A Dangerous Approach to Karabakh Peace

Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan has been working to link the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations

The Turkish Hurriyet Daily reported Tuesday that Armenia and Azerbaijan had reached a partial agreement on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The newspaper alleged that the agreement was a result of Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan’s shuttle diplomacy with his Armenian and Azeri counterparts and the new peace plan would be mediated by Turkey.

This prompted both the Turkish and Armenian foreign ministries to refute the Hurrieyt report.

“No negotiations have taken place on the Karabakh issue with Turkey,” said Tigran Balayan Wednesday in response to an Itar-Tass reporter’s inquiry on the Hurriyet report.

“As Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandyan has stated on numerous occasions, the negotiations over the Nagorno Karabakh conflict resolution are taking place with the mediation of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs on the basis of the Madrid principles,” added Balayan.

Meanwhile, a spokesman from the Turkish Foreign Ministry said Wednesday Turkey is not included in a solution plan to the issue, though it is an issue that concerns the country.

"There is no discussion of Turkey’s inclusion in a Nagorno-Karabakh plan. We are just gathering information from both sides," Burak Ozugergin told the Anatolian News Agency.

No word yet from Azerbaijan.

What is most disturbing in the Hurriyet piece is the allegation that Armenia will return some of the towns surrounding the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic to Azerbaijan in a specific timetable and repatriate Azeris who were forced to leave the regions. Furthermore, Hurriyet reports that the administration of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic will be handed to a provisional body and Kelbajar will be returned to Azerbaijan after the status of the region is determined. Hurriyet adds that the railroad and highway between Azerbaijan and Armenia will be opened, while an international peace force will be deployed at the border region between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.

Hurriyet still prominently featured this piece Thursday with the original headline of “Azerbaijan-Armenia agree on Turkey-led Nagorno-Karabakh plan," matter of factly updating the piece to include the Turkish and Armenian commen’s about the story.

Is this a classic case of Turkey’s and Azerbaijan’s continued misinformation campaign or is it a new–and dangerous–diplomatic approach to the Karabakh peace process? The elemen’s allegedly agreed upon with Babacan reek of the Turko-Azeri wish list for Karabakh.

It is not the first time that the Turkish or Azeri media have reported on the aftermath of talks between the foreign ministers in an exaggerated and sensationalist manner warranting further comment or explanation by government officials. This is not the Fourth Estate watching over the government, but, perhaps, a concerted effort aimed at fanning the flames of an already volatile situation in an effort to derail talks and shift the focus of the discussion.

There are stakeholders in the Karabakh peace process who have a lot to gain from undermining the current process and they operate by leaking and disclosing bits of information out of context to shift the focus.

On the other hand, if the points highlighted in the Hurriyet report are even being discussed by the parties to the conflict then it might be time to rethink the so-called Madrid principles, which from day one have been shrouded in secrecy. Those points are dangerous, objectionable and unacceptable and will only further exacerbate the conflict and its resolution process.

This is a dangerous precedent and one that has to be vocally and adamantly countered by, to begin with, Armenia’s Foreign Ministry as well as all stakeholders who are interested in a peaceful and just resolution to the Karabakh conflict. This would require an immediate and more transparent accounting of meetings and discussions in order to impede efforts by others to disrupt the current process

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