Oleg Kuznetsov: "Russia, US and France agree that occupied territories should be returned to Azerbaijan"

Oleg Kuznetsov: "Russia, US and France agree that occupied territories should be returned to Azerbaijan"

The change of American co-chair in the OSCE Minsk Group was accompanied by a detailed statement of Richard Hoagland about the principles of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement, as the United States see them. In his statement, Hoagland stressed that all occupied territories around Karabakh must be returned to Azerbaijan, and sovereignty of the republic over them must be restored. In addition, he stressed that the corridor between Armenia and Karabakh should not cover the entire Lachin district, which will also be controlled by Baku. Political consultant, candidate of historical sciences Oleg Kuznetsov discussed the meaning of this statement and whether it maches Russian position on the Karabakh problem in an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza.

- How does this statement characterize American position on the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement - did Washington begin to insist on real steps to resolve the conflict? Do you think that Hoagland's principles correspond to Russia's position, which supports territorial integrity of Azerbaijan?

- I think Americans officially announced an absolutely realistic approach to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement (I wouldn't even call it a conflict - it is a war between two states that lasts more than 25 years). Americans began to understand that today's situation is completely different from how they viewed it more than 20 years ago, when Monte Melkonian, who was American citizen and intelligence officer, led several units of foreign military mercenaries (international terrorists, according to Russian legislation), who fought against the Soviet Interior Ministry's troops and units of Azerbaijan's national army. Current situation in Karabakh made America finally understand that it is necessary to support the Azerbaijani side.

Although latest statement says nothing fundamentally new regarding liberation of the occupied territories, there's an important change: The US State Department now insists that liberation of these areas is a necessary condition to begin negotiation process. Previously, America insisted that only five districts should be liberated, and now it is a starting point for the peace talks.

- What can make modern Washington pay more attention to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?

- The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is a peripheral problem for the United States, it does not concern them personally. Moreover, the US are not directly involved in this conflict. But at the same time, they use it to promote their foreign policy goals and interests. Any option that involves the United States in the conflict settlement process will help the US. The only thing that can be unacceptable for America is if it's initiatives will be completely ignored, but large international players are ready to take its opinion into account, because it coincides with their opinion.Russia and the US still disagree over the details of the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement, and France is waiting for Moscow and Washington to finally agree, and then Paris will adjust its position. It will take certain amount of time, most likely until the end of this year. Russia, the United States and France currently have the same basic positions: occupied regions of Azerbaijan around occupied Karabakh should be liberated immediately, and negotiations will begin only after that. Once details of their positions will be agreed on, it will be possible to talk about a new stage in the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. 

- Should we expect more active diplomatic work of the OSCE Minsk Group in this case?

- The Minsk Group is a negotiation platform, accepted by everyone, and as long as Armenia or Azerbaijan accept the OSCE Minsk Group as a mediator, this platform will continue to exist even if it does not correspond to certain interests.On the other hand, the Minsk Group is a group of diplomats from third states, who watch over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, in other words, officials in the diplomatic missions, who represent interests of their states. If positions of the co-chairing countries of the Minsk Group will be the same, the Minsk Group, like any other instrument, will act more effectively. The question is - how will they use this instrument.

- Hoagland also said about the need to ensure international security guarantees and provide peacekeeping measures. Does this mean that the US proposes to deploy a peacekeeping mission in the conflict zone?

- The United States can easily propose to deploy a peacekeeping mission, but the main question is - are there any forces and resources for this. Technically, it will take just 1 or 2 days in order to do this. But this has not happened over the past 25 years, so there was never true political will of any state outside the South Caucasus to do so. So yes, peacekeeping mission can be deployed, but Hoagland's words don't mean that it will happen.