During Key West Talks
For the Resolution of the Karabakh Conflict

Azerbaijan Paper Says Pressure Was Exerted on Armenia in Key West Talks

Source: Zerkalo (in Russian)
Date: April 17, 2001

Armenia came under pressure at the Key West talks on Nagorno-Karabakh, according to a report in an independent Azerbaijani newspaper. This did not elicit any concessions from the Armenian president at the talks, but if the USA were to step up the pressure, then it might yield results in the end, the report said. It concluded that Azerbaijan should capitalize on the growing trend in its favour by intensifying diplomacy, ensuring the army's combat readiness and mobilizing public opionion. The following is the text of E. Abulfatov's report by Azerbaijani newspaper Zerkalo entitled "The forces can be equal":

[Subhead] Baku intends to have public support behind it On Saturday evening [14 April], Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev returned from his trip to the USA, during which another round of peace talks on settling the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group took place.

Since the negotiations proceeded "behind closed doors", the public attention in Azerbaijan focused on the Azerbaijani president's official statement, which he made in a news conference at [Baku's] Bina airport right after his arrival in Baku. Answering journalists' questions, Heydar Aliyev stressed that the results of the talks were positive on the whole, though no concrete agreements were reached.

The president said: "Due to the fact that a cease-fire agreement was reached between Azerbaijan and Armenia in 1994, the conflict as well as the need to settle it quickly has been forgotten in the international arena in the course of time. For this reason, during the negotiations in Key West, it was necessary to draw the world community's attention to the conflict and the truth about it."

In fact, the continuation of the cease-fire regime between Baku and Yerevan, has moved the need to solve the conflict to the background of international political affairs. While the international community urgently reacts to the crises in the Middle East or Balkans and tries to resolve them, the settlement of problems in the South Caucasus has been at the mercy of the amateurishness of the OSCE Minsk Group cochairs. We hope that after the talks in the USA, leading countries will make as much effort to settle the Karabakh problem as to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict or the Yugoslav problem.

In fact, such a tendency can already be observed. The initiative of the new US administration on peace talks between the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia brought some benefits for Baku. In addition, Azerbaijan's stance was brought to the notice of the world community again and quite a lot of important events occured.

Apart from the positive report by the State Department on the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict and the USA's intention to increase aid to Azerbaijan by 46 per cent, significant events happened in the region, too. Let's go through them one by one.

[Subhead] The failure of Armenian strategy During the Aliyev-Powell-Kocharyan joint news conference, the Azerbaijani president's comment about the negative aspects of spinning out the conflict, which surprised the sides, confused and discouraged the Armenian president.

Then, after the meeting with US President George Bush, Kocharyan did not come out to meet journalists to answer their questions, which can also imply that the Armenian president was displeased with the results of the meeting. Kocharyan's impulsive and thoughtless behaviour gave cause to presumptions that some pressure was put on the Armenian president in the USA.

This was underlined by the fact that Kocharyan and his foreign minister, in spite of the confidentiality of the talks, made statements that the talks were proceeding in Yerevan's favour. It seemed that Kocharyan, whose position is very shaky in Armenia, was trying to justify his position before his opponents in Yerevan.

Before the talks, his opponents said: "If Kocharyan makes concessions, he had better not return to Yerevan." As a result, it proved impossible to get any concessions from Kocharyan in Key West. However, the intensification of pressure by the USA might yield results in the end.
Meanwhile, Vardan Oskanyan used the opportunity by stating that the results of talks in Key West would probably be put before the public. All these indicate that Kocharyan was trying to consolidate his position.

Kocharyan, a third rate public employee of Karabakh who unexpectedly became the Armenian president, does not have the capacity to deal with complicated issues. For this reason, Kocharyan is trying to make a political "manoeuvre" like the one made by the Azerbaijani president before the latest talks in the USA.

Baku, by giving permission for the publication of the Minsk Group proposals, generated a nationwide debate about the Karabakh problem. The Azerbaijanis were outraged by the defeatist proposals of the Minsk Group and as a result they closed ranks and called for the close cooperation of all political organizations. At the same time, people's patriotic spirits were raised and they demanded the return of the occupied territories by any means even military force. All these proved that people's apathy about the Karabakh problem, which had been sensed during the last few years, can be removed. Therefore, the Azerbaijani president participated in the negotiations with a powerful weapon - Azerbaijanis are totally against any option that runs counter to the country's interests. For this reason, Baku was insured against any pressure in Key West because Azerbaijan could not be offered a proposal that might cause an outrage in the country. Since democracies are based on interests of societies, then any Western attempt to enforce something on Baku can be regarded as the undermining of freedom and public opinion in Azerbaijan.

[Subhead] Armenia's botched military "show" Concurrent with the Key West talks, the Nagorno-Karabakh's separatist regime launched a large-scale military manoeuvre on the occupied territories. The main purpose of this action was to demonstrate the so-called military "might" of the separatists and to exert pressure on the negotiations in the USA. Before the Key West meetings, the leader of the separatists, Arkadiy Gukasyan, stated that "if Azerbaijan wants war, it will get it". However, the words and deeds of the separatists not only proved ineffective, but also backfired.

In response to the exercises on the occupied territory, the Azerbaijani armed forces began large-scale military exercises near the occupied territories using both ground troops and aircraft. Moreover, during the exercises, Azerbaijani jets shattered the myth of the separatists' "powerful army", that could only watch the jets flying over Nagorno-Karabakh. The Armenians, naturally, could not take any actions.

At the same time, the Azerbaijani president at Bina airport stated: "As soon as the rotor blades of Azerbaijani helicopters started moving, some Armenians urgently started to collect their bundles to make a quick getaway". That's to say if military exercises can cause such a turmoil among Armenians then what will happen if hostilities are resumed? Besides that, the president stressed once again that "Azerbaijan had never ruled out the start of hostilities, however, the peace potential has not been exhausted yet".

Thus, following the failure of Armenian strategy, new tendencies in favour of Azerbaijan are emerging.

[Subhead] Appropriate steps by Baku
We can see that Baku intends to have public support behind it. Quite recently, Ilham Aliyev, deputy chairman of the New Azerbaijan Party [NAP] and first vice-president of SOCAR [State Oil Company of the Azerbaijani Republic], stated that the results of the Key West talks would be put before the people. Therefore, on the one hand, there is a possibility that the confidentiality of the negotiations will be lifted and on the other hand, a decision will be made on the basis of public opinion, which might not be very popular. Moreover, the initial experience gained from the discussions in parliament about the previous proposals of the Minsk Group showed how effective public opinion is. Therefore, public opinion might be used in preparing the population for a possible resumption of hostilities if the peace options fail.

Besides that, Yerevan's noncooperative position will hardly undergo such sharp changes. On the contrary, dissatisfaction with the country's incumbent leadership and the likelihood of a change of power might increase in Yerevan. It cannot be ruled out the Armenian side might do anything to spin the conflict out. The freezing of the conflict meets Armenia's interests to some extent, which is why attempts have been made not to change the current situation.

Therefore, Baku's strategy might include the following three points: First, Azerbaijan must intensify diplomatic activities in the international arena to step up pressure on Yerevan.

Second, it must combine diplomacy with military readiness in order to be able to resort to military means if Baku's just demands do not get international support. Third, by supporting the actions of Baku, the people can indirectly exert pressure on the leading countries to settle the conflict peacefully. The economic interests of the leading countries, which do not wish to jeopardize their investments in Azerbaijan, may also play a great role.

Thus, we have to use Azerbaijan's geopolitical and strategic role more actively in the international arena in order to guarantee our own national interests and liberate the occupied territories.

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