Kocharian Hopes for Karabagh Deal Speaks to Putin about Meeting

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenian President Robert Kocharian said Wednesday that there is still a chance for a resolution to the Karabagh conflict.

Kocharian warned at the same time that Azerbaijan’s refusal to make major concessions could lead Armenia to formally recognize the self-proclaimed Mountainous Karabagh Republic (MKR) as an independent state.

"We will continue to negotiate," he told Armenian and Karabagh state televisions. "The [upcoming] meeting of the Foreign ministers [of Armenia and Azerbaijan] will clarify at what tempo."

"I think that there is still a chance for moving forward," he said.

But Kocharian added that the Armenian side should be prepared for a "worst-case scenario," whereby Armenia would recognize the MKR "de jure," formalize its "responsibility for the security of the Karabagh people," and "reinforce the security zone" around the disputed enclave. He said that will happen if Baku continues to reject any peace that would not restore Azeri control over Karabagh and drags out the negotiating process in the hope of converting its soaring oil revenues into military superiority.

Commenting for the first time on his February 10-11 talks with Aliyev at Rambouillet castle near Paris–Kocharian argued that it is widely seen as a failure because of "excessive expectations" fueled by international mediators in the weeks preceding the summit. He said although the two leaders were "quite close" to cutting a framework peace deal–they could not agree on one unspecified "important principle" of the conflict’s resolution.

The future of the peace process will be discussed next week in Washington by the French–Russian–and American co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. The meeting is expected to be followed by talks between the Armenian and Azeri foreign ministers. In addition–Russia’signaled last week its intention to make a separate push for a Karabagh breakthrough–with President Vladimir Putin saying during a visit to Baku that he will soon invite Kocharian to Moscow for "consultations" on the problem.

Kocharian revealed that he and Putin had a phone conversation immediately after the latter’s return from Baku but did not agree to any dates for their proposed meeting to discuss Karabagh. In his words–while in Baku–Putin "sincerely" felt that he is one step away from brokering peace in Karabagh.

Kocharian was also asked to comment on the Karabagh Armenia’s’ growing frustration with their exclusion from Armenian-Azeri peace talks which led MKR President Arkady Ghukasian to call for Yerevan’s withdrawal from further negotiations. While admitting that the MKR’s involvement in the peace process has been "asymmetrical and not full-fledged," Kocharian insisted that Yerevan has proved able to "protect the interests of the Armenian side much more effectively."

"It is much easier to ignore the interests of unrecognized states than those of recognized ones," he said.

"You should start worrying only if Armenia’s president avoids shouldering responsibility for your security," Kocharian added–appealing to Karabagh’s population.


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