Analysis - Saturday, May 15, 2010 1:10 - 0 Comments

The Karabakh Conflict: From Tactics of «Enemy Neighbors» to the Strategy of «Partner Neighbors»


The resolution to the Karabakh conflict is dependent on many factors, both at the regional and geopolitical levels. In an effort to solve the conflict, OSCE MG Co-chairs see no objective grounds for solving the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict in the short term perspective due to serious differences in Armenia and Azerbaijan over views on fundamental items (granting of a temporary status to Nagorno Karabakh and terms of referendum in the region to define this status with the participation both of Armenians residing there and Azerbaijanis to return to the region).
It is true that Russia as one of the Co-Chairs of the OSCE MG recognizes the right of the United States as OSCE MG Co-Chair as well as the EU with France as the OSCE MG Co-Chair to actively collaborate with the countries of the South Caucasus on all the issues, including regional security. Thus, a joint Declaration signed in May 2002 between Presidents George Bush and Vladimir Putin proclaims,: «As for the Central Asia and the South Caucasus, we recognize our common interests in promoting stability, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the states of the region…» and further, «Russia and the United States will collaborate in solving regional conflicts, including Nagorno Karabakh.» 1
Official Moscow does not conceal its interest to normalize Turkish-Armenian relations and open borders between the two countries. This political stance in Kremlin is entangled with new geopolitical realities of the region after the Georgian-Russian armed conflict in August 2008. Nevertheless, Kremlin is showing a growing interest in settling the Karabakh conflict within the context of the «August 2008 precedent».
It is obvious that recognition of Kosovo’s independence (by approximately 70 countries) only to be followed by the Russian «August2008 precedent» in Georgia has enabled the Armenian community of Nagorno Karabakh to advance their arguments with reference to the international practice. The impact of the «Kosovo precedent» on geopolitical developments proved to be so great that the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (on July 9, 2007 in Kiev) passed a Declaration that warned against exploiting the settlement of some conflicts as a precedent for resolving other conflicts. 2


In recent months, there has been an intensification of activities by the OSCE MG and Turkey toward the resolution of the Karabakh conflict. The OSCE MG is guided by the principle that it is primarily left to the governments of Azerbaijan and Armenia to make a final choice. Co-chair countries are poised to endorse a variant of the conflict’s resolution that suits all the parties concerned and upon reaching a compromise agreement they would act as settlement guarantor. This type of approach is correct. At present, it would be wrong to speak about a radical breakthrough. The probability remains that a regular document will be adopted in the short-term (for instance, a preamble to the Madrid principles agreed by the parties) to regulate some issues, though no complex resolution to the Karabakh conflict is expected to take place.
In dragging out the ratification of the protocols, Turkey and Armenia should take into consideration some aspects of the matter. First, the lost time may increasingly aggravate both the settlement of the conflict and the Armenian-Azerbaijani relations. Thus, this will create both time and opportunity arise for political forces inside Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as «external actors» that opposed the signing of the protocols and normalization of the Armenian-Turkish and Azerbaijani-Armenian relations. Second, Turkey has to take into account new realities in the South Caucasus region. To note, radical changes within Turkish foreign policy can also result in changing attitudes to this country from its traditional partners.
It would be wrong to expect any immediate resolution to the Karabakh conflict for these reasons: 1) there continues to be a high level of mutual mistrust in the Azerbaijani and Armenian societies; and 2) a lack of culture of compromise among South Caucasus elites. For these reasons,it would be very dangerous to artificially accelerate the Karabakh resolution, as it may risk unleashing military operations in the South Caucasus region.
At the same time, the OSCE MG is urging the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia to sign an agreement this year. Such an agreement would be based on the so-called renewed Madrid principles that include all the principles of interest to the parties of the conflict (territorial integrity of states, right of peoples to self-determination and resolution to conflicts without use of force) and thus mark some progress in the negotiation process. For all intensive purposes, that progress would be enough to ratify the Armenian-Turkish protocols at the Turkish Parliament.


To regulate the Armenian-Azerbaijani relations, experts from both countries should take specific steps aimed at consolidating mutual trust in the Azerbaijani and Armenian societies. It is essential to ensure that Armenians and Azerbaijanis regard Azerbaijan and Armenia as a caretaker country, not afearsome one. In this respect, the «Meindorf Declaration» signed in Moscow on November 2, 2008 and a meeting between the USA President, Armenian President S. Sargsyan and the Turkish Prime Minister R. Т. Erdogan in the Washington Summit Nuclear Security on April 12-13 this year all make it possible to implement the given strategy. A text of the Declaration repeatedly refers to the OSCE MG as the basic format for conflict resolution, and under Clause 5 of this document both parties consider it crucial to encourage conditions for implementation of measures directed to strengthening the trust between them. The Clause above is of paramount importance, since it lays an emphasis on measures of trust and preparation of societies to a pragmatic compromise.
There is no doubt that representatives of civil society cannot replace the negotiation process. However, the point is that sooner or later a political agreement between the parties to the conflict will be signed, and direct participants of the conflict will have to co-reside! In the meantime, the peoples of the South Caucasus have lost the ability of coming to terms through the many years of enmity!
Another crucial aspect is that subjects to the conflict are Azerbaijanis and Armenians who have historically populated the territory of the Caucasus. The regional experts from both communities would be able to elaborate a long-term strategy of co-existence as «partner neighbors», not «enemy neighbors» within a unified social, cultural and economic area of the South Caucasus.

1. Press Release, #13, 31 May 2002, Unofficial translation from Russian. Joint Declaration by President George W. Bush and President Vladimir V. Putin on the New Strategic Relationship Between the United States of America and the Russian Federation. Moscow May 24, 2002.
2. Kyiv declaration of the OSCE parliamentary assembly. And resolutions adopted at the sixteenth annual session. KYIV, 5 to 9 JULY 2007.

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