In March 2012, the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs adopted a document on Armenia comprising a proposal to replace the mandate of France in the OSCE Minsk Group with an EU mandate. To what extent are these intentions likely and justified?
Actually, I don't believe this proposal will be passed. It is not likely to happen. The three MG co-chairs have gained a deep insight into this issue over the past 15 years. Meanwhile, if an institution like the European Union joins this problem it would mean that a “novice” enters the process to gain understanding right from the beginning. Possessing general opinion about the conflict is one thing, while subject knowledge into the details is quite another. These are absolutely different things. Also, one should take into account that EU is a collective body. The Minsk Group involves 9 mediators, while EU suggests working with over 20.
I think this proposal will not be adopted. I know that Azerbaijani side supports some other similar proposals speaking about changing France for Turkey, etc. I wonder whether it does not realize that such changes will require agreement by all conflict parties, with both Armenian parties being against Turkey. Azerbaijan assumes it goes for a strong-willed decision but it does not bother to think about other views on the subject.
Following the meeting between Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents in Kazan, the international community voiced the option of ousting Russia from the mediation process claiming it failed in its intermediary activities. How do you assess Russia’s potential as a mediator in the further resolution of the conflict?
Well, you can find any kind of various “weird” statements. No serious state or alliance has ever voiced any such opinion. During my office as a co-chair, I witnessed Washington’s absurd moves aiming to oppose Russia’s role as a mediator. I don’t think they intended to continue the bloodshed; I believe they also wished to reach a cease-fire, but never through Russia, because it would boost its authority in South Caucasus and influence in the region.
They would feel more comfortable saying that Russia is weakened and should be driven out of the region. This is the way they thought at that time. However, Russia is the only country mentioned three times personally, in decisions of OSCE Budapest summit in December 1996. No other state is referred to in the document, which says the cease-fire was achieved due to Russia’s efforts. That’s why the speculation on Russia’s replacement and its alleged failure to carry out the mediation duties is a most primitive attempt to shift the responsibility from parties off to mediators. They don't have the guts to criticize themselves, say they’re lacking the required flexibility and setting the demands too high; nobody is brave enough to admit it. So the mediator comes as the answer to “who is to blame” question.
Meetings between the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan were frequently held during Dmitry Medvedev’s presidency. Now, with Vladimir Putin coming to power in Russia we increasingly hear statements saying mediation policy with regard to Karabakh conflict will become tougher. Do you share this viewpoint?
I think Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents' meetings will become less frequent at Putin. One cannot say whether this is good or bad; this is a double-edged weapon. Russia has often faced criticism for organizing meetings frequently which however, have yielded no results.
The role of public diplomacy is much rumored currently. The OSCE MG co-chairs start focusing on the humanitarian component of the conflict. The recent visit of the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to Armenia also highlighted the importance of humanitarian cooperation between the conflict parties. How expedient is this, given the fact that the conflict is not actually settled?
I think that despite all difficulties, the role of the humanitarian component should be emphasized. During my work as a co-chair, when hostilities still occurred and blood was shed, we organized events aimed for rapprochement of conflict parties in various fields. We brought together religious leaders, military heads, journalists, TV workers, political scientists. Our work included a large scope of activities. Unfortunately, later, under relatively peaceful conditions the work was narrowed down to political and diplomatic level. I believe this not the right thing to do. In my opinion, other directions of activity must create a more conciliatory atmosphere for the parties.