Oskanian Speaks at National Assembly Hearings on Karabagh

YEREVAN (Yerkir)–Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian on Tuesday made a statement at the Armenian National Assembly’s Foreign Relations Committee hearings on resolving the Mountainous Karabagh conflict. Below is an excerpt of his statement:

"I welcome this opportunity to discuss aloud and together the history–development–present situation–and future prospects for the resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh issue. I believe that such joint–public explorations are useful and should facilitate a healthy civic debate on premises and prospects–always with the purpose clearly in mind: that what we seek is a peaceful–lasting resolution to this conflict.

I’ve looked at the agenda of these two days–the topics and speakers are diversified and reflect varying political perspectives and political forces. Such a diversified spectrum will provide us with a better picture of the range of opinions in our republic on this issue.

I will try to be as open as possible–to present not just Armenia’s position–but also our take on those international situations and events which may affect the Nagorno Karabakh process–our perception of the adversary’s views–and also the evolution and dynamics of the resolution process.

Really–we must understand the dynamics and evolution of the process if we are to understand our situation today and the choices before us.

Let me break down the NK process into stages during which both the format and nature of the negotiations evolved–as did the content of the discussions.

This most recent phase became a conflict–when–in 1988–Azerbaijan used force to respond to peaceful demonstrations and deman’s–thus resulting in military activities. During those early years–there were various incongruent–uncoordinated–random–impulsive efforts at mediation from within the former soviet space. These efforts did not turn into a coherent process–however–and no documen’s were produced.

In 1992–the resolution process became internationalized. The Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe–of which both Armenia and Azerbaijan were members–took a decision to resolve the issue of Nagorno Karabakh’s status through a conference in Minsk. As a result–the CSCE Minsk process was born–with the participation of Nagorno Karabakh.

The Russian Federation continued to remain engaged–often competing with the Minsk Group. At the same time–the conflict itself extended beyond the borders of Nagorno Karabakh–when as a result of Azerbaijan’s aggression–Armenian forces were compelled to bring certain territories under Armenian control–for the purpose of assuring Nagorno Karabakh’s security. By May 1994–there was a mutually agreed upon ceasefire–and therefore–a halt to military activities.

As military activities ceased–the OSCE–at a Summit in Budapest–harmonized the various negotiation tracks. They created the Minsk Group co-chairs structure–formalized the negotiation process–and put an end to competition among the various mediators. Thus the end of militarization coincided with the creation of a mechanism for serious negotiations.

This cycle of negotiations that has now gone on for over a decade–can be divided into 4 stages: the first stage began with the OSCE Budapest Summit and ended with the OSCE Lisbon Summit; the second stage covered the post-Lisbon period through the change of presidential administration in Armenia; the third stage stretched to the death of Father Aliyev; and the fourth stage is the one we’re in now–that started with the change of administration in Azerbaijan.

Despite Azerbaijan’s engagement–and the efforts of the sides to search for an acceptable resolution of the issue–Azerbaijan continues to attempt to simultaneously introduce the Nagorno Karabakh issue in those international forums which continue to abide by a traditional–conservative approach to the issues of territorial integrity and self-determination.

Their answer to claims of self-determination is simply greater human rights and certain economic benefits. This approach ignores a great many factors including the role of history in shaping of one’s identity and destiny.

Today–everyone recognizes that these principles cannot be universally applied–that there are places in the world where more acceptable solutions can and are being found–and states–new and old– continue to live in new relationships to each other. In our time–we have witnessed East Timor’s independence through referendum–we witnessed the signing of an agreement in Sudan putting an end to a decades-old conflict on the basis of the notion of referendum to be held in one portion of the country in six years.

We are all following serious deliberations about the possibility of a referendum to determine Kosovo’s status. Among the political–legal–academic experts working in and around those places–there is a growing awareness of the possibility and reality of recognizing the right of self-determination in certain circumstances.

In all cases–one must judge existing self-determination struggles each on its own merits–each in terms of its own historical–legal circumstances–as well as the realities on the ground.

As such–we can divide today’s self-determination conflicts into four types determined by the combination of degree of control the state exercises over its entire territory (including the territory occupied by those striving for self-determination) and the degree of self-determination achieved by them.

Quebec–for example–falls in Category I. In this case–the territorial integrity of Canada is preserved–while the province of Quebec has voted to remain part of Canada; that is–they have exercised their right to self-determination.

The overwhelming majority of today’s secessionists fall in Category II–where the movemen’s struggle without any degree of self-determination and the state continues to fully control the territory under question. The Kurdish people’s struggle in Turkey falls into this second category.

Those in Category III are the borderline cases where the state is not able to control those desiring self-determination–while they themselves are not strong enough to maintain control over their territory with any certainty of permanence–and the outcome can go either way.

Today–Nagorno Karabakh falls in a completely different–fourth–category. Azerbaijan has no control whatsoever over those territories–as Nagorno Karabakh has enjoyed–for the last 15 years–all the attributes of complete sovereignty. In this case–to attempt to win over the people of Nagorno Karabakh by enticing them with human rights and economic advantages in order to attempt to return them to Azerbaijani jurisdiction–is a simply senseless exercise.

Azerbaijan’s new authorities are having a hard time coming to terms with these indisputable realities. Clear-cut–categoric changes are obvious in their approach to negotiations and the search for a resolution. Worse–and more worrisome–there are new myths and premises –public and official–on which their positions are being constructed.

First–they have convinced themselves that the essence of the issue is the issue of their territories. When this conflict began–there were no territories outside Nagorno Karabakh under Armenian control.

Those territories came under Armenian control because not only was there not an agreement on Nagorno Karabakh’s status–but also because Azerbaijan saw the solution in cleansing Nagorno Karabakh of all Armenia’s. Therefore–the solution today necessarily revolves around the determination of Nagorno Karabakh’s status–and continued control over those territories guaranteeing the security of the Armenia’s of Nagorno Karabakh.

Second–they want to believe that if they do not receive their maximum deman’s through negotiations–they can always resort to military solutions. It is obvious that it has not been possible nor will it be possible to conclusively resolve this issue militarily. In order for a successful military solution–arms and munitions are not sufficient against the people of Nagorno Karabakh who are defending their own homes and hearth. Azerbaijan must succeed in ethnically cleansing Nagorno Karabakh of all Armenia’s.

Under today’s circumstances–that is simply not possible. This has been proven impossible in Serbia–for example–where the former authorities nearly succeeded in their efforts at ethnic cleansing using military might. But today–they are standing trial for their crimes–and the right of the people of Kosovo to self-determination is on the table.

Third–Azerbaijan thinks that time is on their side. Of course–the obvious reason for this is their confidence in future oil revenues to enhance their military capacity.

This is the greatest deception–because time is not guaranteed to work in favor of any one side. Further–international tendencies today are moving towards reinforcing the right to self-determination. The longer that Nagorno Karabakh maintains its de-facto independence–it will be that much harder to reverse the wheel of history.

Fourth–they think that an isolated Armenia will be economically unable to sustain its positions–and will sooner or later agree to serious concessions. This is in itself a faulty assumption–because it is the people of Nagorno Karabakh who must first agree to concessions.

Additionally–a people who lived through the deprivations and hardships of the last decade and a half have demonstrated that they can do so again if it is life and liberty that is at stake. On the contrary–both in Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh–the societies have gone past survival–and are recording economic growth.

Finally–Azerbaijan has convinced itself that by presenting Armenia as aggressor–it will become possible through resolutions in international organizations to force Armenia’s to capitulate. However–Armenia’s have succeeded in consistently demonstrating that Azerbaijan is a victim of its own aggression and that today’s situation is a consequence of that aggression.

If those territories must be returned to assure Nagorno Karabakh’s security and future–that is possible. If those territories must be kept in order to assure Nagorno Karabakh’s security and future–that–too–is possible. The purpose is security and self-determination and not territories.

To conclude–the point is the solution will not be found through military action–it will not be found through the creation of documen’s and resolutions in international forums–nor can there be a solution imposed on the sides from the outside. The only way to a solution is to demonstrate political will–to sit and discuss openly and honestly–by embracing realistic positions.

Armenia remains faithful to its initial premises that there cannot be a vertical link between Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karabakh–that it must have a geographic link with Armenia–and that the security of the people of Nagorno Karabakh must be assured.

Today–for us–the basis of the resolution–is the affirmation of the right of the people of Nagorno Karabakh to self-determination and the international recognition of that right. Azerbaijan’s simply accepting this fact–and its formalization in an agreement–will make possible the start of a resolution of the matter–and the elimination of the consequences of the conflict.


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