There's been some vague discussion regarding the peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which will take place on Friday and Saturday. Mediators are for the most part saying nothing other than ambiguous phrases. The Armenian site, mainly represented by President Kocharian and Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, says it is being cautious, and the Azeri side, mainly represented by President Aliev and Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, insist that Karabagh be returned to Azeri control almost immediately. The two parties are to meet with French President Jacques Chirac in Paris, then drive down to a chateau about 25 miles or 40 kilometers away. No one knows yet if Presidents Kocharian and Aliev will meet alone face to face or only with mediators/referees as well as with President Chirac. And no one can speculate about the outcome, even though everyone is trying to be as optimistic as possible, although that's difficult given Azerbaijan's hard line approach.
Basically, as Armenia still holds the upper hand, it should not fold all its cards unless some details make logical sense. But then again, we are dealing with Armenians who seem to have a unique system of logic and who have historically succumbed under pressure. At the end of the day, the Armenian side must still take into account the last 15 or so years and not forget what it essentially won, although the world nations never acknowledged Karabagh's independence.
When you speak to Armenians, one thing remains clear--Karabagh and the buffer zone surrounding it were won with much spilled blood, and Karabagh especially cannot be returned at any cost. People I have spoken to regard this thought as a given, which is not to be negotiated upon, and furthermore, Karabagh must be reunited with Armenia in a peace deal, if one ever comes to light--something no one really believes.
So what do Armenians want? Will "vochinch" finally win over the hearts and souls of the Armenian people over the Karabagh issue, or will the people wake up when more details are revealed in the event that the Armenian side is willing to concede? It's still early to tell what will happen domestically regarding this issue, but "vochinch" has never won over, at least not when it comes to Karabagh.
As I have discussed in previously posts, the proposed "deal" would be the return of all buffer zones, otherwise known as liberated lands or occupied territories, depending on who you talk to, with the exception of Lachin and maybe Kelbajar, the wide region north of the former that shares borders with Armenia and Karabagh and holds historic importance to Armenia. International peacekeeping forces, whatever that means, would guarantee the safety and integrity of the Armenian side, the meaning of which again is not clear. Finally, Karabagh would be given a vague autonomous status, presumably under Armenian control, and the people of Karabagh would in a referendum to be held in 10-15 years--the timing of which is totally not understandable--decide what they want to do--whether or not to unite with Armenia. Oh, and one other thing--Azeris would be allowed to return to their native homes if they so desired, the reason why they would consider doing so is also unthinkable since it's hard to believe that Armenians and Azeris could once again live somewhat peacefully together. From the recent reports I have been reading, the Azeri side is still not willing to give up on the idea that Karabagh be returned to Azeri control. So what's to come of all this?
Let's be honest--in a peace deal, assuming one would finally be agreed upon, some regions will need to be returned, such as Aghdam and Fizuli, since they were taken over to be used as bargaining chips anyway. Lachin as a given and especially Kelbajar must not be returned as they help solidify Armenia's geopolitical integrity. A referendum determining Karabagh's status should be held immediately, as waiting 10-15 years makes no logical sense, and the mentality behind which is also not understandable. The deployment of peacekeeping forces in any form would obviously be beneficial. Apparently, there is discussion that Armenian officials such as Serge Sargsyan, the Armenian defense minister and business tycoon, is behind the scenes working towards these goals, but that is unconfirmed as well.
We'll see what happens when more information is revealed over the weekend and the beginning of next week. Armenians should definitely be cautiously optimistic, but should not throw in the towel, no matter how wet and heavy it may be.
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Armenian-Azerbaijani border © Onnik Krikorian / Oneworld Multimedia 1994
Labels: Thoughts and Musings