Concern Over Karabakh Concessions Topic of Yerevan Conference

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–The growing concern over indications from the OSCE Minsk Group that Yerevan and Baku are inching closer to penning an agreement that will require territorial concessions from Nagorno-Karabakh was the topic of a conference in Yerevan on Thursday.

The forum, organized by the Aran’sk analytical center and held in the Yerevan branch of the Narekatsi Educational Foundation, brought political scientists, historians, and Karabakh war veterans together to discuss the implications of the recent surge in diplomatic activity by international mediators working toward a resolution to the longstanding conflict.

The OSCE Minsk Group’s increasing reliance on shuttle diplomacy to bridge the “differences” between Armenia and Azerbaijan was a cause for concern according to the conference participants, General Arkady Ter-Tadevosyan, historian Samvel Karapetyan, and political scientist, Stepan Grigoryan. The panelists also debated the possible consequences that may follow the mediators’ recent string of visits to the South Caucasus, which began in January and resumed again late last week

The U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-heading the OSCE Minsk Group spoke with leaders in Stepanakert on Saturday and Yerevan on Monday, before proceeding to Baku on Tuesday where they already held talks with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev at the start of their latest round of regional shuttle diplomacy late last week.

The three mediators expressed on Tuesday announcing that the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan will meet again in two months and make further progress towards the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The shuttle diplomacy, which picked up pace late last year, around the time Armenia and Turkey began talks on normalizing relations, has analysts in Armenia and the Diaspora concerned, as the mediators hurriedly try to sign a deal with Yerevan and Baku based on terms considered untenable by the people of Nagorno-Karabakh.

“Such a working style is unacceptable,” said Grigoryan, noting that two visits to the region within a month to hasten a resolution hurts the peace process. “I would advice them not to visit the region as frequently and make optimistic statemen’s.”

The upcoming meeting, which the co-chairs said might be held on the sidelines of an EU summit in Prague on May 7, would be the fourth face-to-face meeting between the two countries’ presidents in less than a year. The two presidents met last in January on the sidelines of an international conference in Zurich Switzerland.

The mediators have been sounding positive notes on a “possible breakthrough” throughout their visits, saying they expect the conflicting parties to finalize an agreement on the basic principles of a Karabakh settlement proposed by them “in the nearest future.” These terms for peace, which the Armenian government has almost entirely agreed to, require major territorial concessions to Azerbaijan.

The Madrid Principles, forwarded to the presidents of both countries in November 2007, envisage a progressive return of seven liberated Armenian districts bordering Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan. The plan also places the status of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic in limbo, requiring a future referendum at an unspecified later date to determine the country’s future.

“The slightest change in the current borders will create serious problems,” said Ter-Tadevosyan, a veteran of the Karabakh Liberation war, who lead the campaign to liberate Shushi. “It is not permissible to make any concessions since we have already lost part of Martuni, Artsvashen and other lands, and our concessions already belong to our enemy.”

"Our mistake is that we do not know our motherland well," Karaetyan said. “These are things that weaken our positions, and we should delete the expression “mutual concessions from our brain."

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