Ter-Petrosyan on the BBC: Karabakh conflict could have been resolved by giving certain territories to Azerbaijan

Independent Armenia’s first president Levon Ter-Petrosyan has insisted that the closest Armenia and Azerbaijan were to finding a full solution to the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh was in 1997, but a solution then failed because of the disagreement of Karabakh Armenians.

In an interview with the BBC Russian Service aired on Monday Ter-Petrosyan, who today leads Armenia’s opposition, said the Karabakh conflict could have been settled by means of ceding “certain territories” to Azerbaijan and establishing an intermediate status for Nagorno-Karabakh.

“But this did not happen, because the people of Karabakh demonstrated a maximalist approach and decided that this was too little, one could press more and get more... And not only people in Karabakh,” said the ex-president, who was forced to resign in February 1998, less than half a year after presenting his vision for ending the land dispute with Azerbaijan largely called “defeatist” in Armenia and Karabakh.

“Also in Yerevan, in my surroundings there were people who thought like that. I said then: if you think there is a better solution, please, [go ahead], I can’t have this solution stymied, you try it, maybe you’ll be successful,” added Ter-Petrosyan, reflecting on his differences, leading up to his resignation, with then Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan, a native of Karabakh and its former leader and other senior government representatives in Yerevan.

In his wide-ranging interview with the BBC Ter-Petrosyan also spoke about some little-known details of the establishment of the Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose alliance of former Soviet republics set up in the wake of the USSR’s demise, about his conversations with then Russian leader Boris Yeltsin and how Armenia gained its independence.

Speaking about the positive and negative aspects of the post-Soviet period for Armenia, Ter-Petrosyan noted that almost all former Soviet republics had seen a socio-economic decline after the disintegration of the Union.

“But it is not only food that keeps people alive. There is an aspiration for independence, an aspiration for democracy, freedom of speech and freedom of conscience. We gained all that,” said Ter-Petrosyan.

According to Armenia’s first post-communist leader, in general gaining independence was a great advance for the countries of the former Soviet Union, as well as for the whole world “because there is no empire, no communism, no Cold War.”

Ter-Petrosyan also expressed confidence that 20 years from now Armenia will be in a much better position and stressed that “distortion of power” remains a key problem for the country for the time being.

“If this problem is solved, everything will fall into place,” said Armenia’s current opposition leader. “There will be a normal, free country. Problems with both Azerbaijan and Turkey will be solved, that is, if Armenia faces a catastrophic situation, the fault will be entirely ours.”

To view Levon Ter-Petrosyan’s full interview in Russian click here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/russian/multimedia/2011/04/110415_v_terpetrosyan_int.shtml