azerbaijan for NATO membership--do not correspond to Russia's interests, and are a cause for annoyance to many Russian politicians.

Sulhaddin Akbar, who is deputy chairman of the opposition Musavat Party responsible for foreign policy issues, told RFE/RL's Baku bureau that political processes in Armenia are an integral part of the processes throughout the post-Soviet space. He also noted the strong military-political influence of Russia on Armenian policy. In his opinion, no changes are to be expected in Armenia's foreign policy, as a victory by left-wing forces cannot influence that policy, which is defined by President Robert Kocharian.

The head of the ideological department of the ruling "Yeni Azerbaycan" party, parliament deputy Sayad Aran, was more optimistic. He said his attitude towards the outcome of the Armenian parliamentary poll is calm, even optimistic, because progressive forces, and not the "party of war," now have a majority in parliament.

Aran assessed Demirchian's victory as a positive factor. He said that in light of his professional experience, Demirchian will be guided in taking decisions not by emotions, but by reason and logic. Aran believes that the renewal of parliament and the Communists' victory can play a positive role in resolving the Karabakh conflict because the Communists understand that the Armenian population is war-weary. Aran explains the Armenian electorate's sympathy for Demirchian in terms of nostalgia for the past and the desire to see the country led by a more experienced leader who will prove capable of contributing to resolving the Karabakh conflict. (Mirza Michaeli/ Hrair Tamrazian)

Azerbaijani Parties Draft Alternative Karabakh Peace Plans. In its 22 May issue, the Azerbaijani weekly "Zerkalo" summarizes a blueprint for resolving the Karabakh conflict drafted by the All-Azerbaijani Movement for Karabakh, a movement recently founded by displaced former Azerbaijani residents of Karabakh. That draft is one of a series of alternative peace proposals put forward in recent months by both opposition and pro-government parties in Azerbaijan, most of which take a far harder line than does the present Azerbaijani leadership.

The peace plan proposed by the All-Azerbaijani Movement for Karabakh, for example, consists of three stages. The first envisages implementation of four UN Security Council resolutions adopted in 1993 calling for a withdrawal of occupying forces from Azerbaijani territory. That withdrawal is followed by the return of displaced persons to their homes and the deployment of peacekeeping forces "to maintain order."

The second stage includes recognition by Armenia of Azerbaijan's frontiers as they existed in 1992 when both states became members of the UN, and the subsequent establishment of diplomatic relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Then, a decision is taken on the status of the Lachin corridor linking Karabakh and Armenia that would perpetuate that "corridor" status and entail its control by peacekeeping forces.

Under the third stage, the region of Megri in southern Armenia would be given the status of a similar "corridor" linking Azerbaijan and its exclave of Nakhichevan. Finally, a decision would be taken on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh within the Azerbaijan Republic. No preconditions would be set for the return to their homes of the Azerbaijan population of the Karabakh town of Shusha. And the armed forces of the present unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic would be disbanded.

The likelihood that Armenia would accept those terms is so small as to be virtually non-existent, although All-Azerbaijani Movement for Karabakh chairman Igbal Agazade expressed confidence that the international community would succeed in pressuring Yerevan to do so. But such maximalist conditions, like the insistence of the opposition People's Party that Karabakh can only be brought back under Baku's jurisdiction by a military victory, serve another purpose, namely, to narrow the room for maneuver, and thus exert pressure on the present Azerbaijani leadership. To the extent that such demands impose additional restrictions on the negotiating process, they may ultimately hinder, rather than expedite, a peaceful solution to the conflict. (Liz Fuller)

Georgian-Abkhaz Talks Fail To Resolve Differences. Three days of UN-sponsored consultations in Istanbul on 7-9 June between Georgian and Abkhaz delegations failed to make notable headway towards reconciling the two sides' diverging of views on most aspects of the stalled peace process.

The talks were intended primarily to restore confidence in the two sides' shared commitment to finding a solution to the conflict, rather than to address fundamental issues. Opinions differed as to how far they had succeeded in doing so. Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem spoke of "an important step" towards a final solution to the conflict, while UN Special Envoy Liviu Bota said that the limited agreement reached surpassed his expectations. But the chairman of the Abkhaz government in exile, Londer Tsaava, termed the meeting a further demonstration of the "aggressive and destructive" approach adopted by the Abkhaz side, which he accused of "doing its best to bring the talks to deadlock."

The two sides agreed only to resume talks within the framework of working groups set up under UN auspices18 months ago. They failed, however, to reach a consensus on such issues as the repatriation to Abkhazia of displaced ethnic Georgians, security guarantees for those returnees, or condemning as terrorism a series of ambushes over the past year in which over 30 Abkhaz police officers have been killed. The Abkhaz blame Georgian guerrilla groups, over which the Georgian authorities claim to have no control, for those murders.

The first such UN-sponsored confidence building talks last October in Greece were followed by one-on-one talks between senior Georgian and Abkhaz representatives at which a draft protocol was crafted on the repatriation of ethnic Georgian displaced persons to Abkhazia. It was envisaged that that document would be signed in November at a meeting between Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and Abkhaz leader Vladislav Ardzinba, but that meeting has been repeatedly postponed, and the two sides are apparently no closer to finalizing the text either of that document or of its companion agreement on the non-resumption of hostilities.

Moreover, the escalation of the Kosova crisis and the NATO bombings of Yugoslavia have inspired Georgian politicians to draw comparisons between the two conflicts and to call for a similar "peace-enforcement" operation in Abkhazia to expedite the return of displaced persons as well as for Ardzinba's indictment for ethnic cleansing and genocide. The Abkhaz leader, who attended the Istanbul talks as an observer and hoped to meet on their sidelines with Georgian Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze, rejected any comparison between the deliberate Serbian ethnic cleansing in Kosova and the war in Abkhazia precipitated by Georgian forces' spontaneous and unprovoked invasion in August 1992. Ardzinba added that Abkhazia would be equally justified in accusing Georgian forces of the genocide of thousands of Abkhaz civilians. (Liz Fuller)

Quotations Of The Week. "I came away very reassured that these two very experienced men [Karen Demirchian and Vazgen Sargsian] have a clear vision for the economic and social development of the country," World Bank President James Wolfensohn, speaking in Yerevan on 4 June, quoted by RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau.

"I believe the intensive armament by the Armenian party observed lately is undertaken for the aims of defense." Georgian Deputy Defense Minister Grigol Katamadze, interviewed by Caucasus Press on 2 June.