Azerbaijan, Armenia Have Some Serious Disagreements on Return of 2 Azerbaijani Districts: ICG Vice President

Azerbaijan,   Armenia Have Some Serious Disagreements on Return of 2 Azerbaijani Districts: ICG Vice President

Azerbaijan, Baku 29 March / corr Trend K.Ramazanova / Trend ' interview with Nick Grono, the Deputy President of the IGG.

Question: What are your views on a solution to the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh on the basis of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan? Is the IGG prepared to assist in the rapid resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, taking into consideration that talks within the OSCE are still failing?

Answer: Crisis Group does not have a pre-determined view on what the outcome of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution process, or the future status of Nagorno-Karabakh, should be. We believe the conflict must be solved peacefully and the ultimate status of the disputed region should be defined later, after other confidence-building measures have been put in place. These measures include renunciation of the use of force; Armenian withdrawal from parts of Azerbaijan adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh; re-opening of trade and communication links; mutual commitment to a vote on Nagorno-Karabakh's final status after the return of displaced Azeris and an interim status for Nagorno-Karabakh, with substantial international aid and guarantees, including peacekeeping presence, before this vote takes place.

The above-mentioned principles constitute the core of the ongoing peace negotiations popularly known as the " Prague process". Crisis Group believes these principles provide the best framework for peaceful resolution of the conflict.

We believe the negotiations should continue within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group, but also advocate for a greater EU involvement in the process.

Crisis Group has produced three reports on Nagorno-Karabakh. These reports provide timely information on and analysis of the conflict and the negotiation process. We also engage in advocacy activities to attract the international community's increased attention to the problem. We similarly work with the Armenian and Azerbaijani governments and societies and advocate for a peaceful resolution to this conflict.

Question: What could impede talks in this stage and is there any confidence that the new Government of Armenia adopt a package of proposals on the conflict resolution, which were given to foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia in written form at the end of last year?

Answer: As far as I am aware, both Armenia and Azerbaijan have proclaimed their readiness to continue talks within the framework of the "Prague Process" and the "basic principles" presented to Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers at the sidelines of the OSCE Foreign Ministers' meeting in Madrid in late November 2007. Some serious disagreements remain on the issue of return of Kelbajar and Lachin districts, the modalities of the vote which would determine Nagorno-Karabakh's ultimate status, and the issue of return of displaced Azeris to Nagorno-Karabakh before such a vote takes place. We express our hope that the parties will succeed in overcoming their differences on these last remaining points and will move on to work out a comprehensive peace agreement based on the "basic principles".

From this perspective, it is very important to continue negotiations and avoid incidents in the frontline similar to the one which took place on March 4, which resulted in tragic loss of lives. The OSCE should consider stepping up its monitoring of the frontline to avoid similar incidents in the future. The parties should also refrain from militant rhetoric and promote civil society dialogue and people-to-people contacts. Such popular contacts are even more important during the election cycle, when domestic electoral politics may alienate the societies divided by conflict even further. Confidence-building measures should eventually make it possible for the admittedly more sensitive -- but nevertheless crucial -- start of withdrawal of ethnic Armenian forces from occupied territories as a first step towards the implementation of these principles.

Question: As you know the Kosovo parliament unilaterally adopted on February 17 a declaration on the breakaway republic's independence from Serbia. So what you think could it possible that the recognizing of their independence of the Kosovo will affect negative or any way to other conflicts such as Abkhazia and South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh?

Answer: There is a strong consensus in the international community that Kosovo cannot set a precedent for other conflicts in the European periphery. Its uniqueness derives, among others, from the way the international community has intervened following crimes committed against Kosovo Albanians by the Milosevic regime. Crisis Group sees every conflict as unique and does not consider the Kosovo case a precedent for other conflicts in the South Caucasus.

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