Public advisory council on the Platform for peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan

Public Expert Council on the Karabakh settlement at its last meeting reviewed the Platform for peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan, adopted in November 2016 by a group of civil society representatives of Armenia and Azerbaijan.

 "Expert Council  has always supported any initiatives aimed at a fair settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, restoration of territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and return of refugees to their homes, the establishment of peace and security in our region, for all its citizens without exception. Taking   into consideration, that all these goals have been mentioned in this platform, the Expert Council regarded it as a positive document and decided to support this initiative, to carry out the necessary coordination within civil society efforts, and to assist in its implementation," reads  the press release of the social structure.

Turan  agency asked the Expert Council member, political scientist Eldar Namazov to comment on the decision .

Question: What is the difference of this initiative - the world platform from other initiatives of recent years? Why did Expert Council decide to support it?

Answer: The question of the difference between this initiative from others is important, it determines the value of this initiative, and our relationship to it. As is known, the official negotiation process, as well as in the so-called "Track to" - a parallel process within the civil society, in recent years, the main watershed is the clash of two approaches - the "package" and "gradual". It is generally accepted that the "package" variant is more consistent with the requirements of the Armenian side, as it involves the simultaneous solution to the question of liberation of the occupied territories and to determine the final status of Nagorno Karabakh. This approach allows the  Armenian side to link the two issues, and thereby block the peace process, because to agree on the final status is currently almost impossible.

 It is also generally accepted that the "phased" plan is more beneficial to the Azerbaijani side, because it involves the deposition of the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh in the future and the priority resolution of other issues - the liberation of the territories, return of refugees, security guarantees, deployment of peacekeeping forces, the opening of borders, etc.

In principle, from a formal point of view, the conventional view of things seems right - Armenians for the "batch" variant, we are for the "phased". But there is also a very important misconception. Thus, the Armenian side is negotiating with maximalist positions, achieving separation of Nagorno Karabakh from Azerbaijan. But where similar maximalist position of Azerbaijan?

"Step by step" plan is not such - it is very painful compromise, both difficult and for us, and for the Armenians. Azerbaijan supports the "phased" plan only based on the fact that it is only a compromise plan that may equally satisfy both parties, as the events of 1997, when Heydar Aliyev and Levon Ter-Petrosyan agreed to accept it.

In fact,  in the negotiating box was not Armenian and Azerbaijani versions. It was the Armenian version (their version of a "package" of the settlement) and the Armenian-Azerbaijani compromise option ( "step by step"). For many years we have been trying to convince the mediators that "step by step" settlement plan – is not the Azeri  variant, but a compromise.

Theoretically we can also introduce our own version of a "package"  settlement, its Azerbaijani version, but  it did not go more than talk, and  did not have a serious impact on the intermediaries. As a result, in recent years has increased the pressure on Azerbaijan - what other concessions you can go to in addition to being laid down in the "gradual" version?

However, for Azerbaijan is already impossible, "phased" plan for us  is a red line of compromise and retreat from it already leads to a loss of sovereignty and territorial integrity.

In this context, the initiative of the World Platform, is very important for us, it "puts into circulation," a new element - the Azerbaijani version of the "package" settlement, then it's the missing link, the lack of which leads to excessive pressure on us, leading to a false perception of the "phasing "plan as pro-Azerbaijani, but in fact  it is a difficult painful compromise, the maximum possible concessions to Azerbaijan.

The appearance of the Platform and the expansion of this initiative, in my opinion, will contribute to a more objective perception of the international community the real picture in the negotiation process: there are two "package" variants of the conflict (the Azerbaijani and Armenian version) is a compromise "phased" plan of settlement, equidistant from maximalist positions of the parties.

Question: Do you think that this Platform  of the World may achieve the stated objectives, to receive sufficient support?

Answer: By itself, the Platform of the World is a comprehensive document that includes almost the entire range of the main elements of the settlement of the conflict - the liberation of seven occupied regions outside of Nagorno-Karabakh, giving him the Autonomous Republic status within Azerbaijan, the return of refugees to their homes, peaceful coexistence Armenian and Azerbaijani communities, security guarantees and human rights, etc.

The document also contains a great plan and work in this direction within the framework of civil society - both between communities as well as with international organizations.

Of course, such a large amount of the stated goals will require the efforts of a large part of the civil sector. From the Azerbaijani side, this support is expected, given the nature of the document. On the other hand, the Armenian society is polarized enough in this respect, especially after the April four-day war in 2016, when many realized in Armenia, which is a large-scale war may well end their devastating defeat.

There are groups of people speaking openly that provoking the Karabakh conflict was a mistake from the Armenian side, and the need to return the occupied territories and to establish peaceful relations with Azerbaijan. There are groups who are not ready to declare the return of Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan, but we are ready for a gradual settlement of the conflict - the return of seven regions with the provision of temporary interim status for Nagorno-Karabakh. There are groups of similar, but slightly different approaches. With all of these groups can and should negotiate. For us, unacceptable is the position of those who are trying to get us to the refusal of the principle of territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. It will impossible to  come to agreement with them neither officially nor in the civil sector. Do not forget that the main and decisive factor giving momentum to achieve success in negotiations, is the ability of the Azerbaijani army to restore the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.

(Public expert council on the Karabakh settlement was founded more than 10 years ago to coordinate the activities of the leaders of public organizations, political scientists, lawyers, sociologists, representatives of the media. It includes Arzu Abdullayeva, Zardusht Alizadeh, Ali Abbasov, Rasim Agayev, and others.)

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