Reality Check: Sargsyan urges Baku to show “down-to-earth” approach in Karabakh talks

Armenian President Serzh Sarsgyan called on leadership in Baku to drop their “all for myself” approach and concentrate in earnest on the current stage of peace talks with Yerevan to find a solution to the longrunning dispute over Nagorno–Karabakh.

At the end of his two-day working visit to Nagorno-Karabakh on Thursday, Sargsyan gave an interview to the local public television in which he reiterated that the Armenian side is in search of “realistic solutions that will lead to real peace and will be durable.”

The Armenian leader was responding to a recent statement made by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, who said an agreement had been reached about an Armenian withdrawal from the territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh that are currently controlled by Karabakh forces.

“Of course, in every negotiation each of the sides is trying to get the maximum, but I do not understand when during negotiations one of the sides is seeking to gain everything and is being guided by the motto “everything is for me”. In this case negotiations for this side could be unpleasant and they may be left unsatisfied as a result of these negotiations. And this is not our fault,” said Sargsyan, as quoted by his press service.

“When our partners in talks come to the conclusion that there should be a logical solution, then these solutions will be easily found,” continued Sargsyan. “When they realistically approach the matter and besides making declarations also show that they really want a solution, then the problem will be solved… I think it will only be right if both we and the Azerbaijanis now concentrate our efforts on the current stage of the negotiations instead of trying to cut a slice from the past talks and presenting it to an ‘own’ audience.”

In what appeared to be a response to Aliyev’s notorious war rhetoric, Sargsyan also said: “I just can’t imagine how one can speak of troops’ combat-readiness and morale while strolling on the parquet floor of his office?”

Again in a clear reference to Azerbaijan (and implying that Armenia maintains military superiority over its archrival), Sargsyan continued: “We have really combat-ready armed forces, unlike some countries in the region that have large groups of armed people. And these are different things.”

Sargsyan’s remarks came on his visit to Nagorno-Karabakh during which he inspected the frontline positions and met with top military brass of the Armenia-backed republic that has enjoyed de-facto independence from Baku since the end of a three-year bloody war in 1994.

Internationally mediated talks around the conflict resulted in proposed principles of settlement, known as the Madrid principles, which yet have to be agreed by the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Sargsyan and his Azerbaijani counterpart met two weeks ago in Moldova for fresh talks.

International mediators said then the sides had moved closer to overcoming their differences over a framework agreement put forward by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Minsk Group. Aliyev, however, called the meeting “unproductive” and said the parties “failed to reach agreement on the main issues under discussion.”

An Armenian withdrawal from several districts surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh proper appears to be one of the key elements of the proposals advanced by the international mediatory group jointly chaired by the Untied States, Russia and France. Along with security guarantees for the local population, the proposals also appear to offer an interim status for Nagorno-Karabakh providing guarantees for its security and self-governance and a future determination of the final legal status of the territory “through a legally binding expression of will.”