David Shahnazaryan: Revised agenda on Karabakh peace ‘works to the detriment of Armenia’  

13:08 • 06.09.18

In an interview with Tert.am, Ambassador David Shahnazaryan, a special envoy for the Armenian president from 1991 to 1995, addressed the dynamics in the Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) peace process and the dominating attitudes in the Armenian politics after the recent power transition. He shared his comments upon the OSCE Minsk Group’s recent statement,  particularly the co-chairs' demand for condcuting “substantive negotiations”. Pointing out to the underlying implications of a “serious loss” for Armenia and Artsakh, Shahnazaryan highlighted the urgent need of signing a joint security pact to avert negative scenarios.

Mr Shahnazaryan, the interest in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement process has somewhat faded away against the backdrop of the recent chaotic developments in our domestic, as well as foreign policy. At the same time, the new authorities of Armenia were initially expected to restart, if not to intensify, the negotiation process. What are your comments in that connection?

I absolutely share your viewpoint about the existing silence over Nagorno-Karabakh and the negotiation process, which has really been consigned to oblivion in a way. To be frank, I never actually expected the new government to be really active, considering their very first statements full of controversial remarks.

What happened in reality was the policy of time out adopted by the current government since their accession to power. They are trying, to the best of their efforts, to protract the meetings and negotiations in the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmanship format. Yet, their efforts did not apparently succeed; the three co-chairs conducted their trip to Armenia and later [arranged] the foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels.

What the previous authorities had achieved after the April war was a single agenda, i.e. – that of the Vienna and St Petersburg [arrangements] calling for the strengthening of ceasefire [monitoring] mechanisms along the Line of Contact. And that demand is actually reflected in all the statements adopted by the co-chairmanship ever since. None of their statements, released either after the June 14 visit to Yerevan (following their meeting with Armenia’s political leadership) or the meeting with [Zohrab] Mnatsaknyan and [Elmar] Mammadyarov, the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan, in Brussels, hints any commitment to the Veinna and St Petersburg agenda. That’s a very tangible loss for Armenia.

What does that suggest?


That suggests, in essence, fundamental, substantial talks, focusing only on the [conflict] settlement aspect. For Baku, it implies a “return of territories”. It practically comes to affirm that the former agenda, addressing the [proposed] measures along the Line of Contact, is now lost. That, in a way, results also from the time out policy adopted by Armenia's current political leadership.  

Another conclusion is that the incumbent authorities do not pursue any specific concept to eventually settle the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. The former authorities’ concept – which I repeatedly cited before – was very rational and proposed a clear-worded agenda: “Territories in return for Nagorno-Karabakh’s status” [which ruled out Artsakh’s status as part of the administrative territory of Azerbaijan].


It is practically the first time the Armenian authorities fail to propose their concept for the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Both [first President] Levon Ter-Petrosyan, and [his successors], Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sargsyan, had their own concepts, whether good or bad, acceptable or non-acceptable. But that’s absolutely a different topic to consider.


What about Nikol Pashinyan’s call for returning Stepanakert to the negotiating table (a statement which he made in Artsakh in the course of one of his first visits) and the accentuations voiced subsequently?

It was repeatedly stated - also at [Pashinyan's] August 17 rally -  that the prime minister will not, and is not going to, negotiate on behalf of the Artsakh Republic. [The premier] later said that in case of having an acceptable plan or model, he will personally initiate a discussion in Republic Square. Second, if Armenia does not, in point of fact, represent the Republic of Artsakh in the negotiations, then conducting talks based on the Vienna and St Petersburg agenda is logically ruled out. That agenda, as I have already mentioned, applies exclusively to the Line of Contact, which is between Artsakh and Azerbaijan. It follows from here that Nagorno-Karabakh itself must determine the settlement formula and the kind of settlement plan it virtually envisions. If that's actually the case, then Nikol Pashinyan himself has to discuss it in Stepanakert instead of choosing Yerevan's Republic Square.


What’s even more, the ministries and government agencies do not absolutely coordinate their work when it comes to Nagorno-Karabakh.  One example of that may be the Armenian Defense Ministry’s official statement saying that the Armed Forces of Armenia have destroyed a military post on the interstate border with Nakhichevan. That's at least incomprehensible, if not unacceptable. What about the underlying implication? ...  That the Republic of Armenia is an aggressor? That may be used against us and, if you will, not only by Azerbaijan. Many diplomats have turned to me with that question. Is that just a new form of populism? ... I am not really willing to go on with this.  

The problem dealing with Artsakh comprises many components – from international recognition to humanitarian [issues], international awareness, multiplatform lobbying, legal and many other aspects each of which has to be tackled by corresponding infrastructures coordinated by a single government center. But we do not have those infrastructures in essence. The government has not initiated any step towards the international recognition of Artsakh, an issue which should dominate our agenda with an active Diaspora engamement.


The Republics of Armenia and Artsakh must, within the shortest possible timeframes, sign the security pact highlighted by [President] Serzh Sargsyan in the early days of the April 2016 [fighting]. The draft text has been long completed and agreed upon. But the former authorities did not sign it for certain reasons (unknown to me), while the current government does not absolutely address the topic. The situation is troublesome in many ways, also in the light of Azerbaijan's considerably active foreign policies. They are diversifying their politco-military and diplomatic activity, having recently expanded also the cooperation with Russia. What I mean is the September 1 meeting between [Presidents] Putin and Aliyev and the subsequent documents signed and statements adopted, but that's a topic for a separate discussion.


Pashinyan said at his August 17 rally that he hasn't yet negotiated a single word.


That statement is beyond any understanding to say the least. First, the prime minister met and negotiated with the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmanship on June 13. Additionally, he discussed the Nagorno-Karabakh issue with [other] international partners at different meetings.

Second, on whose behalf did Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan conduct “substantive” negotiations with Azerbaijan’s foreign minister, Mammadyarov, in the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmanship format in Brussels? According to the statement, released by the three co-chairs on July 12, “The Ministers exchanged views regarding the situation on the ground and discussed next steps and parameters for re-engaging in substantive negotiations.” But negotiations are not just face-to-face meetings in essence. The current government has been conducting negotiations over Karabakh since Pashinyan’s very first day in office, i.e. – May 8, so it is really regrettable that we do not see any proper understanding of this very simple reality.  

Anush Dashtents


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