Oskanian Says Armenia Must Raise the Bar in Karabakh Talks

01YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian urged the Armenian government to raise the bar in its negotiations around the Karabakh conflict resolution, saying current policies fundamentally differ from that of his administration.

Oskanian said that the position of the Kocharian administration, under which he served as foreign minister, were based on national interests, arguing that he and his ministry had raised the bar high.

Within the same context, Oskanian said that the opposition should focus the debate on the level of the bar set by the authorities in the talks.

“Today their task must be to clarify what the bar set by the authorities is,” he said. “Our bar was set high. I have many doubts about today’s bar,” he added.

“Azerbaijan says whatever it wants. [Minsk Group US Co-Chair Matthew] Bryza talks about the return of six to seven territories. [Azeri President Ilham] Aliyev rejects Nagorno-Karabakh’s independence and our leaders are silent. This is the concern,” explained Oskanian saying that the public and the opposition should concern themselves with this issue.

The most fundamental issue, Oskanian said, is where that bar is set today.

In discussing the so-called Madrid principles, based on which the current talks are being guided, Oskanian said that of all the earlier proposals, those principles were the most favorable for Armenia, pending the proper course of discussion on the details of the provisions.

“Whereas in the past we were offered at worst a high degree of [Karabakh’s] autonomy within Azerbaijan and at best horizontal ties between Azerbaijan and Karabakh within the framework of a common state, the Madrid principles … provide for the self-determination of the Nagorno-Karabakh people, which obviously means Nagorno-Karabakh’s independence or reunification with Armenia,” said Oskanian.

“I am convinced that if we let slip this recognition of the Nagorno-Karabakh people’s right to self-determination, it will be very difficult to gain it again in the future and the negotiations could go in a totally different direction and they could start upholding [Azerbaijan’s] territorial integrity,” he said.

He explained the Madrid points were based on four principles: the status of Nagorno-Karabakh; the return of territories; resettlement of refugees; and international security guarantees. Oskanian stressed that any future processes or documents would also be based on the aforementioned four points, warning that the abandonment of these points as a basis to any negotiations would bring back other principles which envisioned Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan with no land route to Armenia.

“If the Armenian side wants to exclude the issues of return of territories, return of [Azeri] refugees from future principles and be guided by the principle of ‘not a single inch of land to the enemy,’ which would be a wonderful solution, then Armenia or Nagorno-Karabakh or both of them should pull out of the negotiations,” he said. “If we are to negotiate, these principles will always be on the table.”

He emphasized that the key to the success of the talks was the approach to the finite details of the principles and how well the Armenia side is able to maneuver the details in the process.

Oskanian also discussed Armenia-Turkey relations and the so-called “roadmap” agreement, saying “Turkey has gotten from this Turkish-Armenian process what it wanted. The Armenian side has not gained anything yet.”

Oskanian was unimpressed by President Serzh Sarkisian’s recent announcement that he will not travel to Turkey this October for the return match of the two countries’ national soccer match unless Ankara takes “real steps” to reopen the Turkish-Armenian border. He said Sarkisian should have made a more explicit linkage between the visit and an open border.

“He left the window open,” said Oskanian. “I think that’s what the Turks want … I just don’t know when our authorities will finally realize that the Turkish side is exploiting the process. They should have realized that a long time ago.”


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  1. John Keusseyan said:

    I agree with Mr. Oskanian one hundred percent. What does “real steps” mean? He should have said, our agreement was to reopen the border without preconditions period (if this was the case).

  2. Haro said:

    Again, we have been through this issue a dozen times now.
    It is a strategic goal for Armenians to keep the west borders closed, including the 7 km border between Nakhichevan and Turkey. Please, keep them closed, with a Chinese Wall if possible. Instead work on normalizing relations with Georgia, as well as Georgia and Russia. There is no other alternative for Armenia at this junction of the geopolitical history.
    In other words, if we cannot normalize our relations with our brothers, the Georgians, how do you expect to normalize our relations with an arch-foe, namely the Turks.

  3. Samvel Jeshmaridian said:

    Vartan Oskanyan, a multi-respected Former Foreign Minister, is correctly explaining the so-called SWAT — strengths, weaknesses, advantages, and threats — in a job he has completed with honor, doing all the commands, instructions, and requests of his even more multi-respected boss. Understanding and following the principles of Oskanyan’s bar theory is encouraging and I guess the only way out of this hard situation.

  4. Alec Baghdasaryan said:

    I am certain that the leaders of Minsk group and other international community are monitoring each countries position toward this conflict and are partly forming their opinion about what is possible, based on the position/comments of each country. Given this, I believe the bar does need to get set very high, and our views need to get expressed firmly. Absence of comments directed toward Azeri statements may be viewed as an indication of Armenia and Karabakh government’s acceptance of the Azeri position. Armenia is dealing with Turkey on one side, and sadly witnessing how Turkey is able to manipulate US and other country leaders by playing its strategic position card; and dealing with Azerbaijan on the other side and witnessing how because of its natural resources has become the favorite of Queen of England to President of Israel.

  5. David said:

    Mr. Oskanian, who was not able to solve the Artsakh issue when he was Foreign Minister for many years, now comes along and tells us that Armenia must raise the bar.

    To what level, may we ask, or is this just another of those non-specific, nice-sounding ideas that former officials the world over like to throw out from time to time?

    Mr. Oskanian, who apparently wants to be president someday, tells us that “the Madrid principles … provide for the self-determination of the Nagorno-Karabakh people, which obviously means Nagorno-Karabakh’s independence or reunification with Armenia.”

    It means no such thing. It could, instead, mean that RNK’s self-determination would be limited to determining its status within – note the word “within” – Azerbaijan itself. Who, may we ask, is to eventually cast a vote to decide RNK’s status? If it is all of RNK’s Armenian population plus all of Azerbaijan’s population (even with the addition of former Armenian citizens of Azerbaijan), then we know who would win: Azeris.

    They would obviously decide that Karabagh would stay within Azerbaijan. There is nothing that I have seen made public that in any way spells out how a referendum over Karabagh would be conducted and who would be allowed to vote.

    Mr. Oskanian also says that if Armenians do not want to compromise on the territories outside RNK proper, and other issues, then “Armenia or Nagorno-Karabakh or both of them should pull out of the negotiations.”

    I have some sad news for Mr. Oskanian: RNK is NOT part of the negotiations at all right now. Armenia is negotiating on behalf of RNK, and RNK is merely consulted. This is well-known. If Azerbaijan is sincere about self-determination, why does it repeatedly say that Karabagh will never be independent or separate from Azerbaijan and why will it not negotiate directly with RNK elected officials?

    That does not bode well for RNK’s self-determination in the future. I think that Mr. Oskanian is going to have to answer the points above and be a lot more specific as what the policy of Armenians should be. “Raise the bar” just doesn’t hack it.

  6. dro said:

    The position of Armenia should be power not concessions. First of all we won the war and Azerbaijan capitulated in not all aspects. Second, I agree with Mr. Oskanyan–we should not even negotiate if the Madrid principles do not clearly envision free NKR and set date , and all these are done before talking about returning any lands.
    In short, Mr SARGISYAN your position should be —Armenia pulls out if NKR’s independence is not envisioned in the principles with a set date of referendum.

  7. Haro said:

    I agree with David entirely, there is nothing for Armenians in OSCE, EU or USA. They love Turks very much for a lot of strategic reasons. But they don’t understand what really being Armenian means? Armenia is just 3% the geopolitical strength compared with combined republics of Turks, and is still holding NATO in check (so to speak). Imagine if Armenia was 25% what would be the situation in Anatolia.
    My brethren, Armenians, don’t underestimate your power, forget these so called OSCE, EU and other international diplomatic nuisances, and concentrate on strategic constructive goals. Get out of this “Armenia and Turkey Normalization” fool’s play, and fix and strengthen the tie between the population of the northern neighbors. Becoming a mediator come up with an North Caucasian alliance that will normalize the brotherhood of the Caucasian peoples, e.g. Abkhas, Georgian, Osets, Laz, Aghuans, Talish and Russians. Form a defense federation line if possible before it’s too late. Otherwise, first the Georgians will disappear or be assimilated by the Turks, and then the Armenians.
    On the other hand, any strategic new plan by Turks and NATO will only introduce another war between Russia and Georgia. And this time it will assimilate Georgians for good (by NATO and Turks in the south-west and Russians in the north-east). US and NATO very much want such wars between old friends, it’s part of their “divide and conquer” plan. They don’t give a damn about Georgians or Armenians, all they want is to weaken Russia.

  8. Gayane said:

    David made few good points…

    It is unfortunate that everything that our government is basing on is on vague grounds.. Nothing concrete, nothing firm, nothing specific and nothing promising..

    That is what makes these negotiations, roadmaps, meetings free of essense, free of backbone and who wants to rely on these types of matters? NO ONE..

    RNK is being played and voted on without them being part of all that.. what is that tells you? are we completely lost our minds? WE I mean our government officials.. what is the hidden agenda behind all this circus? what is the purpose of all this silent?

    One needs to question the: is our government going to stand up once and for all and demand what is ours and never step back from that demand? or is our government going to be the coward body of individuals and give away our county with a flip of a pen..

    Right now, it does not look that great..


  9. Armen said:

    No mater what everyone says, at his terms He was smart enough, not to give up back an inch of Armenian liberated lands, to be reoccupied by Azeri Turks .

  10. Donabed said:

    I do not like the fact that Oskanian’s “Civilitas Foundation” is funded in part by the British and Swiss governments. Don’t believe me? See here: http://www.civilitasfoundation.org/cf/partners.html.

    There is a saying: “He who pays, plays.” In other words, follow the money.

    Take a look at Harut Sassouian’s column today (it’s printed in Asbarez) about the huge errors the Armenian Foreign Ministry has made, past and present. It is titled “Are Armenia’s Policies Making Turkey Stronger?”

    Keep in mind that Mr. Oskanian was Foreign Minister for many years and is thus responsible for many of those mistakes. Now Mr. Oskanian’s organization is taking money from the Brits (genocide deniers) and the Swiss (who helped to create the recent disastrous “Roadmap” between Armenia and Turkey), at the behest of the U.S. (You don’t really believe that the Swiss thought this up on their own, do you?)

    I say it again: “He who pays, plays.”

    I would like to see Armenian American media delve into money trails, and not just Oskanian’s.
    Is that too much to ask?

  11. Pingback: Oskanian Says Armenia Must Raise the Bar in Karabakh Talks … | azerbaijantoday

  12. katia k said:

    If the Azeris and Turks have the gull to defend and parade as their own, land acquired by Genocide and Stalinian “divide and conquer” rewards, why can’t we summon the courage to stand up and defend what is truly and legally ours? This shy and guilty stance that the Armenian government is upholding is not helping Karabakh, is frustrating the Diaspora, and saddest of all, it is wasting a unique opportunity to tell Europe, the US, and Russia that it is enough what they have done to us in order to secure their own individual interests! Karabakh’s Independence needs to be recognized by all. There has to be a corridor linking it to homeland Armenia. Turkey massacred 1.5 million of our people and took our lands, and it needs to pay BEFORE relationships are normalized. Opening of the borders will enhance the markets of Turkish products more than Armenian products. It will also offer Turkey a golden opportunity to infiltrate our homeland and do irreversable damage if it so pleases. The borders should open WHEN WE ARE READY. In the mean time we need to enhance our alliances with the northern regions.

    In this “Roadmap” of a trap, Turkey wants to secure for its blood brother Azerbaijan, the historical Armenian lands of Artsakh, is forcing the hand of the Armenian Government to agree to a “Historians Commission” which will find the Armenian Genocide “INCONCLUSIVE”, and worst of all by opening its so called “borders” it is cornering Armenia to acknowledge those borders as “legal”! BOY, THEY ARE SO SMART! They are playing hard ball, and if we fall for all this insanity, WE WILL HELP TURKEY PUT THE FINAL NAIL IN THE COFFIN of all our historical lands, archeological treasures, history, 1.5 million civilian lives and properties, and come out scot free with no reparations to pay and absolutely nothing to lose but everythin to gain, “legally” this time… RAISING THE BAR?

    The Turkish borders should stay closed!!! Those are illegal, historically unofficialized borders. The “real” Armenian-Turkish borders start at the old province of Sivas, and they were drawn by President Woodraw Wilson himself at the Sevres Treaty, and they included the six historical Armenian provinces in Turkey. It is so touching to see the US and Europe join Turkey in acknowledging the “territorial integrity” of Azerbaijan, What about the “integrity” of the Armenian territories? Karabagh has always been an Armenian territory. Why can’t we shout that out loud? They are calling us “occupiers” when the land is ours! RAISING THE BAR? The Bar is at the hands of the powers of the world and they can do whatever they please with it. If you have “things” to offer them, the bar goes as low as allowing you to wipe out an entire nation, take their lands and draw your own borders. You can follow all the “legal” routes you like, and apply for self-determination using “their” democratic rules, they will still not recognize your independence because it does not suit them.

    It is time we take a hold of the BAR of our destinity. We need to sit down together, Armenia, Diaspora and Artzakh and decide what “roadmap” suits us. Let’s meet with each other first, before we meet with others and fall in their traps. WE COME FIRST, and WE SHOULD ONLY RELY ON OURSELVES.

  13. Apo said:

    The billions of $ spent by the diaspora to develop Armenia should have at least encouraged pro-armenian policies.

    Armenia nowadays seems to try to get rid of the armenian genocide issue, invariably called a “precondition”, to please all the gurgling folks of the world.

    The armenian diaspora is today faced with the turkish denial of the armenian genocide and Armenia’s denial of Western Armenia and the genocide issue. Thanks, Armenia, but one denial is enough!

  14. Gayane said:

    Katia said what every ARmenian know but does not do…I agree with you Katia 110%..

    It is time we take a hold of the BAR of our destinity. We need to sit down together, Armenia, Diaspora and Artzakh and decide what “roadmap” suits us. Let’s meet with each other first, before we meet with others and fall in their traps. WE COME FIRST, and WE SHOULD ONLY RELY ON OURSELVES.