In an interview with ARMINFO News Agency, Ashot Manucharian, member of the Karabakh Committee, Former Minister of Interior of Armenia and advisor to the first president of Armenia on national security issues discusses the situation in the South Caucasus, particularly with regard to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Mr. Manucharyan, do you think there is a scenario of Karabakh conflict resolution, which could be acceptable for all the sides of the conflict?
I think such a scenario does exist. Moreover, it did not appear today; it latently existed even during the military activities in 1992-1994. Actually, already at that time this settlement option was grounded in our joint work with the senior Aliyev, with whom I was personally engaged in talks in this direction. Today I am convinced that those processes could lead us to a conflict settlement. However, those processes were unfortunately torpedoed, as I understand, by the United States, as it was right after the visit of US Deputy Secretary of State Talbott in Armenia in July of 1993 that the Armenian authorities took a decision to stop all the work in that direction.
Can you open this up, what kind of solution was being discussed in those talks?
To begin with, all the proposals by the OSCE Minsk Group that the parties received until today suggested and suggest territory exchange. With that, it is somehow being argued that none of the parties will benefit or lose as a result of those changes. In reality, all the three sides would lose from time to time. I intentionally mention three sides, considering that Nagorno-Karabakh in reality is the third side, no matter who says what about this, and whatever Yerevan’s influence on Stepanakert is. As a result, it would only be for those who were leading the Karabakh process, exercising moderation over it, to benefit. The explanation of this is that serious questions were posed during the Karabakh process; those questions related to he functioning of international South-Caucasian communication corridor, and the situation around Karabakh itself was viewed solely in this context. Today it seems that the parties have developed understanding that the Minsk process is a road to nowhere, given the technologies it employs. It is not clear how Serge Sargsyan or Ilham Aliyev could sign with their own hands an agreement, which envisages territorial losses for their country. I am not even speaking of Nagorno-Karabakh; there anyone could get quartered for daring to even speak of anything like that. This is to say that none of the parties possesses internal potential to resolve Karabakh issue. This will be not a heroic step, but rather a pointless suicide, because, whoever signs this agreement, will be ground down. But most importantly, the process will be stopped afterwards anyway.
Just as it happened in 1997 with Levon ter-Petrossyan?
Yes. In 1997 Ter-Petrossyan proposed an unacceptable for the society solution of Karabakh conflict, which resulted in his resignation. This intolerance towards any plan, envisaging any territorial losses, is preserved until today. In response to your previous question, I can say that English analysts, in the person of British non-governmental organization Links, published a report, which justly points out the unacceptability of solution to problems in the Caucasus with methods like those of OSCE Minsk Group. The organization correctly, in my view, notes necessity of putting on a new construction, idea for establishing of a Caucasian space, its structure, philosophy, activity, functionality etc. And already in the frames of this new space conflicts should be viewed as particularities, and actions to overcome those conflicts should be considered. It is this approach that I consider most productive, as this is exactly the approach which we started to work upon with senior Aliyev in 1992. The British analysts just corrected this idea, highlighting necessity of creating a Conference on Cooperation and Security in the South Caucasus with an objective of concluding an Agreement on Cooperation and Security in the South Caucasus by 2014. Like this, they propose to establish a Caucasian version of OSCE. Thank God, they have not identified the suggested participants yet, as exactly this question is the most sensitive and complicated. Actually, I clearly see both opportunities and technologies to implement this project, which really has all the chances to succeed.
In other words, this is about uniting of the South Caucasus into a certain unified model, encompassing all the unrecognized republics?
I would say, into a single logic. You can view Caucasus in a narrow or a broad way. Interconnection of South and North Caucasus needs to be viewed in the context of common logic. Second such factor is the countries adjacent to the region: Iran, Russian and Turkey, which would also be willing to take part in setting up of this logic. Countries pertaining to the global responsibility can also take part; I mean Europe and the US. However, all this should be viewed for the future solely, as today this construction is being created for the Caucasus only. I am speaking about implementation of Armenian-Azerbaijani part of the construction with further incorporation of the Georgian part. Currently, after all the initiatives of the Minsk Group proved their inefficiency, it is just about time to undertake bringing of this structure to life. But as usual, the interests of higher degree impede this, among which the opportunity of rapacious exploitation of region’s resources does not rank last.
To implement such a project, doubtlessly, reconciliation resources are needed. Today all we can see is the mutual mistrust between the two nations. Can you personally see such resources?
Actually, all these bacchanalias that we observe both in Armenia and, especially, in Azerbaijan, are being generated by circles involved in pillage of resources in the region, which I mentioned before. They are frequently in tight corporate connections with respective international organizations and circles; often they perform as their tools unwillingly. I do not think that generation of hatred today is in the interests of the countries from where it is being generated. Today the key role in this process is given to Azerbaijan. It always surprised me why Baku does not try to convince the Armenians of Karabakh, using sound policy, openness, patronization, that everything that happened in the history, was a fortuity and a big mistake, and Azerbaijan is a very different country, which you can deal with. I do not understand why this necessarily has to be done with shootings, which has no perspectives, at least, in today’s world. Instead, in Azerbaijan the hatred level is persistently maintained, which permits of continued exploitation and plunder of resources, which should belong to the nations of the region.
In other word, Baku regime is artificially maintained in a semi-hysteria condition to be able to receive own benefits?
I can call this the “Baku regime”, but with that I do not mean Ilham Aliyev or anyone else specifically. I only mean the regime which generates the bacchanalia policy in Azerbaijan. With that, a simple analysis proves that all the rest, pertaining to Azerbaijan and existing beyond this bacchanalia, should be seeking solution in an entirely opposite logic. The status-quo, existing today, is beneficial for Russia and USA, and is disadvantageous for the continental Europe, which is interested in an uninterrupted functioning of communication corridor, and whatever happens, there should be no taps. Before, there were two taps on that communication corridor: Ossetian and Karabakh, which allowed discontinuing of usage of this corridor at any point, having started any upheaval.
Actually, this used to frequently happen on the Ossetian direction until somewhere a decision was made to transfer South Ossetia to Russia, having deprived her of the tap status before. I do not think any normal person would believe that the Georgians were firing at the Russian peace-keepers close to their oil pipe-lines, this is simply impossible.
Like this, there is only one tap left in the region…
Yes, and this tap is Karabakh, and its existence is certainly in the interests of Russia, USA and Great Britain. The question is should Europe be striving to eliminate this tap, the US would be striving to obtain control over it. Currently it is largely controlled by Russia, considering its influence in Armenia. But the very day Washington’s influence overweighs Moscow’s influence in Armenia, the tap, staying in the interests of the White House under a nominal cover of Russia, in reality will pass to the hands of the United States, while all the activities around it will still be attributed to Russia.
Ashot Manucharian was interviewed on 10 May 2011 by David Stepanyan