13 Sep 2016

U.S. co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group James Warlick: U.S. supply defensive arms to Armenia, Azerbaijan to very limited extent

U.S. co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group James Warlick, who has recently visited Moscow, has given an interview to Interfax‘s foreign political desk editor-in-chief Olga Golovanova in which he speaks about Washington‘s perception of the prospects of the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement.

Question: How do you access the meeting that took place today at the Foreign Ministry with your partners fr om France and Russia? You have also had a meeting with Minister Lavrov. How was there?

Answer: We met for Minister Lavrov this morning with the co-chairs and the personal representative of the Chairman in office Personal Representative of the Chairperson-in-Office Andrzej Kasprzyk. We met for nearly an hour and had an opportunity to talk about the peace process for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the next steps, so we talked through with Minister Lavrov. The proposals are on the table and how we could move the process forward. It was very useful and very productive. We appreciated that Foreign Minister Lavrov took so much time with us to talk through the issue.

Q.: Have you personally brought any new proposals at the table?

A.: We have to understand that the framework for a settlement has been under discussion for years now. The elements of the settlement are there. What we are lacking is a political will fr om the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan to move forward. So, we talked through those elements with Foreign Minister Lavrov, and we talked about how we can work with sides towards a negotiated settlement.

Q.: Could you give me more details, provide me more concrete information what ideas were discussed? What are the ideas fr om Russia, US, France and your attitude to them?

A.: Sure. Well, you know, this is an area where we do truly see eye to eye - the U.S., Russia and France. We share common approach to a negotiated settlement on the conflict. And so we‘ve been working together I think very productively. This is an issue that Foreign Minister Lavrov and Secretary Kerry have discussed on numerous occasions. As you may know, there was a summit meeting in Vienna that was chaired by Secretary Kerry, and then President Putin hosted the two presidents in Saint Petersburg not long ago. What we want to see following those two summits is an implementation of the agreements reached in Vienna and Saint Petersburg. And also an agreement on next steps on the peace process. That‘s what we were working through. And as you may know there are a number of elements that came out of the two summit meetings. One, for example, was the expansion of the OSCE observer mission in Nagorno-Karabakh. We would certainly like to see this go forward. And the U.S. together with Russia and France will be very engaged in Vienna and in capitals to work towards the expansion of the observer mission. There are other measures that we would like to see, as well as continuation of these summit meetings, where we can bring the presidents together. What we have found is that when the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan meet they talk real substance. They deal with the key issues that need to be resolved to move the process forward. I think that the U.S., Russia and France as well are in an agreement that what we‘ve seen fr om each of these summits is steps in the right direction. And we do have proposals on the table. For Minister Lavrov has been personally involved. And as you know, both of the presidents have been very much engaged. President Sargsyan was in Moscow recently, in fact on August 10 for meetings with President Putin. President Putin visited Baku before that and had discussions with President Aliyev on next steps. What we are hoping is all of these leading to negotiated settlement. And I think the great news is over the passed months, since the so-called ‘four-day war‘ in the beginning of April, we‘ve seen a period where the cease fire more or less been respected. And that produces an atmosphere where we can make progress in the negotiations. And so we would like the presidents to come together again. We do want to continue to work on these proposals and find common ground between the presidents and to work with the sides to do what we should do after more than 20 years of conflict and that is find a settlement.

Q.: And are there any plans to organize a new summit?

A.: There are plans, but there are no specifics yet. We do want the presidents to come together, but we do not yet have time or a place. What we‘ll be doing as co-chairs would be to meet with the foreign ministers to lay the groundwork for the next summit. We hope to see both foreign ministers in New York In about two weeks time, less than that, on the margins of the UN General Assembly and talk through with them next steps and hopefully that would include meeting between the two presidents.

Q.: And what is the ideal scenario of Karabakh settlement for the U.S. side? How do you see it?

A.: Yes, it‘s the same as for the Russian side and the French side. It‘s passed time, it‘s overdo that we find a negotiated settlement. The conflict has gone on too long, too many people have died already in this conflict over more than 20 years. And this is one that can be settled. We have the elements of a settlement, we know what they are, we‘ve talked them through. Our ideal settlement is that there are no winners and losers. That we find a settlement that‘s to the advantage of all the sides. As someone who‘s done negotiations on other subjects for a number of years, a successful negotiation is not one where sides are added to make compromises and to sacrifice. It‘s where everyone wins. And in this case we want a settlement where all the people win. The people of the region, of Armenia, of Azerbaijan, in fact and the whole region deserve to be able to live in peace and security. You know there was a time not so long ago, a previous generation where Azerbaijanis and Armenians lived together side by side. Those days are gone. It‘s sad but true that a new generation, a younger generation in Armenia and Azerbaijan have grown up not knowing each other. They‘ve only known each other through the media and through the reports. That‘s sad. And I think what we would like to see is. We would like to see that people-to-people contact. And what we would like as a negotiated settlement - that it would make it possible once again for Armenians and Azerbaijanis to live together. And I believe there are many, many Armenians and Azerbaijanis that are ready for that and are ready for peace.

Q.: Yes. But nevertheless that is a territorial conflict and I know that the Azerbaijani side insists on that the Armenians should free a number of heights in Nagorno-Karabakh. How do you forecast there could be compromise between them on this issue? How could the land be cut?

A.: No, sure. There is a settlement and it does require the return of some territory to Azerbaijan‘s control and in exchange for status for Nagorno-Karabakh. Those have always been the elements of a settlement, those aren‘t the only elements. The return of refugees, the presence of the international peacekeeping force. These are all elements that are a part of a settlement, and these are known elements. What we need to do is to work with the sides to find a way forward incorporating these elements and the people of the region will benefit.

Q.: So, how do you assess the recent visit of the Armenian president to Nagorno-Karabakh? Do you think it helps?

A.: As you may know, he‘s fr om Nagorno-Karabakh, so it‘s not unusual for President Sargsyan to visit there. But we know that it‘s important to hear the views of all the sides, in fact the co-chairs travel on a regular basis to hear fr om the de-facto authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh. And we want to do that and it‘s important that all voices be heard. And so, it‘s not surprising that President Sargsyan would make such a trip and I would expect that the co-chairs would be travelling again to the region as far.

Q.: How do you access the Russian role as a mediator?

A.: Sure, the Russian role is very positive and productive one. We‘re very pleased to see that President Putin has been personally engaged and certainly Foreign Minister Lavrov knows this issue so well. It‘s remarkable that over more than 10 years as foreign minister he‘s been very much involved in the negotiations towards a settlement. As we said, Foreign Minister Lavrov knows where the underwater stones are hidden. And so, we very much respect his approach and want to work with him. Secretary Kerry, as I said, has spoken with him on numerous occasions and this is one area wh ere the U.S. and Russia together with France can work together productively.

Q.: And are there the timelines and time frames for settlement? Or it could last years and years?

A.: We hope, not years and years, but of course with this kind of negotiations we don‘t expect to have immediate breakthroughs. These take discussions, these take time. What I would say is that we have a way forward, There are proposals on the table, the presidents are engaged. And I can‘t predict that tomorrow or in a week or in a month there is going to be a settlement. But the elements of that settlement are there if the presidents have the political will to move forward.

Q.: Do you think that there is some kind of interest having this frozen and sometimes hot conflict?

A.: Well, a lot of people call this a frozen conflict, but as we‘ve seen especially recently, it‘s not frozen at all, it‘s very active conflict. And in the beginning of April we saw just how dangerous it can be. You know when I started this job a few years ago, the greatest danger came from snipers. And of course that is very unfortunate that there were many lives lost with snipers firing at each other. The situation is much more dangerous today because we see the presence of heavy weapons – mortars and rockets, another heavy weapons along the line of contact. And we saw in April just how dangerous this can be. I think that there is a risk of escalation with these heavy weapons along the line of contact. There is a danger not just of an escalation, but a miscalculation that could be very dangerous. So I would certainly not call it frozen, I would call it very active conflict and one that we should be very much engaged. I think that those who believe that this is somehow a contained conflict that can be managed, those people are wrong. This is something that could, as we saw in April, escalate and possibly escalate very dangerously. I think we all are that this is an area wh ere the US, Russia and France see eye-to-eye and can work together.

Q.: As I know, as you of course may know also, Russia supplies arms to Azerbaijan and supports Armenia because Armenia is an ally of Russia. But could you tell me about U.S.-Azerbaijan and U.S.-Armenia military technical cooperation and did this situation, this hot phaze in April affect this cooperation?

A.: Sure, we understand that Russia and the U.S. are in very different situations. Russia has a very long established relationships with both countries and have long-standing friendships with both countries. We understand this relationship. The U.S. as well in a different way wants to work closely with Armenia and Azerbaijan. We‘ve not have a relationship of supplying weapons to either side at all. We provide defensive weapons to very limited extent. But with regard to Azerbaijan there is a legislative mandate from our Congress that we are unable to provide weapons that can be used in an offensive manner in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. As a result, we are not arms suppliers. We do believe, we do consider that we have strategic relationship with both countries.

Q.: And so, you supply defensive arms to both sides?

A.: Well, we have provided some limited military cooperation to both sides. But we do not have a relationship with either country wh ere we supply arms.

Q.: Do you discuss these questions during your meetings with partners from France and Russia? Is it also on the table?

A.: Everything is on the table and we discuss all issues. We have a very open relationship, we talk through all the issues involving the conflict. And as I said, this is an issue wh ere the U.S. and Russia really do see eye to eye and we worked together very cooperatively and closely. I just don‘t see that changing. This is one area wh ere we share commitment to the negotiated settlement. I‘m very pleased to see and I think Secretary Kerry would tell you explicitly that he has appreciated working closely with Foreign Minister Lavrov how we can move the peace process forward in the conflict.

Q.: And if I‘m not mistaken you have one of the largest embassies in Yerevan...

A.: I‘ve read that, but I don‘t think that that‘s true. I mean, we have to check to give you the figures, but in my experience in Armenia our presence is not different than in medium-sized embassies around the world. I was ambassador to Bulgaria and I would say probably our embassy in Armenia has fewer American and national employees than our embassy did in Bulgaria. I‘ve read reports that claimed that this is a large embassy, but in fact by U.S. standards for mid-sized embassies, I think it‘s no different. But that does not speak to the relationship, the size of an embassy. The relationship that we want to have with Armenia is that we see cooperation with Armenia in many areas as very important, not just in terms of my responsibility as a co-chair of the Minsk Group, but in terms of working with Armenia on economic issues and investment issues. Armenians have participated in peacekeeping issues around the world. There are all the areas wh ere I think we work together and building relationship for the future.

Q.: Do you follow there is new format of cooperation of communication of Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran. There were first summit of three leaders not so long ago. And before this ministers of foreign affairs used to meet. Do you follow it and what is your attitude?

A.: Of course we follow it. And it‘s not surprising that there would be such a meeting. Of course, Russia borders Azerbaijan on the North and Iran on the South, so it‘s not unusual to see that the three countries are talking to each other about the region. What we hope, that all the countries in the region could cooperate to support and negotiate its settlement and that‘s as a co-chair of Minsk group what would be most important from my prospective.