Return to talks key achievement of Sargsyan-Aliyev meeting – European analyst

11:18 • 18.10.17



Тhe recent meeting between the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents in Geneva was an important landmark in terms of enabling the sides to agree on returning to negotiations after more than a year, according to a European foreign policy analyst.


In an interview with Tert.am, Dennis Sammut, the director of Links (Dialogue-Analysis-Research), praised especially the mutual commitment to reduce tensions along the Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) Line of Contact.  

“The last eighteen months were very difficult for the Karabakh peace process. There were tensions on the Line of Contact, and the sides exchanged daily insults in the media. A meeting between the two presidents was necessary to put the negotiations back on track. That was the only realistic expectation from Geneva, and I think that expectation was fulfilled. Now the work must start again in earnest,” he said.


“It is very positive if the two presidents have agreed to put effort to reduce incidents on the Line of Contact. These daily incidents are not achieving anything – only resulting in daily loss of life, especially among young conscripts. That must stop.”


The expert also agreed that ceasefire is not the core problem in the conflict settlement efforts.


“The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict may have started as an ethnic conflict, but it soon became a conflict between political elites on both sides. Sometimes these elites spend their energy focusing on grand political ideas, and forget that hundreds of thousands of Armenians and Azerbaijanis continue to suffer every day because of the conflict. Eliminating this suffering must be the priority. A solution can only be based on providing safety, security and a measure of prosperity for all. That is the challenge,” he added.


Asked to comment on Azerbaijan’s failure to respect the international mediators’ calls for strengthening the peace mechanisms (including the deployment of ceasefire monitoring equipment) more than a year after the Vienna and St Petersburg summits, Mr Sammut said, “There are different versions of what was agreed in Vienna and St Petersburg. I cannot say which version is the correct one. Probably both versions are right – the sides are simply giving their own interpretation of the timing and sequencing of what was agreed.”


Addressing the ongoing discussions over the possible outcome of the discussion on eventually achieving a breakthrough, the expert said he is somewhat surprised that the repeated calls for the handover of the seven regions surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh are treated with anger in Armenia.


“I have been involved with this subject for many years. In the 1990s nobody in Armenia, nor in Nagorno-Karabakh, was saying that all the territories around Nagorno-Karabakh, occupied during the 1989-94 conflict, were to be kept by Armenians. They were always meant to be a negotiating chip. I am therefore surprised that there are people now who are angry when this is mentioned.  The Armenian government is right to approach this issue with flexibility.”


Asked whether they really believe that confidence-building would be really possible with a country blacklisting foreigners for visiting Nagorno-Karabakh and known with numerous abuses of human rights, Mr Sammut replied, “If Armenia and Azerbaijan were perfect democracies they will not need confidence building measures, because they would have mechanisms that can resolve the problem without conflict. The most famous confidence-building measures were implemented with the Soviet Union in the period 1962-91, even though it was neither free nor democratic. When I am in Armenia I hear a lot of people talking about the problems of Azerbaijan, and when I am in Azerbaijan I hear people talking about the problems of Armenia. I would prefer that people concentrate on their own problems first.”

Hripsime Hovhannisyan





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