1330) "We Would Like To See Turkey Among EU Members" Vardan Oskanyan says

Interview of "New Neighbors" with Armenian FM Vardan Oskanyan. Organized in cooperation with H2 TV Channel. .

N.N. - At what stage is Karabakh conflict settlement now?

V.O. - It is difficult to say. We often found ourselves in such situation – we thought we came close to some solution, but it became clear later that the whole process failed. In fact, the problem lies in details.
As long as we have adopted no document on principles, reached no full accord and started no negotiations over details it will be hard to say whether we have come closer to the problem solution. After all, everybody understands that it is impossible to settle the conflict without Karabakh’s consent and participation at least at the final stage of the talks.

N.N. - But Karabakh is not a negotiating party.

V.O. - Directly Karabakh is not a negotiating party, but indirectly it is. Co-chairs regularly meet Karabakh representatives. We hold a constant dialogue with Karabakh authorities, they are in touch with the process, but they also know they will join it when the document on principles becomes maximally acceptable and negotiations over details begin. Hence, Karabakh’s participation is necessary, and it is impossible to complete negotiations and let alone to reach the final round.

N.N. - When father Aliev was in office, we stressed that we seemed to reach the final round. Now, in the days of his son’s presidency we say the same. When shall we reach the final stage?

V.O. - But it wasn’t us, who said this. Azerbaijani side did exaggerating a little. How I wish it were so but we find it difficult to say whether we reached the final round, since there are numerous unsolved details, which need discussion. The statement about already reached accord over principles is an exaggeration as well.
I want to make it clear that I have seen two versions of Aliev’s interview. In the first version, the president said that an accord was reached over controversial issues while in the second one he said views on the disputed issues were brought closer to each other. The second is definitely the true one.
What for the first one, I can say for sure that there was no complete accord here. However, the presidents gave positive mark to that meeting. It can be concluded that some progress was reached there, because, I say again, it is hard even to say whether stances came closer to each other unless the presidents discuss the details. So, the process is still ahead. We view Minsk process and the meeting positive, since the atmosphere was favorable and approaches were constructive. Unlike Rambouillet and Bucharest meetings, during which, as co-chairs said, the process reached semi-deadlock, Minsk meeting didn’t reach deadlock, but paved a way for follow-up foreign ministerial meetings instead.

N.N. - What or who has contributed to that?

V.O. - There are quite interesting ideas on the negotiating table now. Foreign ministers and presidents are long negotiating over principles. The views we have always expressed and the principles put on negotiating table today are balanced. They reflect current developments. At any moment, if the sides display a good will, progress may be reached. Thus, Minsk meeting should be considered in this context.
I also want to point out some contradiction in Aliev’s statement. He said about closer positions but, on the other hand, stressed that Azerbaijan’s stance remained unchanged and reiterated that Azerbaijani side’s approach toward any issue is based on the principle of territorial integrity.

N.N. - Does it also apply to refugees return?

V.O. - Yes, it is surprising, because it’s not so. In fact, national self-determination right and the opportunity of referendum underlie the talks. They are actually discussed now. Mr. Aliev can be right in judging only if he is convinced that Karabakh people cast their votes in favor of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. Only in this case his words could be close to the reality, but this would be a mere trick aimed at reaping fruit.
The statement that the talks are viewed in the frames of territorial integrity has nothing in common with reality. Today the negotiations’ pivot is to include that very Karabakh’s self-determination right, which made it possible to reach some progress, in the document.

N.N. - Our principles seem to stay unchanged. It is clear to everybody that Karabakh problem can’t be solved without mutual concessions. These concessions will be painful. What security guarantees do you imagine in the current process of compromise-based solution?

V.O. - Compromise is not a principle, but a way to settle the matter. Our key principle is Karabakh people’s self-determination right. All other things depend on it. That’s why I wouldn’t like even discuss related problems such as those connected with security, refugees and territories unless Azerbaijan accepts this principle. We remain stuck to our stance and view this principle the main. Other matters, as I said, are surrounding it.

N.N. - We have spoken about mutual concessions for twelve years, but the community has no clear idea about their essence. How long shall we be speaking about concessions secretly?

V.O. - Until the document is given final wording and until the sides reach an accord. Our previous experience showed that revealing details is senseless. Many documents have never been put into reality. That is why we find it senseless to unveil them while the process is under way. The essence of executive bodies is to bear responsibility at own discretion, to enter negotiations, to go to compromise acceptable to people and based on national interests. It is reasonable to reveal details only after reaching certain level and making results irreversible. After that, they can be unveiled for public judgment and put on National Assembly’s floor. The authorities’ opinion is important, but not enough.

N.N. - What shall Armenia cede for Karabakh independence recognition? What shall we sacrifice?

V.O. - I can’t enter into details – this is our negotiation reserve. The only thing I can say is that these frames are very precise. There are national interests and there are security problems. We understand that very well. While the talks are under way in this mode, nothing threatens national interests and both Armenia’s and Karabakh’s security.

N.N. Rumors are going around that the idea of international peacekeeping forces deployment is under discussion now.

V.O. - There is such an idea, but there is no discussion over peacekeeping forces deployment. It is clear that if we put into reality some peace deal, there will be need in them. However, now this plays no major part in the talks and no serious discussion is being held over the matter.

N.N. - Both Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers said after signing European Neighborhood Policy’s activities program that by signing the program the region’s countries come closer to European values. What do you mean by saying “European values”? Where do these values lead Armenia and Azerbaijan? Is there any hope that this historical event will speed up Karabakh conflict settlement?

V.O. - I don’t want to speak on behalf of our neighbor. When we signed the document, we took it as an important event and as a new round of our relations with European Union. This is quite comprehensive, large-scale and deep document. It applies to institutional reforms implementation, values adoption and Armenia-EU trade regimes introduction. It is a comprehensive document related to regional cooperation, conflicts prevention and peaceful settlement. Indeed, this gives us new opportunities for quickest integration in European organizations and particularly European Union. This gives us landmark chance to put this program into reality and to drive Armenia to a new political, economic and social level within five years given for this program implementation.

N.N. - What stance has Armenia taken on Turkey’s possible membership in European Union? What are the top-priority problems to be solved in the integration process?

V.O. - We would like to see Turkey, our neighbor, among EU member countries. This would be very advantageous to us. There is, however, a question how much Turkey will accomplish in reformation to deserve EU membership. That’s the problem. I think it is still early to speak about Turkey’s membership today. Attention should be concentrated on negotiations. Turkey has plenty to do on its way to European Union. Today Turks face problems. They can’t overcome the domestic obstacles they have created for themselves. Convincing evidence of that is the partial suspension of negotiations with Turkey over its membership in the union because Ankara is dragging its feet in complying with EU demand related to Cyprus.

N.N. - Turkey thinks border opening will ensure precipitous economic growth in Armenia. Will it really spur economic growth here, or be more advantageous for Turkey’s eastern regions.

V.O. - Open borders will be advantageous to both countries. Open borders are always better than closed, but this problem is no longer a matter of life or death for Armenians. We lived with closed borders for fifteen years. Considerable economic growth is recorded in our country. It is obvious that open borders will add something to our economy, but Turkey’s border regions and Turkish economy will take the same advantage from that. Hence, there is a mutual benefit. Turkey should think over the matter. We have repeatedly put forward the issue without preconditions. Turkey itself should decide what to do to play more effective and constructive role in the region.

N.N. - What do you think about foreign ministerial meetings? Some Turkish media outlets have reported that at the final round of these meetings Turkey made some proposal on improving relations.

V.O. - First of all, I should say there have been no contacts between foreign ministers for long period. It was at an initial stage - just after Turkey’s current authorities came to power. The then views of the Turkish leadership were different. They really wanted then to change Turkey’s attitude to Armenia, but felt it depended not only on them – public opinion and Azerbaijan’s influence proved to be stronger factors than they thought. It induced them to abandon their initial intentions gradually.
Since then, we have failed to make any progress in bilateral relations though we have met at other levels in the hope that Turkey would revise its approaches. However, these meetings have produced no results. We have no any ties with Turkey now, but are ready to enter into dialogue when Turkey reconsiders its approaches. We don’t view the dialogue as an end in itself. It means we are ready to do it only in the hope for certain results.

N.N. - Carey Cavanaugh, former OSCE Minsk Group American co-chair, said recently in an interview with New Neighbors that Turkey has periodically been involved in the consultation over Karabakh conflict settlement and played positive role. Do you find it possible?

V.O. - I don’t rule out that the United States holds consultation with Turkey over Caucasus-related issues and, why not, on Karabakh conflict. But Turkey doesn’t take direct part in the negotiations or influence them, and it can’t be so because of its biased stance on Karabakh – Ankara is unconditionally backing Azerbaijani side now. That is why Turkey is considered a party of the talks and a conflicting side and can’t be viewed a mediator and play any positive or constructive role. Turkey can’t play positive role in the conflict settlement process and, more than that, in the region, if remains stuck to its stance.

N.N. - Turkey often blames Armenian communities worldwide for exerting a bad influence on Armenia saying we should separate our state interests from the Diaspora’s. What do you think about that?

V.O. - There is no any discord between Armenia and Diaspora over Armenian Genocide. The genocide fact recognition is a nationwide matter. Armenia assumed a moral commitment to seek the international recognition of the genocide fact. Diaspora did the same. Our joint efforts have produced certain results – Armenia has accomplished a great deal in advancing the cause in international organizations and Armenian overseas communities in their countries. Hence, Turkey’s efforts to split the nation were in vain.

Interview by Kristine Karslian
Copyright © 2005 CPDD


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