YEREVAN (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.”