Kocharian advocates for “Package Deal”

YEREVAN (Iravoonk)–Armenian Prime Minister Robert Kocharian–during a press conference with Russian reporters published Friday in Iravoonk Weekly in Armenia–advocated for the "package deal" approach to peace in the Karabakh conflict–warning that the phased or "step-by-step" approach would endanger Karabakh and provide Azerbaijan with the political ammunition to pressure Karabakh and its population.

The prime minister also stated that the phased approach to peace would allow Azerbaijan the opportunity to resolve its issues at the beginning of the talks–and later abandon all interest in the Karabakh question.

The phased and "package" approaches have been hot topics of debate in recent weeks–following a press conference and subsequent article by Levon Ter-Petrosyan advocating for the "phased" approach to the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The phased approach–proposed by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Minsk Group–calls for the immediate withdrawal of Karabakh forces from the so-called "occupied territories," following which the talks would focus on the status of the Nagorno- Karabakh Republic. The OSCE envisions that Karabakh would remain under Azeri rule with what is being billed as "extensive autonomy."

The "package deal" approach would involve the discussion of all issues regarding the Karabakh conflict all at once–with the status of Karabakh to be determined first–following which all other aspects of the question would be addresses.

Kocharian pointed out that in adhering to the phased approach– the current status quo–by which a cease fire has been in effect for three years–would be jeopardized and the balance would shift. He illustrated by stressing that Karabakh–which is deemed the victor in the war–would now lose all it had gained through blood –a concept which–Kocharian says–was unacceptable.

He also stated that following the proposed withdrawal from the so-called occupied territories–the plan did not guarantee Azerbaijan’s adherence or commitment to continuing the peace talks–since the first step of the phased version–would grant Azerbaijan the upper hand in the situation.

The "package deal," Kocharian explained–provides the sides with a clear perspective on what they will have to gain or concede and provides an objective approach to conflict resolution.

"However–currently–Karabakh–which emerged the victor in the war–is placed in a position to constantly concede something to the losing side–without a clear outlook [of thing to come]. Not seeing to what end these concessions serve–the Karabakh side–naturally–will not agree to any concessions," said Kocharian.

The prime minister also called natural the approach whereby any and all proposals which emanate from Azeri oil interests–would be rejected.

"It is unacceptable to bog down the peace talks with oil interest considerations–and at the same time use Karabakh as a pawn in establishing dialogue with superpower states. When that approach becomes blatantly apparent in the suggested peace proposals–then Karabakh has no other choice but to reject," explained Kocharian.

He added that only the sides to the conflict could decide their own fates.

Kocharian also said that in 1994–immediately following the cease-fire–the climate for a settlement was more ripe that today

"It became evident later–however–that there were new deals– new interests based on which new hopes were borne for Azerbaijan," said Kocharian adding that the current deadlock in the talks was the direct result of the mediators’ posturings.

The prime minister also warned that in the event of adhering to the phased approach–Azerbaijan would push to acquire Shoushi and Lachin–an issue which could either restart the war (which would impair international opinion regarding Azerbaijan) or continue the blockade of Armenia and Karabakh.

Kocharian also explained that there were no mechanisms in place for Armenia to pressure Karabakh into changing its position.

"Such pressures may only be applied through the support of the overwhelming majority of the population–which–every politician in Armenia knows–that it would not be supported if economic or political pressures are exerted on Karabakh," explained Kocharian.

The prime minister also stressed that the railroad leading to the Georgian city of Poti was being used not to its fullest capabilities–only 20 percent. He added that a new cargo terminal being constructed at Zvartnots airport with a capability of handling more than 80,000 metric tons of cargo.

Kocharian–obviously commenting on remarks by Ter-Petrosyan that the Karabakh conflict was the cause for Armenia’s economic woes– explained that the issue of the blockade mainly focused on the border with Armenia and Turkey.

"I cannot say that the blockade is the only obstacle for our economic development," said Kocharian.

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