9 March 2010

Azerbaijan, Baku/E.Ostapenko

Trend News interviewed OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Special Representative on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict Mr. Goran Lennmarker in the run up to his Azerbaijan visit scheduled for March 13-16.

Trend News: What is the objective of your visit to Baku in mid-March? Could you please highlight your agenda and the questions which will be on the limelight?

Lennmarker: I will be visiting the three countries of the Caucasus from March 9-16 together with the President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Mr. Joao Soares from Portugal. As you know, the OSCE PA has been engaged in the region in a number of ways. We have been discussing conflicts with the aim of enhancing parliamentary dialogue and we have observed many elections.

During the visit, President Soares and I hope to discuss the priorities, the political challenges that lie ahead and the possibilities for moving forward with regards to the unresolved conflicts.

Q: The recent Sochi meeting of the Presidents of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia in January ended in statement that the parties agreed upon preamble of the document on basic principles for resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. What are your expectations of the next round of the peace process?

A: I remain optimistic about the possibility of solving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict this year. To have a preamble is a good starting point. I have big expectations that there really is a political will in both Baku and Yerevan to move forward and find a peaceful and lasting solution.

I think both Azerbaijan and Armenia have realized that having an unresolved conflict is costly - not least when it comes to the human suffering. The short war in Georgia in 2008 reminded all of us that unresolved conflicts are very dangerous.

Q: What role could Kazakhstan play as the OSCE chairing country in resolving Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, given that Kazakhstan's presidency at the OSCE has declared settlement of the lingering conflicts as its priority.

A: I think the Kazakh Chairmanship is very important. The Kazakhs have themselves come out of the Soviet Union and they might have fresh ideas and be ready to take a look at this conflict from a new angle. I know that the Chairman-in-Office has made settlements of the unresolved conflicts one of his priorities, and I think this is excellent. The timing is right, and with the push from the leadership of the OSCE, progress could really be made.

Q: Taking into account the last developments around the Turkish-Armenian protocols, don't you think it was a mistake to separate restoration of diplomatic relations between these two countries from the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process? What are your views on perspectives of restoring ties between Turkey and Armenia?

A: I find the contact between Turkey and Armenia and the protocols they signed very important, and I think a real breakthrough is possible. Of course, now it is up to the Parliaments of Armenia and Turkey to take this a step further. I think this entire process can provide positive prospects, not only for Armenia and Turkey, but for the entire region of Caucasus and beyond.

I see no reason why the peoples of Armenia and Turkey should not interact; on the contrary, contact is necessary to build good neighborly relations. One natural goal would be to open borders in the region - so that people and goods can move freely. Closed borders only hinder growth.

Q: Armenian occupation of the Azerbaijani territory have resulted in over 4,000 missing Azerbaijanis, while more than one million people have become refugees and internally displaced persons in their native lands. What mechanisms could the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly apply to restore their rights?

A: South Caucasus has seen enough victims and destruction - now is the time to show courage to solve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. This is not easy, but the alternative is simply too costly. There can be no military solution - since it would only lead to more devastation, more casualties, and more refugees. This conflict is not frozen - people die on the line-of-contact every month, and this simply cannot go on.

It is up to the Governments to negotiate a solution, and they are well supported by the OSCE Minsk Group. What we as Parliamentarians can do is to enhance dialogue and prepare ourselves and the public for a solution. This is what we are working on and also why President Joao Soares and I are visiting Baku.