The October assault on the Armenian parliament will delay, but not derail efforts to reach a political settlement on Nagorno-Karabakh, Gerard Libaridian, a scholar and former senior presidential aide in Armenia, said at a Central Eurasia Project Open Forum gathering. "Both sides will have to get back to the (negotiating) table," Libaridian told those attending the November 22 meeting. "Support for peace (among citizens in both Armenia and Azerbaijan) is much stronger than opposition leaders would have you believe."
Discord within Azerbaijan's political leadership, which led to the resignations of former foreign minister Tofik Zulfugarov and presidential aide Vafa Guluzade in October (See the CEP Daily Digest for Azerbaijan), also has hampered negotiations, Libaridian said. The resignations were reportedly connected with differences of opinion over President Haidar Aliev's Karabakh policy. "Given the resignations in his circle, Aliev has been damaged," Libaridian said. Both the Armenian and Azerbaijani governments need time to restore their cohesiveness before substantive negotiations can resume, he said.
In addition, Libaridian asserted that Russia's position on Karabakh has shifted to the point that Moscow would now like to see a rapid settlement. Russia's primary concern is retaining its political influence in the Transcaucasus region. "The longer the (Karabakh) conflict takes to resolve, Georgia and Azerbaijan will move towards the West," he said. "Resolution of Nagorno-Karabakh is seen (in Russia) as a precondition towards preventing a slide towards the Natoization of these countries."
Given Russia's military involvement in Chechnya, Moscow is certain to be a steadfast supporter of the concept of territorial integrity, Libaridian said. Thus, Libaridian continued, Russia is likely to favor Azerbaijan's view more than Armenia's in future negotiations. The Kremlin is willing to "sell out Nagorno-Karabakh for larger strategic interests," he said.
Libaridian, a Senior Research Fellow at the East West Institute in New York, is currently working on a book, "Anatomy of a Conflict: Nagorno-Karabakh and the New World Order." He previously served as a top advisor to former president Levon Ter-Petrossian.
The Central Eurasia Project aims, through its website, meetings, papers, and grants, to foster a more informed debate about the social, politcal and economic developments of the Caucasus and Central Asia. It is a program of the Open Society Institute-New York. The Open Society Institute-New York is a private operating and grantmaking foundation that promotes the development of open societies around the world by supporting educational, social, and legal reform, and by encouraging alternative approaches to complex and controversial issues.
The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily represent the position of the Open Society Institute and are are the sole responsibility of the author or authors.