Baku and Yerevan give different spins to St Petersburg Summit
23 June 2016

Only days after the meeting in St Petersburg between the President of Russia and the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan senior officials from both sides gave very different spins to what has been agreed at that meeting. The meeting which took place on Monday (20 June) was initially welcomed by both sides, but now Armenia and Azerbaijan are raising questions as to what was actually agreed.

The only formal communication from the summit was a short joint statement issued immediately afterwards which says:

"At the invitation of the President of the Russian Federation, the Presidents of the Republic of Armenia, Russian Federation and Republic of Azerbaijan met in Saint Petersburg on June 20, 2016 and discussed issues pertaining to the resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh problem.

The Presidents of the Republic of Armenia and Republic of Azerbaijan reiterated agreements reached at the May 16 Armenian-Azerbaijani Summit in Vienna aimed at the stabilization of the situation in the conflict area and creation of an atmosphere conducive for moving the peace process forward. Towards that end, they agreed in particular to increase the number of international observers. They expressed satisfaction with the fact that recently the ceasefire regime at the line of contact has been upheld. There took place a substantial exchanged of opinions regarding the pivotal issues related to the settlement. The Heads of State took note of mutual understanding on a number of issues the resolution of which will allow to create condition for progress in the settlement of the NK issue. The Presidents mentioned the importance of their regular meetings and reached an agreement to continue them in the same format in addition to the activities carried out by the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group.
The Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group were invited to take part in the final part of the meeting in Saint Petersburg."

The day after the meeting in St Petersburg the Deputy head of the Azerbaijan presidential Administration, Novruz Mammadov gave an interview to the Azerbaijani TV station ANS in which he said that at St Petersburg the sides had agreed a step-by-step approach to the resolution of the Karabakh conflict - the first step being the Armenian withdrawal from five Azerbaijani districts around Nagorno-Karabakh, then the release of two more territories, creating a corridor, and finally defining the status of Karabakh.

Novruz Mamedov put the onus for the success of the plan on Armenia saying it was up to Armenia to ensure that it abided by the agreement. This brought a quick sharp reaction from the Armenian side. As reported on the Ministry website, Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian,  said in answer to a journalist question that "Novruz Mammadov, has never participated in any negotiations and the Summit in Saint Petersburg was no exclusion. At the latest meeting, he attended the working lunch only, during which exclusively the creation of a mechanism of investigation of cease-fire violations and expansion of capabilities of the team of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office were discussed.

Regarding the package solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, first of all, as it was stated on numerous occasions - it should be based on the recognition by Azerbaijan of the right of Nagorno-Karabakh people to self-determination and the realization of that right.

Not a single agreement on the settlement of the issue was reached at the Summit in St. Petersburg.

At this stage, Azerbaijan should unconditionally implement the agreements reached and reaffirmed in Vienna and St. Petersburg - first and foremost, settlement of the issue exclusively through peaceful means, maintenance of 1994-1995 trilateral cease-fire agreements which have no time limitations, creation of mechanism of investigation of cease-fire violations, as well as expansion of capabilities of the team of OSCE Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office. All this will enable the creation of appropriate conditions for resumption of negotiations on the settlement of the issue," Nalbandian concluded.

Meanwhile as the sharp diplomatic exchange was taking place, Armenian president Serzh Sargsyan visited Nagorno-Karabakh, where he had talks with the leadership of the self-declared Nagorno-Karabakh Repiublic and visited the line of contact.

Despite all this Russian propagandists in Moscow were trying hard over the last days to describe the St Petersburg summit as a major breakthrough and president Putin as a peacemaker who alone could solve the Karabakh conflict.

The Azerbaijani news agency APA quoted Sergei Markov, the Director of the Russian Institute of Political Studies as saying that "serious progress towards the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was achieved at the St. Petersburg meeting". According to him, this meeting "was important for the decisions to be passed in the near future".

APA further quoted Markov as saying that "The presidents discussed the Kazan formula that envisages firstly the return of 5 adjacent districts to Nagorno-Karabakh, then 2 districts to Azerbaijan except the corridor to Armenia. The sides also mulled the possible deployment of peacekeepers in the territory between Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent districts. The deployment of peacekeepers was offered as a guarantee against a military intervention in Nagorno-Karabakh," the political analyst added.

To the question put by the APA journalist if the Kazan formula was discussed at the trilateral meeting, then why do the meeting participants, and other officials say nothing about its details and what was agreed, Markov replied, "The details of the meeting are not disclosed. This shows that the trilateral meeting held in St. Petersburg had actually a real content. When a significant decision is adopted, the mediators keep it secret. Yesterday's meeting is an example of it. I believe that a final agreement will be signed after two or three such meetings. For the present, meetings are aimed at eliminating disagreements on the points of the Kazan formula. These disagreements are related to issues such as providing Armenia one or two corridors, the return of 5-6 or 7 districts at the initial stage, the need for a referendum in the future and the reflection of the final agreement in the UN resolutions. For example, Baku insists on the final agreement being included in the UN Security Council resolutions which demand the liberation of the occupied Azerbaijani territories and support the fact that Nagorno-Karabakh belongs to Azerbaijan. However, Yerevan is against it. I think such controversial points will be solved at the next meetings," the political analyst concluded.

From all this one can conclude that many things were discussed in St Petersburg, but it seems that not so much was agreed.

source: with agencies.

Photo: President Putin with the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan (archive picture)