Vienna Meeting Explores the “Revival” of the Negotiation Process. Experts
The agreements made during the meeting of Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan Serj Sargsyan and Ilham Aliyev in Vienna do not mean that the procedure of Nagorno Karabakh (NK) conflict is on a qualitatively new stage. This only shows the “revival” of the negotiation process. The Armenian and Azerbaijani experts spoke about this during the discussion at Media Center on May 17.

After the April large-scale military actions in the NK conflict zone which were unprecedented since the ceasefire of 1994, the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan met in Vienna on May 16 for the first time. Some agreements were obtained about NK conflict during Sargsyan-Aliev meeting in which the heads of French, USA and Russian foreign agencies participated.

In particular, the Presidents reconfirmed their commitments of the ceasefire and the peaceful settlement of the conflict. To reduce the risk of future violations they agreed to finish the investment of the OSCE investigative mechanisms as soon as possible. The Presidents also agreed to expand the personal representative office of OSCE acting chairman. In the end, they agreed to continue the exchange of data on missing persons under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross, taking into account the commitments undertaken at the Paris summit in October 2014.

To understand the essence of Vienna commitments, Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) Armenian Office together with Public Journalism Club organized Yerevan-Baku video bridge on “Meeting in Vienna on the Level of Presidents: Will there be Progress in the Negotiation Process?”.

The participants of the discussion were Alexander Iskandaryan, Director of Caucasus Institute and Stepan Grigoryan, Board President of Analytical Centre on Globalization and Regional Cooperation (ACGRC) from Armenia, as well as Nijat Melikov, the spokesman of the Azerbaijani office of Helsinki Committee and Shahin Rzayev, Expert on Conflict Settlement from Azerbaijan who joined the discussion via video call. 

“After the April war the meeting of the two Presidents just shows “the revival” of the negotiation process. This is to prevent the risk of new violations and to establish mechanisms of trust. It is better to speak than to shoot. Of course, it is hard to speak about trust in case of Armenia and Azerbaijan; there is no trust at all. I do not think that they will suddenly stop shooting on the board. But the Minsk procedure is used to it,” Alexander Iskandaryan said. 

Stepan Grigoryan first spoke about the fact that Sargsyan and Aliyev met only after the large-scale clashes as a result of which there were 200 victims on both sides officially. He expressed his surprise about this. “I myself do not agree with Baku’s position but I understand why they launched the large-scale military actions. Baku is dissatisfied with the negotiations and status quo. But I am surprised that only after these bloody events the Presidents met and expressed some positive ideas. Couldn’t they do it earlier, avoiding so many victims?” Grigoryan said.  

He also questioned the fact that there was no agreement about the withdrawal of the snipers from the contact line. “Why didn’t they speak about this issue? While the Presidents were negotiating, a NK soldier was shot by the Azerbaijani forces. If the parties did not speak about this, the tension on the border will not reduce,” he said. 

Shahin Rzayev supposed that the violations increased on the conflict zone of Karabakh at the beginning of April in order to prepare the societies for the peace agreement. “The first fact that was adopted during the meeting of the Presidents is that the war is not a settlement for the conflict,” the speaker said and hoped that the snipers would not shoot after the meeting. “Many proposals were made for the withdrawal of the snipers. I hope they will not shoot any more,” Rzayev said.

He reminded about the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s announcement that by the end of June Aliyev and Sargsyan would initiate the final procedure of the conflict resolution. “Lavrov put his reputation on the table. Why did the violations on the Karabakh conflict zone increase just at the beginning of April? I can suppose that the aim was to prepare the societies for the peaceful agreement,” Rzayev said.

Nijat Melikov, the spokesman of the Azerbaijani office of Helsinki Committee, presented the situation in the political and public life of Azerbaijan after the April war.

“Azerbaijani society now is in euphoria, disappointment, a wave of patriotic feelings, discussions why it happened. Though some part of the society is for a peaceful settlement of the conflict, the significant part is for the military resolution,” he said and opposed Stepan Grigoryan’s question about the withdrawal of the snipers. “I don’t understand why Azerbaijan should withdraw its snipers if its territories are occupied.”

As a reply Stepan Grigoryan said that the Madrid Principles are the ground for the conflict settlement and there is no fact about the occupation of territories. “I am surprised that both the authorities of Azerbaijan and the representatives of civil society take only one principle from 6 principles and 14 steps of the Madrid document and consider that the most important. If you remember there is an issue about the status of Karabakh, about the refugees, Peace Corps. We have never said that there is nothing about the territories but you designate one point out of the context,” he said.   

Though some participants hoped that the agreements made in Vienna will be implemented, others did not share their optimism. Alexandr Iskandaryan is suspicious about the “Vienna bargain”. Heb does not think that the trust mechanisms will be useful as Azerbaijan has a rational “demand to shoot”.

“If Azerbaijan does not shoot and everything is quiet and peaceful on the board, the conflict will be forgotten. Shooting reminds of the conflict. It is the only way for Baku to influence the procedure. And it is not clear why Baku should abandon this tool at once,” he said and added that the bloody clashes of April proofed also that the war is not a solution. “So even if the Armenians and the Azerbaijans do not like each other, they should try to settle the conflict by negotiations. There is no other Armenia for Azerbaijan and no other Azerbaijan for Armenia,” he said.  

Arshaluys Mghdesyan, editor/events coordinator at “Media Center”

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