Here is an excerpt from the assessments on the South Caucasus political dynamics publicized by the European Parliament's rapporteur for the South Caucasus, Per Gahrton.

This content below appears on the web site of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) (http://www.rferl.org).

Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, more than a decade after gaining their independence, remain politically volatile and still struggle with realizing their economic promise. Separatist tendencies and frozen conflicts still plague the region. Georgia and Azerbaijan have recently undergone leadership changes, so what hope is there for a fresh start?

The European Parliament's rapporteur for the South Caucasus, Per Gahrton of Sweden, has filed a report on the situation in the region, which the full Parliament is expected to adopt soon (25-26 February or 8-11 March). RFE/RL spoke with Gahrton about his views on the future of the South Caucasus.

Prague, 12 February 2004 (RFE/RL) -- What are the major problems facing the Southern Caucasus republics, economically and politically?


Have the leadership changes in Georgia set the stage for improvements?


[The present leadership] came to their senses several years ago and realized it was not possible to simply go on, so they all quit the gang of [then-President Eduard] Shevardnadze and started real opposition. And by pursuing this real opposition for fair elections, and against corruption and really starting from the bottom up to restructure Georgian society in a modern and a democratic way, as we know from the presidential elections, they got an absolutely unique amount of confidence from the population.


And what of Azerbaijan, where the late President Heidar Aliyev was replaced by his son Ilham?


I had the opportunity to meet with the new president, Mr. Ilham Aliyev, and he had two faces at the meeting with me. First, with Azerbaijani journalists and aides present, he talked in Azerbaijani, and he was very, very tough, according to the translations. Then he sent them out, all of them, and then there was only me and my adviser, and him and an adviser, and then he talked in almost fluent English, and it was quite another approach. He was very conciliatory, and he really wanted to meet with [people], especially concerning the conflict with Armenia. I mean, if he was not bluffing all the time -- and I don't think he was -- I think there is a possibility for an opening up and reconciliation with Armenia. And that is the basic prerequisite also for democracy in Azerbaijan, because when you have such conflicts, the country is occupied, several provinces are occupied, 1 million people are internal refugees, it creates enormous tension in the country. It is difficult to maintain a real working democracy. So I think there is a link, and there is a hope, but international society must act forcefully, to push them. They need to be pushed, both Aliyev in Azerbaijan and [President Robert] Kocharian in Armenia -- they need [us to push them] and they ask us to push them.


So there are prospects for ending the long-running dispute between the two neighbors over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave?


I think there is a minimum compromise possible, and that would be that Nagorno-Karabakh would not become an internationally acknowledged state with a seat in the United Nations, etc. That's what the so-called president of the enclave [Arkady Gukasian] has told me -- that's not the most important thing for them. But they will never accept to be administratively subordinated to authorities in Baku. That is their bottom line. So they could be from a formal, legal point of view still a part of Azerbaijan, but they should have a complete autonomy on everything that is important in everyday life. But they do not demand to have a seat in the United Nations or the Council of Europe or whatever -- there, Azerbaijan could sit for them, or not for them, or whatever. They have stopped demanding that because they have understood it is not realistic, that the international community is not in favor of establishing more sovereign states. .And as for the Azerbaijanis, what do they want? They really don't want to rule the [Nagorno-Karabakh] Armenians any more. They have understood that that is out.


(http://www.armeniaemb.org/News/Index.htm), January 14, 2004

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia is deeply concerned that yesterday, a delegation from Armenia's Ministry of Defense was not allowed to fly from Istanbul to Baku to participate in the NATO Partnership for Peace Cooperative Best Effort 2004 Exercise planning conference, because of the direct intervention of the Azerbaijani authorities.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia condemns this action, and believes that it is inconsistent with the letter, the spirit and the premise of the Partnership for Peace Program. This unprecedented action by the Azerbaijani authorities calls into question the realization of the basic principles of the Partnership, which are aimed at strengthening mutual confidence, enhancing dialogue and co-operation in the Euro-Atlantic area and in particular among the nations of the Southern Caucasus.


a). Ethnic Conflicts in Kosovo and Nagorno-Karabakh in Comparative Perspective. By Dr. Hayk S. Kotanjian, Prof. of Political Science. Center for Defense Information, Washington, DC, 1999, (http://www.cdi.org/issues/Europe/kotanjian.html).

b). G.S.Kotanjian. "Etnopolitologiya konsensusa-konflikta: civilizacionniy aspect natsionalnoy bezopasnosti." (H. S. Kotanjian. Ethnic Politics of Consensus and Conflict: Civilization Aspect of National Security, (in Russian). Moscow: Louch Publishers, 1990, pp. 104-120.

Hayk Kotanjian

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