[Congressional Record Volume 140, Number 61 (Tuesday, May 17, 1994)]
[Page S]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


 Mr. DeConcini. Mr. President, the peace process in Nagorno-
Karabakh has taken a new turn. At a meeting of the Parliamentary 
Assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States [CIS] in Bishkek, 
Kyrgyzstan, representatives of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh, 
Russia, and Kyrgyzstan on May 8 signed a protocol that may finally 
signal a winding down of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
  The provisions of the agreement include a cease-fire, followed by the 
withdrawal of Armenian forces from all areas captured, except for 
Lachin and Shusha, two key cities whose status will be negotiated 
subsequently. During this second phase, prisoners of war will be 
exchanged and refugees are supposed to be able to return to their 
homes. Phase three will inaugurate negotiations about the future status 
of Nagorno-Karabakh.
  While Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh agreed early on to sign the 
accord, Azerbaijan's representative insisted on several changes in the 
wording. For example, Azerbaijan has been resisting Russian pressure to 
station Russian peacekeeping forces in the conflict zone, and demanded 
that the observers who will be monitoring compliance with the agreement 
be international in composition.
  Despite these modifications, Azerbaijan remains ambivalent about the 
accord. Opposition groups have criticized the government for signing on 
to a document that features the signature of a representative of 
Nagorno-Karabakh. They argue that Azerbaijan has thus recognized 
Nagorno-Karabakh as a party to the conflict, which runs counter to the 
official Azerbaijani line to date that the war is interstate in nature, 
that is, between Azerbaijan and Armenia. There is also continuing 
opposition to the stationing of Russian troops on Azerbaijani 
territory. Nevertheless, the Defense Ministers of Armenia, Azerbaijan, 
and the head of Nagorno-Karabakh's Armed Forces signed a cease-fire 
agreement in Moscow on May 16. The disengagement of the warring sides 
is to be followed by the stationing of observers and peacekeepers, most 
of whom are Russian.

  From the U.S. perspective, a cease-fire in a conflict that has 
claimed over 20,000 lives is long overdue and very welcome. It is 
noteworthy, however, that the Bishkek agreement differs little from 
scenarios under discussion for some time in the CSCE's Minsk Group, but 
was reached through negotiations in the Russian-dominated forum of the 
CIS Parliamentary Assembly. Russia is itself a member of the Minsk 
Group, which the CSCE authorized to arbitrate the conflict, but has not 
been particularly successful to date. Vladimir Shumeiko, Chairman of 
the Federation Council, the upper chamber of Russia's parliament, who 
chaired the Bishkek conference, reportedly stated that problems in the 
CIS should be resolved by the CIS. This raises questions about the 
sincerity of Moscow's dedication to CSCE mediation of the Nagorno-
Karabakh conflict and other disputes on the territory of the former 
Soviet Union.
  Many cease-fires have been signed in the 6 years of the Nagorno-
Karabakh conflict. None has lasted, and it remains to be seen whether 
this one will be any different. In fact, there have already been 
reports of cease-fire violations. Azerbaijan's Parliament must also 
ratify the accord, which seems likely but is not certain.
  Mr. President, I fervently hope this cease-fire will hold. The 
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict must go from the battlefield to the 
negotiating table, refugees must be allowed to return home, and peace 
must be given a chance.