The recent meeting of Ilham Aliyev and Serzh Sargsyan was thoroughly prepared by the OSCE Minsk Group mediators, Russian diplomatic staff and President Medvedev personally, and this fact contributed to the optimistic attitude of the experts. Another unprecedented feature in the preparation of this meeting was the direct pressure Washington and Paris decided to exercise in order to persuade the Azerbaijani and Armenian presidents to speed up the negotiation process. Despite all these high expectations the Kazan meeting was fruitless, and the disappointment this caused was even bitterer than after the Astana meeting. For example, in his interview to VK, Azerbaijani MP Rasim Musabekov said that the Kazan negotiations were totally fruitless and failed to meet all the hopes and expectations, so the talks won’t be renewed any time soon.
So what were the reasons for these deplorable results? According to the Armenian foreign minister, Eduard Nalbandyan, Baku is to blame, as Azerbaijani officials refused to sign the principles offered by the mediators. His Azerbaijani counterpart, Elmar Mamedyarov, rejected this statement and emphasized that it is Yerevan that is stalling the work on the creation of basic principles acceptable to all the participants in the conflict.
Mr Mamedyarov also noted that Armenian is demanding impossible concessions from Azerbaijan instead of working on a solution acceptable to both sides, which might indicate that in Kazan the Armenian president proposed exchanging the independent status of Nagorno-Karabakh for other occupied Azerbaijani territories. The Azerbaijani authorities, however, are not inclined even to discuss the issue of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. The Armenian president, on the other hand, is subjected to a considerable deal of pressure from his own government and can’t settle for anything less than sovereign status for Nagorno-Karabakh, stipulated by the Madrid basic principles. Perhaps, the lack of progress in negotiations can be explained by Sargsyan’s weak position, which doesn’t allow him to make any decisions on Nagorno-Karabakh without approval from other political forces of the country.
Nevertheless, the sides confirmed their intention to continue negotiations and said that during the three-hour meeting in Kazan they managed to discuss the most important issues hampering the peace process. Both Armenia and Azerbaijan recognize the importance of Russia’s efforts to mediate the conflict and praise the personal contribution of Dmitry Medvedev. However, Russia also finds itself in a difficult position, as now it has to succeed in the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement, not only to maintain its international prestige, but to obtain the status of exclusive peace mediator for the South Caucasus, a status it lost after the August 2008 war with Georgia. Therefore, Moscow is most interested in the continuation of peace talks under its aegis.
As for the level of possibility of a new armed conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, it didn’t go up or down. Azerbaijan doesn’t hide that it’s accumulating military power to be ready to re-take occupied territories, including Karabakh, but Ilham Aliyev is a sensible politician and will explore all opportunities for a peaceful solution to the problem.
Evgeniy Krishtalev, exclusively to VK