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New Moves To Unfreeze Karabakh

Serzh Sarkisian
Serzh Sarkisian
Another hopeful sign, perhaps, of a thaw in Azerbaijani-Armenian relations and a new impetus to the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process. At a press conference in Yerevan on September 20, Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian told foreign journalists that he had offered the Azerbaijani president the chance to invest in the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

According to a report from the BBC's Azerbaijani service, Sarkisian said that the logic of such an offer is that Karabakh's residents would see that Azerbaijan is interested in their "welfare and future."

Quite how that would benefit Sarkisian or Armenia isn't clear -- surely it wouldn't be in the Armenians' interest to allow Karabakh residents to warm to Azerbaijan, especially if the fate of the region would be left to a referendum? But the Armenian presidential office has since backtracked from Sarkisian's remarks, saying he was misquoted.

To add to the confusion, in a Mediamax report today, Sarkisian is quoted as saying that if there was a referendum there would only be one result: which is that the people of Karabakh would not choose to stay inside Azerbaijan. So some fairly mixed signals here.

Regardless, it is still another positive development in the rapprochement between the two countries, coming on the heels of this month's football diplomacy. There is undoubtedly a good deal of momentum. On September 21, Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan met his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov in New York. And a meeting between the two of them, and the Armenian foreign minister, is scheduled for September 26.

-- Luke Allnutt

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