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'Moscow Declaration' A Victory For Armenia

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (right) with his counterparts from Armenia, Serzh Sarkisian (center), and Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (right) with his counterparts from Armenia, Serzh Sarkisian (center), and Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev.
The Declaration On Regulating the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict signed by the presidents of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia following their talks in Moscow on November 2 can be regarded as a victory for Armenia in three key respects.

First, the three presidents reaffirmed their shared commitment to seeking a political solution to the conflict "on the basis of the norms and principles of international law and of the decisions and documents adopted within that framework," and with the stated objective of "creating a more healthy situation in the South Caucasus."

In other words, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, who has previously warned on numerous occasions that if mediation by the Minsk Group, created by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE), fails to yield a solution to the conflict, Azerbaijan will have no option but to resort to the use of military force to bring Nagorno-Karabakh under the control of the central government, has formally pledged not to begin a new war.

Second, the declaration stresses the importance of the ongoing mediation effort by the OSCE Minsk Group, and specifically of the so-called Madrid Principles, the basic blueprint for resolving the conflict.

In other words, the declaration effectively precludes any effort by Turkey to promote an alternative peace proposal that might be more in line with Azerbaijan's vision of the optimal solution than are the Madrid Principles. Visiting Yerevan two months ago, Turkish President Abdullah Gul affirmed Turkey's readiness to "assist" in resolving the Karabakh conflict.

And third, the three presidents agreed that the search for a peaceful solution should be accompanied by "legally binding international guarantees of all its aspects and stages."

From Yerevan's viewpoint, the primary weakness of the so-called Madrid Principles is that they require Armenia to relinquish its most important bargaining chip and withdraw from the seven districts of Azerbaijan bordering on Nagorno-Karabakh that it currently controls before any decision has been made on the future status of the unrecognized republic vis-a-vis the central Azerbaijani government in Baku. That issue is to be decided by means of a referendum that may not take place until years after the Armenian withdrawal.

'Confidence-Building Measures'

Many Armenians are therefore concerned that, having regained control of the seven districts, the Azerbaijani government might then block the holding of the planned referendum.

The Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun threatened on October 31 to quit the coalition government if President Serzh Sarkisian betrays "national interests" by agreeing to cede the occupied territories. One day earlier, on October 30, a group of prominent Armenian intellectuals and public figures announced the launch of a new movement, named Unification National Initiative, that will similarly actively oppose any territorial concessions to Azerbaijan.

The proposed "legally binding international guarantees" are presumably intended to prevent any such perfidy on Baku's part, and thus reduce domestic political pressure on Sarkisian. The final point of the declaration similarly stresses the importance of "confidence-building measures."

The international guarantees would presumably also encompass commitments by various states to provide international peacekeepers to be deployed in the seven liberated districts and the strategic Lachin corridor linking Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, too, can be pleased with the outcome of the November 2 talks, insofar as the declaration affirms a commitment by Russia to a positive role, promoting peace and stability in the South Caucasus in the wake of the August war with Georgia.

RFE/RL Caucasus Report

RFE/RL Caucasus Report

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