Aliyev’s Intrigues in “Couloirs”
The “confessions” of Geydar Aliyev about the so-called agreement reached with Robert Kocharyan last year in Paris about exchanging territories between Azerbaijan and Armenia were assessed in Yerevan as “absurd and not serious”. This is how Serj Sargsyan, the Secretary of National Security at the President’s Office of Armenia, Minister of Defense and Vahe Gabrielyan, press-secretary of the President characterized the statement of the Azerbaijani president.
In fact, when “disclosing” the “principles agreed upon” on the settlement of the Karabagh problem which were discussed last March at the Shirak-Aliyev-Kocharyan summit in Paris, Geydar Aliyev announced that one of the aspects of these principles was the opening of the transport corridors connecting Azerbaijan with Nakhichevan through the territory of Meghri region of Armenia, as well a s Armenia with Mountainous Karabagh through the territory of Lachin region of Azerbaijan. In addition, as it was emphasized by Aliyev, the issue of granting sovereign rights to the parties involved was discussed. In particular, Azerbaijan should have a right to the Meghri corridor, and Armenia, in its turn, was supposed to have right to Lachin corridor. Aliyev noted that the focal issue in talks in Paris was the assigning analogous statuses to both corridors. Nevertheless, according to Aliyev, “the Armenian side later broke the agreement which resulted in the breakdown in the talks in Key West, USA”.
The Azeri leader placed a special emphasis on the circumstance that “today he was obliged to disclose the essence of the Paris principles since the Armenian side, including the top officials, distorted them and made attempts to speculate on this issue”. “We are ready to continue the negotiations based on the Paris principles provided the agreements reached in France are accepted again”, he stated. On the other hand, Aliyev was regretful that “Armenia held back from any official statements and was unwilling to provide a sovereign corridor through Meghri, while it claimed that Azerbaijan should open the Lachin corridor”. “This is unacceptable for us”, the Azeri president stated.
Vahe Gabrielyan, the press-secretary of the Armenian president who participated in the talks on the settlement of the Karabagh problem in Key West (Florida, USA) in 2001 was cautiously following the confidentiality as pledged between the participants of the Kocharyan-Aliyev meeting and the emissaries or at least maintained by Yerevan. Nevertheless, he firmly stated that “the rumors about the reached agreements about granting sovereignty to any of the Armenian territories, as well as the sovereign corridor of Azerbaijan-Nakhichevan are senseless” (cf.: newspaper “Republic of Armenia”, June 17, 2002). With respect of the agreements denied by Armenia, the press-secretary emphasized that on the contrary, it was Azerbaijan that refused from the reached agreements. In order to make a judgement about the accuracy of Geydar Aliyev’s statement, one should note that the Azeri president insistently denied the existence of any “Paris principles” for more than a year and is now misinterpreting some of them, Gabrielyan mentioned. Why should Aliyev make this statement now that the principles denied by Azerbaijan and reflected in the draft document in Key West will sooner or later be disclosed, the press-secretary of the Armenian president noted.
There is no point in claiming that the true reasons for this sort of “confessions” of the Azeri leader lie on the surface, but the Azerbaijani mass media has to some extent given the answer to this question. According to newspaper “Mirror” (of July 15), one should try to understand the reason at a different, most likely, home policy level why the Azerbaijani leader “touched upon the highly disputable aspects of the Paris principles now when there is apparent activation in the negotiations process with one of its initiators being Geydar Aliyev”. It is noted in the newspaper that announcements like that may give rise to severe political crisis both in Azerbaijan and Armenia. “There are not so many alternatives. Firstly, it is not excluded that the alternative proposed by the emissaries for the resolution of the Karabagh conflict is no better than the preceding one. The statement of the Azerbaijani leader was an attempt to see what the reaction of the public will be to it”. It is also admitted in the newspaper that the events in Nardaran (Azerbaijan) where a number of public demonstrations against the authorities were held, are somehow related to the negotiations process on Mountainous Karabagh. “The conflict between the authorities and people of Nardaran (Azerbaijan) had been maturing irrespective of these factors. Nevertheless, by displaying the ‘firmness’ of its position in respect of ensuring the stability in the country by possible means in this confrontation, including forceful measures, the authorities could knock out the opposition so that it would give up the idea of resistance as it proved to be previously. However, this time it did not work. It is likely that by making this statement the authorities of Azerbaijan attempt to fail the realization of the alternatives of the peaceful agreement which are not favorable for Azerbaijan and at the same time lay the blame on the official Yerevan. It is known that the opposition in Yerevan calls for impeaching Kocharyan. Obviously, the news about Kocharyan’s previous refusal from the Meghri corridor will cause more tense atmosphere. The negotiations process will undoubtedly be moved aside for an indefinite time-period if the shift of the power in Yerevan takes place, as it happened after the assassination of the Armenian Parliament” (citation from “The Mirror” newspaper).
The Armenian opposition has more than once speculated on the idea that the present authorities allegedly intend to use Armenian territories as “change money” as solicited by the international community. The announcement that Washington intends to operate the aforementioned transport communications, and, accordingly, open the Meghri corridor was made quite recently by Aram Sargsyan, the leader of the Democratic Party of Armenia (DPA) who participated in the second round of the meeting of the representatives of the public (I apologize for the tautology, but it is important. – G.M.) of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Mountainous Karabagh in Moscow on October 19-21 within the frames of the Dartmouth Conference with the participation of the representatives of Russia and the USA. The leader of DPA who is in opposition with the present Armenian authorities explicitly stated that not only the establishment of sovereignty of Azerbaijan over the so-called Meghri Corridor, but even any control over the said corridor by international peace-keeping forces would be a hazard to the national security of Armenia. In the latter case not only Armenia would lose its common border with Iran, but “might simply become a military ordinance yard”. Sargsyan noted that the supposed isolation of Iran which is in the black list of the USA would undoubtedly force Iran to take counteractions against this policy of Washington.
These are the versions of Geidar Aliyev and the Armenian opposition. As noted above, official Yerevan considers that such statements are fictitious and absurd and continuously demonstrates its adherence to the “Paris principles”. In this respect Serj Sargsyan, the Armenian Defense Minister and Secretary of the Security Council at the President’s Office stated that “it would be better if instead of excusing himself and justifying his actions Geydar Aliyev set to the implementation of the agreements reached in Paris”.
As a matter of fact, according to “De Facto” News Agency which published the statement of Alexander Grigoryan, Head of the Information Department of the President’s Office of NKR, "the president of NKR Arkadi Ghukasyan has announced more than once that Mountainous Karabagh will not ever consent to any resolution of the Karabagh problem which may be harmful for the interests of Armenia”. Stepanakert assessed the statements of Aliyev as not corresponding to reality and obviously dictated by its internal political situation.