Russia Rejects Parallels Between South Ossetia, Karabakh

MOSCOW (RFE/RL)–Russia on Thursday firmly rejected parallels between the conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh and South Ossetia and Abkhazia that have been drawn since its controversial decision to recognize the independence of the two breakaway regions.

The move has left observers in Armenia and elsewhere in the region wondering whether Moscow would be prepared to similarly recognize Karabakh’s independence from Azerbaijan.

“There are no parallels between the situation over South Ossetia and Abkhazia on the one side and the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement on the other,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. “In the case of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, [Georgian President Mikheil] Saakashvili’s regime has in recent years consistently sought to undermine all negotiation formats, all settlement mechanisms that had been earlier agreed upon by all parties.”

But in a foreign policy speech on Wednesday, Armenia’s President Serzh Sarkisian made it clear that the West’s recognition of Kosovo and Russia’s recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia have, in fact, set international precedents that apply to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

“Let them repeat that Kosovo is not a precedent, and some may say that Abkhazia and South Ossetia are not precedents either,” he said. “But the fact is that exceptions not considered precedents are beginning to set a pattern for the resolution of such conflicts.”

Moscow claims that it had no choice but to recognize the two regions after Georgia attempted to win back South Ossetia and allegedly wipe out its population last month. Lavrov argued that, by contrast, the parties to the Karabakh dispute have been fully cooperating with a team of American, Russian and French mediators trying to broker a peaceful settlement.

“None of the parties is walking away from the mechanism formed under the auspices of the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group,” he said. “That process is going on. Furthermore, within the framework of that process a serious body of agreed elemen’s of the eventual settlement has been worked out. Work on the remaining several problems is continuing.”

Lavrov spoke at a joint news conference with his Armenian counterpart Eduard Nalbandian held after a meeting in Moscow of the foreign ministers of the six former Soviet republics making up the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Nalbandian, who chaired the meeting, presented a joint statement on the Georgian crisis that was adopted by the ministers.

The statement called for a peaceful resolution of the conflict and endorsed a Russian-Georgian truce agreement brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The CSTO foreign ministers criticized Georgia’s ill-fated military assault on South Ossetia but stopped short of denouncing it as an act of aggression. They also said nothing about the Russian recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

“We are satisfied with the content of this statement,” said Lavrov. “It places the emphases correctly.”

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