Matthew Bryza: No body in Azerbaijan has agreed on the vote about Nagorno-Karabakh future status - EXCLUSIVE

Matthew Bryza: No body in Azerbaijan has agreed on the vote about Nagorno-Karabakh future status <font color=red>- EXCLUSIVE</font>
# 27 March 2008 11:34 (UTC +04:00)
OSCE Minsk Group US co-chair Matthew Bryza’s interview with APA

Washington, Husniyya Hasanova –APA. OSCE Minsk Group US co-chair announced for the first time in his interview with APA the main items of basic document on the solution of Nagorno Karabakh conflict which have not been accepted by Azerbaijan. He didn’t say anything about the including of Nagorno karabakh referendum in the negotiation agenda, but said that no body in Azerbaijan has agreed on the vote about Nagorno-Karabakh future status. US diplomat said US supported non-campaign against the resolution initiated by Azerbaijan and had to vote against this document.

-Mr. Bryza, yesterday Azerbaijani deputy foreign minister Araz Azimov confirmed that Azerbaijan sent a letter to the OSCE Secretariat searching the procedures of changing the countries or persons of OSCE Minsk Group. How this matter will affect on the negotiation process?

-I have no idea. I heard that deputy minister Azimov was thinking something about changing the composition of Minsk group or dissolving it before. I will hope that deputy minister will remain serious the negotiations. It is very much in the court of Azerbaijan and of cause of Armenia, to finish the basic principals that are so close to finalization. So it is time for serious diplomats to do serious work and playing around with gestures that is not intended to have the practical impact on advancing the negotiation is not constructive. I think that we need get back to work and I would hope that the government of Azerbaijan will continue to behave with us as a strong friend, strong partner with which it has engaged in the issue of strategic importance.

-Why we needed in the discussion of Nagorno Karabakh conflict in UN General Assembly and in the Council of Europe several years ago, if the Minsk Group is the most optimal format for the negotiations?

-I would not speculate on the government of Azerbaijan or at least one representative of the government of Azerbaijan’s motivation. It is up the deputy minister Azimov, who I am big fan by the way, to explain his motivation. What I can do is to call our strong partner Azerbaijan for rejuvenation all of the hard work and progress we have been making toward finalizing the basic principals.

- A few days ago in one of your interviews you made a statement never issued before and said that some forces in Baku are interested in the failure of US-Azerbaijan relationship. Who are those forces?

- I don’t clearly understand who is entirely behind this effort. What I hope is that one of the most successful partnership and friendship in this part of the world is the partnership between U.S. and Azerbaijan. I don’t understand the people who claim that somehow our friendship and partnership was put the test by this resolution in NY. Real friends don’t put each other to the test, real friends trust each other and if Azerbaijan decided to push forward the resolution that we urged to stop pushing forward that’s Azerbaijan prerogative and we respect it. Once again, Azerbaijan is our friend and has a right to do what he wants to do in UN. But our opinion did not stop them. For some reasons, some people in Azerbaijan are talking about the USA put in the test and that implies that somehow we failed this test. I can’t imagine why anybody would want to claim that the USA failed the test with a friend like Azerbaijan.
I can assume that they are only gestures. Based on the honor which I have had to have interaction in the highest level I sense nothing but a sense of partnership and sense of friendship, and understanding that we were forced to the situation where we had to vote on the resolution which we don’t want to vote. In a fact, at the highest level we talked about our desire to take a little bit more time and try to work together to edit or to amend the draft resolution so we can abstain or may be even support it. We strongly urged our superior colleges in the highest level of Azerbaijan government to do just that. For some reasons, the decision was taken to push keeping forward and to force us to vote. We felt that because of resolution was so one sided and only embraced parts of basic principals that Azerbaijan seeks, it would be different things for negotiating process to do anything but vote NO. But with couple of minor changes, we could certainly have abstain or vote YES, vote in favor of the draft resolution. So we did not decide to create this challenge. We asked our Azerbaijani partners and friends to step away from a brick of confrontation. So once again, why any body in Azerbaijan would force a confrontation with the USA. It is beyond me. I thought that we are considered an important friend and partner of Azerbaijan.

- You have already announced some points of the negotiation process, which include securing of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, withdrawal of occupier forces from Nagorno Karabakh and nearby areas, return of refugees to their homeland, sending of international peacekeepers to the frontline. All these points meet Azerbaijani interests, but why Azerbaijan should be dissatisfied with the Minsk Group. Shall you announce the points not accepted by the Baku officials in this interview, because only knowing the two sides of truth, we can determine whose interests do the basic principals meet?

- I did something that are seen from Azerbaijani perspective as being to the Armenian advantage like having a corridor that links Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh territory with Armenia. That’s what Armenian very much wants and what Azerbaijan is not thrilled much about. The main issue is that there is a contention about future status of Nagorno-Karabakh is subject of negotiation. That is something which many people in Azerbaijan don’t like and it is understandable. Our policy is that we support territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and we stated it in the UN General Assembly voting too. At the same time, the government of Azerbaijan is engaged in the negotiations with the government of Armenia on Nagorno-Karabakh which means on a status of Nagorno-Karabakh then they would have to compromise if they want to have a solution. Compromise comes from negotiations. But some people in Azerbaijan don’t want to negotiate about the compromise regarding the future status of Nagorno-Karabakh. That all dispute is about. If they don’t want to negotiate about this point then there is no sense for negotiations to be continued at all. You can’t judge the outcome of negotiating process until you go to the negotiation.

- Are you speaking about the referendum or any elections in another format in Nagorno Karabakh in future?

-Let me say that nothing decided yet but there is a question of the possibility of some voting process. Some type of vote that would determine Karabakh’s status in the future. Nothing has been decided, the type of vote has not been decided, and who will participate has not been decided, when it ever will take place is not decided. None of this has been decided. It is very controversial topic and the challenge is to find the way to reconcile the need for compromise that entails the subjects which I mentioned, with Azerbaijan territorial integrity. That is a great challenge. That all negotiation is about, that is what the basic principals’ aim to do and that why we are unable to do anything but vote against resolution in UN.

- I have been informed that particularly Russian and French diplomats resisted against the UN General Assembly’s resolution initiated by Azerbaijan and tried to press on the ambassadors of other countries. US diplomats were less diligent. Does this fact show that the Minsk Group co-chairs have different approaches in a number of points?

- The co-chairs are operating as one team. I did not know that if my Russian and French counterparts were knocking each door. I do know that my French counterpart has responsibility as EU’s representative in the Minsk group among co-chairs to coordinate with other EU member states. I can speak on behalf of our government was doing and I never and no one in the government of the USA was authorized to contact any country representative in anywhere in the world, be it NY or any other capital and encourage them to vote NO. Instead, I sent very clear instruction out saying that it is not our policy to encourage the negative vote. We were simply voting on our own, as co-chairs to reflect what we viewed as our responsibility to remain neutral. We thought that the resolution was very no neutral and the only way for ourselves to remain neutrality was to vote NO. It was very and very difficult decision. Personally, I agonized over it and lost sleep over it. You have talked about different approaches of the governments. I know what our approach toward Azerbaijan is. Azerbaijan is very important partner to us and friend, and I have responsibility for our full range of relations with Azerbaijan. I want to do nothing to hurt those relationships. Our government and my approach is that we have to be close to Azerbaijan as much as possible but to be in capacity as a fair and honest broker within the Minsk group.

- Azerbaijani Ambassador to UN Aqshin Mehdiyev said that co-chairs’ words about neutrality indicated that they have no positions. What can you say about that?

- I understand why Azerbaijan would feel that because Azerbaijan felt very strongly about this resolution. We respect Azerbaijan’s right to go the UN and make its point. We expect that our friends in Azerbaijan will respect our right as members of UN to have our own view. Because we are friends does not mean that we stop thinking and stop evaluating things which make sense for entire negotiations process here in Washington. We care very much about Azerbaijan and we think that we maintain neutrality.

At the end, I want to emphasize two points. First, nothing in the negotiating process agreed until an entire package is agreed. So nobody has agreed to any kind of vote on Karabakh’s future status. No body has agreed on anything. We simply have negotiations going on in delicate and balanced way. So if we are going to speak publicly about the principals in the table as it happened in UN, we can’t talk on one half of principals which one country likes. We have to talk about both side of equation and help ourselves to reach a compromise. That is first point and nothing is agreed while everything is agreed.

Second, Azerbaijan is such a close friend of ours that there is nothing, and anything especially which I would like to do to undermine our friendship. I feel very close to many officials, leaders of Azerbaijan and it is special place to me both professionally and personally. So I hope that my colleges and my friends in Azerbaijan trust in our friendship enough to know that I would never do anything to hurt Azerbaijan. I am being professional and some times, when we make tough professional decision, it is not only painful to the object of this decision, which is Azerbaijan, but for the person who made decision themselves which is me. So with all this in mind, it is time to move forward. This incident is over, we should drop it. Azerbaijan and the USA have very important issues on their agenda. It is time to move ahead, finalize the basic principals, realize our energy agenda, strengthen democratic institutions as we moving toward 2008 presidential elections in Azerbaijan and finally deepen our security cooperation. And I need that is last time we need speak about the issue of the Generally Assembly. We need to move forward.

- Mr. Bryza, my last question: do the co-chairs support any elections in Nagorno Karabakh and is it reflected in the basic document?

We don’t support anything. The Minsk group has no opinion on any of this. All what do is facilitating the communication between the countries of Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Let don’t go too much in details of basic principals document. What is there that the notion that there is need for compromise between the principal of territorial integrity of Azerbaijan which is so important and the idea of self determination of people. The challenge is to find away to maintain harmony between both principals. No body in Azerbaijan has agreed on the vote about Nagorno-Karabakh future status. People have talked about how to reach a compromise between those seemingly contradictive principals. If it was easy we would be done long time ago.

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