Rob Sachs: We are going to talk about Nagorno-Karabakh, a region that’s been used to living in limbo. The territory is home to nearly a million people, and it’s internationally recognized as being part of Azerbaijan, one of the states of the former Soviet Union. But, in 1994, Armenians living in the region won a hard-fought victory and claimed the region to be autonomous. Soldiers from Armenia have been there to protect people in Karabakh, which doesn’t sit well with Azerbaijan and the state of Karabakh has been in flux since.
Jessica Jordan: Today Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will renew efforts to end the conflict by encouraging the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan to agree to a document on basic principles that consist of six elements that seek to reconcile the Armenian aspiration of Nagorno-Karabakh secession with Azerbaijan’s claim to territorial integrity. Joining us now to discuss this is Alexey Malashenko, a scholar in residence at the Carnegie Moscow Center. Can you outline the document on basic principles for us?
Alexey Malashenko: The document on basic principles of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is a possible treaty on Nagorno-Karabakh, which stipulates the so-called “transitional status” of Nagorno-Karabakh, guarantees security of the population, the withdrawal of Armenian forces from Azerbaijan’s territory and the creation of the so-called “corridor” between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. These are the principles presented in Madrid and that was long ago. At the moment they are continuing to discuss this preliminary agreement in Madrid. There was a huge misunderstanding between Armenia and Azerbaijan before, but at the moment there’s a hope that both sides – the Armenians and the Azeri – are ready to work out not the treaty – I am emphasizing it – but the principles of Madrid. And that will be considered the first step towards the final agreement. But, as they understand, there’s the main problem without any solution – the real status of Nagorno-Karabakh, because I’m sure that Azerbaijan will never recognize the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh, while the government and the people of Nagorno-Karabakh are insisting that without the recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh’s independence it’s impossible to put an end to the conflict. This is the problem. So, of course, the negotiations between Medvedev, Ilkham Aliyev and Serzh Sargsyan in Kazan are a very good thing, because it’s much better than a war. But I doubt that in a couple of years or in a dozen of years any real treaty between Armenia and Azerbaijan concerning Nagorno-Karabakh will be signed. But we need to be optimistic, because there is no war between the two countries.
Jessica Jordan: Alexey, can you talk a little bit about the tension there, between the people of Azerbaijan and Armenian soldiers, right on the front lines, where these Armenian soldiers are stationed right now. What is the feeling for those soldiers, who are constantly camped right on the dividing line, who are always ready for combat if it does arise again?
Alexey Malashenko: I know about it and my answer to your question will be very simple. I don’t believe that a war between two countries means a double suicide. I cannot imagine who’ll come out victorious. I cannot imagine how the situation will be going on. Of course, something may happen. But it’s not a big war, and both presidents understand it very well, despite the fact that, for instance, some time ago Ilkham Aliyev said Azerbaijan was much better prepared for the war than Armenia, despite the fact that they’re continuing to say in Armenia the military of Armenia is better than that in Azerbaijan. But I cannot believe it’s possible. At the moment, my opinion of the situation is much more optimistic that in was 15 years ago.
Rob Sachs: We’ve been looking how the situation has been going on for two decades. I’m wondering what President Dmitry Medvedev is bringing to the table as new that may be able to break the impasse that’s been going on for so long?
Alexey Malashenko: Sometimes I prefer to compare the conflict around Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenia and Azerbaijan to the conflict in the Middle East, because it’s a matter of eternity. I understand that it’s a very important problem for the region, for Russia, for Armenians and Azeris, but indeed it’s impossible to solve the issue, because it’s a problem of independence of a land, of a newly-born country. And we understand very well that Azerbaijan will never recognize the independence of this Armenian land. So, it’ll continue, and we have to be ready.
Jessica Jordan: So, what has been Russia’s role in negotiating this peace? What should be their role going forward?
Alexey Malashenko: I think the key problem around this conflict and the problem of Russia’s participation consists in talking, because when you talk, you don’t make war on each other. And from that point of view an intermediary is very important. If they agree on the principles of the Madrid treaty that’s very good, because it’ll mean that both countries refused to use military methods. But it doesn’t mean they’re ready for a certain agreement.
Rob Sachs: I think it’s good to be optimistic like you are, and it’s nice to know that you feel there’s not going to be another war. But we’ll still see how this is going to be resolved. If it’s not going to be resolved they will have to learn how to work with the status quo.