Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Briefly: Minsk Group in a new proposal, U.S. & Russia clash on security & elections, Rep. Hyde dies, Armenia tops neighbors in Human Development

This was originally published in December 1, 2007 Armenian Reporter.
by Emil Sanamyan

U.S., Russia, and France offer “joint proposal” on basic principles of Karabakh settlement
On November 29, the three countries that have for over a decade jointly led the international efforts to address the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict made what amounts to a new proposal on its settlement.

The office of the State Department spokesperson in Washington reported on the same day that during the annual ministerial meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) held this week in Madrid, U.S. Undersecretary of State Nick Burns along with the Russian and French foreign ministers met foreign ministers from Armenia and Azerbaijan “to demonstrate political-level support for the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries’ effort to forge a just and lasting settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”

In that meeting, the three co-chairs transmitted a “joint proposal” that “offered just and constructive solutions” to address the existing disagreements over basic principles of settlement of the Karabakh conflict.

The Armenian and Azerbaijani governments with the help of the co-chairs have been engaged in what has been termed as the Prague process for the past three years, but have not fully agreed on basic principles of settlement that would precede a development of the full-scale peace agreement.

The most recent proposal is the fifth settlement option proposed by international mediators since 1996. The three proposals made up to 1998 sought to put Karabakh inside Azerbaijani borders or did not address its status. The two latest proposals focused on ways to formalize Karabakh’s 1991 secession.

Speaking in Madrid, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian broadly welcomed the proposal “as a working document that can serve as the basis for a preliminary agreement.” He said that the “document addresses the core issue – the security of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, through self-determination.”

But Mr. Oskanian also noted the continued efforts by Azerbaijan to undermine the peace process, most recently by obstructing OSCE’s monthly monitoring of the ceasefire along the Line of Contact.

Azerbaijan’s reaction to the proposal was not immediately available.

U.S., Russia clash on security policies, elections
Talks between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov here this week again highlighted the long list of disagreements between the two countries. Mr. Lavrov was in the U.S. to participate in the Middle East peace conference held in Annapolis, MD.

In addition to now long-standing Russian opposition to a new U.S. missile defense system in central Europe, as well as tougher sanctions against Iran and support for Kosovo independence, Moscow this week accused the U.S. of seeking to undermine the international legitimacy of Russia’s parliamentary elections on December 2.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) decided not to send observers to a vote in which Russia’s pro-government party is expected to win an overwhelming majority. Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed the decision on the U.S. But U.S. and OSCE officials said the decision was a result of the Russian government’s efforts to restrict the size and the mandate of the observers.

On November 26, the State Department went on to describe the Russian government’s efforts to “impede freedom of speech and peaceful assembly” ahead of the elections as “troubling.” Days before, the Russian police detained the former world chess champion turned political activist Garry Kasparov on charges of conducting an “unlawful march” through Moscow; he has since been released.

Studies by one of Russia’s main polling groups (www.wciom.ru ) put support for the pro-Putin “United Russia” party at over 55 percent of the voters. The next most popular party, the Communists, polled less than six percent. The Kasparov-led coalition, “The Other Russia,” which has so far enjoyed marginal public support, has been refused official registration and is not running for parliament.

Retired Illinois Rep. Henry Hyde dies
A former senior Republican member of Congress who in 2005 came around to support a resolution affirming the U.S. record on the Armenian Genocide passed away on November 29, U.S. media reported the same day.

Rep. Henry Hyde (R.-Ill.) served in Congress for 32 years. He chaired the House International Relations Committee (2001–6 ) and prior to that the House Judiciary Committee (1995–2001). He retired early this year.

Family members told the New York Times that Mr. Hyde, 83, died from complications following heart surgery.

During the September 2005 committee deliberations over the Genocide resolution, then-chairman Hyde, despite opposition from the Bush Administration and the House Republican majority, decided to vote in favor; the resolution subsequently passed overwhelmingly.

“I have thought long and hard about these resolutions and have decided to vote in favor,” Mr. Hyde said following the committee debate. “The overriding purpose in all of my work in Congress has been to promote the interests of the United States.

“I believe it is in the interests of the United States and of Turkey and Armenia both that we take the lead in dealing with this paralyzing legacy,” he went on to say. “And we must start with a recognition of the truth. For there is no possibility that this problem can ever be overcome if we seek to ground any solution on silence and forgetting.”

Hyde’s successor at the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Tom Lantos (D.-Calif.), who also voted for the resolution in 2005 and again this past October, called Rep. Hyde a “giant,” who “transcended partisan political considerations.”

UN study: Armenia tops neighbors in “human development”
An annual United Nations study of the world’s development released on November 27 placed Armenia ahead of its neighbors and in the middle of the 175 countries ranked. The Human Development Index, which takes into account life expectancy, education levels, and per capita economic activity, ranked Armenia 83rd worldwide, followed by Turkey (84), Iran (94), Georgia (96), and Azerbaijan (98).

In the former Soviet territory, the three Baltic republics were ranked most developed, occupying places from 43rd to 45th; Belarus was ranked 64th, and Russia 67th. The HDI list was topped by Iceland, Norway, and Australia, while Yemen, Uganda, and Gambia were ranked at bottom.

The HDI report focused on the dangers of worldwide climate change, which it said was threatening “unprecedented human development reversals.” The UNDP administrator Kemal Dervis (a career World Bank economist who was Turkish economics minister in
2001–2) said that “fighting climate change is about our commitment to human development today and about creating a world that will provide ecological security for our children and their grandchildren.”

Connect at http://hdr.undp.org.

Nareg Seferian contributed to this week’s column.

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