BY ARA KHACHTOURIAN
Through their statements, the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen are complicating the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process by inserting provisions that, at this stage of the negotiations, are either impossible to fathom or are a direct effort to appease Azerbaijan, with disregard to the aspirations of the people and government of Artsakh.
At a press conference in Yerevan Monday, the US Co-chairman James Warlick said that a comprehensive resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict would be impossible without solving the “problem of refugees and internally displaced persons,” pledging that he and his Russian and French counterparts will discuss this with the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan during their visit to the region.
Warlick said the co-chairmen are ready to hear from the hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons, and are convinced that their concerns and problems must be addressed in the overall context.
This approach and the discussion of the refugee issue is problematic because it, once again, fails to address the Karabakh conflict from the standpoint of historical realities and imagines a utopian scenario where everyone gets along.
The Armenian refugee problem was created because Azerbaijan butchered Armenians living in Sumgait, Baku, Kirovabad and Shahumian, forcing the survivors to flee for safety in Armenia and elsewhere.
Are the co-chairmen envisioning that Armenians would return to those cities? And will their safety be guaranteed when the tenor of official Baku is so blatantly anti-Armenian?
Or, are the co-chairmen proposing that Azerbaijanis who left Karabakh during the war would return to Artsakh and the surrounding areas liberated during the war, thus eliminating the thorny issue of the demand for Armenian withdrawal from territories?
These announcements surely complicate the peace process, which is already tenuous given Azerbaijan’s continued violation of the cease fire agreement and warmongering. In their capacity as peace brokers the OSCE Co-chairman must, first and foremost, guarantee the safety of the population in the region, which means holding Azerbaijan accountable for its blatant disregard for international norms.
Instead the co-chairmen continue to put forth ideas and issues that downplay the needs of the people of Artsakh and help appease Azerbaijan. By using the same language as official Baku in characterizing certain aspects of the conflict, the co-chairmen are signaling that Armenian lives don’t matter and that a larger geopolitical chess game is being played, as a result of which Azerbaijan will definitely gain dividends.
In their meetings with Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders, the co-chairmen should urge each government to expend resources to provide housing and better living standards for the refugees, rather than waste time discussing the preposterous notion of returning the displaced persons to their points of origin.