Baku. Malahat Najafova – APA. Interview with the outgoing US co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group James Warlick
James Warlick, who has been the US co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement since September 2013, tweeted on Nov. 21 that he will step down as Minsk Group co-chair on December 31.
“It has been an honor to serve in the US Department of State for more than 30 years,” tweeted Warlick.
Q. You have been US co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group for 3 years. How do you asses your activity in this period? Was it easy to work with the parties to the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict? Which side was more sincere in the negotiation process?
A. It has been an honor to serve at the U.S. Co-Chair. I remain convinced that both presidents are committed to a peaceful settlement of the conflict and that neither side wants war. Our efforts at trying to bring about a lasting peace were all directed toward furthering this goal.
Q. We have known you as an ambassador actively and closely involved in the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh. Can we say that you were oppressed, saw no positive result of the mediation and resigned?
A. My decision to resign as the US co-chair was personal. I have had the privilege of a fulfilling career as a U.S. diplomat and after more than 30 years of service I am looking forward to working in the private sector.
Q. When the name of the new US co-chair will be announced? There will be two new co-chairs in the Minsk Group in 2017. How can these changes contribute to the conflict’s settlement?
A. An interim co-chair will be announced in the near future. The role of the Minsk Group co-chairs will continue to be as mediators working toward a lasting peace. I have every confidence that the next US co-chair will continue to work toward achieving that goal.
Q. Several tensions occurred on the contact line of Armenian and Azerbaijani troops during your tenure as co-chair. The escalation on the contact line reached peak in April this year. Azerbaijanis hoped for a solution to the conflict after the OSCE Minsk Group increased efforts following April clashes. However, the process returned to the previous phrases in the last months. What is the reason? How far away is a solution to the conflict? In which phase is the process?
A. There are good ideas and proposals on the table, elements of which can form the basis of a lasting peace. While there are still disagreements to be worked through, a natural part of any negotiation process, both President Serzh Sargsyan and President Ilham Aliyev have committed themselves to a path of peace. What we need to see now is political will from the presidents to commit themselves to moving forward with these negotiations.
Q. The number of rhetorical statements from Azerbaijan regarding the opposite side has recently decreased. On the contrary, Armenia is issuing various statements. The Armenian president stated that Nagorno-Karabakh will either be independent or adjacent to Armenia. Besides, Yerevan is intending to change the name of Nagorno-Karabakh to Artsakh. Can we say that it was Armenia which undermined peace process intensified after the April fighting?
A. Such statements reflect the importance of negotiations in good faith on a settlement that can benefit all the people in the region.
Q. There were discussions on the expansion of the Office of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office and creation of mechanism for investigating incidents. The sides even expressed their willingness in this matter. However, the process is delayed. Is any work being done in this regard and in general, how can these measures contribute to the conflict’s settlement?
A. The expansion of Ambassador Kasprzyk’s mission after more than 20 years is an important step in the right direction. In Vienna and in St. Petersburg, the Presidents committed themselves to the expansion of the mission and there continues to be support from officials on both sides. We are currently working on all of the details of the expanded mission and I am confident we will get there.
Q. Baku offers to increase the number of co-chairs and involve the regional countries in the Minsk Group. Is it possible? How would you say about the views on insufficiency of the work of the current co-chairs?
A. Our job as mediators is to facilitate a discussion between the presidents that can lead to a settlement. At the end of the day, it is really up to the presidents to decide whether to go forward or not. The presidents need to want a settlement and need to work toward one with each other. This would be the reality of the situation no matter how many co-chairs or regional actors were engaged in the Minsk Group format.
Q. The issue of releasing Azerbaijanis Dilgam Asgarov and Shahbaz Guliyev, who are being kept in Armenian captivity, remains unresolved. Is this issue still under discussion or have the co-chairs removed it from their agenda?
A. We continue to raise the issue and are also in touch with the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Q. It seems that the Hamburg meeting will be the last meeting that you will attend as a co-chair. What are your expectations from this meeting?
A. We look forward to the OSCE Ministerial in Hamburg as an opportunity to continue our dialogue with FM Nalbandian and FM Mammadyarov, and are prepared to work with the parties in any way that can bring about a lasting settlement.
Q. Do you think that public diplomacy can contribute to a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict? Recently, several Armenian activists have arrived in Azerbaijan. They sent messages of peace of Armenia and urged the country to stop the occupation. What do you think about these calls?
A. An important element of the Co-Chair’s work is the people-to-people activities that support exchanges of ideas and points of view. Our hope is that, over time, as the negotiations progress further, more opportunities will be created for such activities. These types of interactions break down barriers and are important in helping to establishing trust among the future generations of Azerbaijanis and Armenians.