1 Nov 2013
Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict Resolution as a Precondition for Regional Democratization
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has long been the main concern for the future development of the South Caucasus region, particularly the development of Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The conflict has not only disrupted regional security, political and economic cooperation, but has also significantly hampered the democratization process in Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan. As a result of this conflict, people, who once lived in brotherhood and peace, now live harboring hatred toward one another.
The negotiation process has long been paralyzed for various reasons and the conflict resolution is suspended. Until 1998, Nagorno-Karabakh took part in the negotiations as a full negotiating party and represented the opinion of the people living in Nagorno-Karabakh. However since 1998, the Republic of Armenia has become the full negotiating party instead of Nagorno-Karabakh by the initiative of the Armenian government. Thus, Nagorno-Karabakh was eliminated from the negotiation process, which jeopardizes all prospects for a peaceful conflict resolution.
The truce signed on May 5, 1994 has been repeatedly breached. At the front line, the ceasefire regime has been regularly violated, which has resulted in deaths of numerous servicemen from both sides. Along with human casualties, hatred instilled into generations of Armenians and Azerbaijanis, and economic blockade, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict also has a harmful political impact on the three conflict parties. Neither the Azerbaijani or Armenian government misses the opportunity to speak about the danger of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict turning into a full-blown war during their political campaigns. The threat of war has become a strong internal political argument and disrupts the democratization process. The anti-Azerbaijani sentiments in the Republic of Armenia are not of state origin and ubiquitous compared to that of the neighbor state. Anti-Armenian sentiments have been regularly stirred up by the Azerbaijani government, which resulted in killing one of the Armenian servicemen Gurgen Margaryan in 2004.
The existing hatred between the people of these two countries is an artificial one and is directed by the governments. At first sight, everything seems to be natural, but when we start to take into account all the facts it becomes clear that the only option for the conflict resolution is demonstration of political will by the negotiation parties as well as the Minsk Group Co-Chairs. The negotiation process is not transparent and the three societies are not aware of it and the connection between these three societies does not exist with few exceptions. Thus, these three societies are not ready for a peaceful resolution of the conflict and the lack of public awareness only exacerbates this problem.
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict also has security implications for the region. One the most important preconditions for democratization is regional integration, which under the current conditions, is practically impossible. The ongoing arms race is taking up significant resources in each state. The Republic of Armenia, unlike its neighbors, does not have the appropriate financial capacities to fully supply the required military armament. As a result, the Russian Federation uses this fact for its geopolitical interests and does everything to prevent the peaceful resolution of the conflict. This stems from Russia’s desire to continue exploiting the existing situation to further its political interests in the region. Within this context, Russia’s intention is to preserve the status quo and not to contribute to the conflict resolution.
After showing willingness to pre-sign the Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area Agreements (DCFTA) within the framework of the EU Eastern Partnership and taking certain steps towards fulfilling that, the Russian political analysts and representatives of the political elite began speculating the likelihood of a renewed war through different publications addressed to Armenia. As a result, after the negotiations over this EU program that has lasted for four years, the President of the Republic of Armenia announced about the willingness to join the Custom Union. After this announcement various comments, analyses as well as remarks have been published that spoke about speculation of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue from the Russian point of view, thus forcing Serj Sarkisyan to make a decision that contradicts the Armenian interests in this way. This fact once again proves the hypothesis that the regional peace and the creation of united security zone contradicts the Russian interests and this country has no intention to contribute to this conflict resolution, as it will weaken its hegemonic role in the region.
It is obvious that in the case of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution, the two countries, as well as, Nagorno-Karabakh will certainly choose the way of democratization, which directly contradicts Russian interests, because the weaker and more illegitimate the government, the easier it is to keep it under pressure and control. From this perspective, the most persuasive example in the region is Georgia’s chosen path. Soon after distancing itself from the Russian pressure and influence, the Government of Georgia adopted a democratization policy and, as a result, Georgia is widely regarded as the more democratic and developing country in the South Caucasus by the international community.
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict peaceful resolution can only be achieved through the realization that the interests of the two nations are not mutually exclusive. Only democratically elected government representing the interests of its people can find solutions to this problem, realizing the importance of welfare of its people and the necessity to establish neighborly relations and not concerned with protecting its grip on power. Otherwise, it is pointless to speak about the peaceful resolution of the conflict as well as about the democratization and development of these two countries.
The international community should also keep focus on this issue and not allow any supra state ”torpedo” or paralyze the attempts of peacefully resolving the conflict for the sake of fulfilling their imperialistic objectives and interests. This conflict is not between the nations but between the governments, and every year it goes unresolved, Armenians and Azerbaijanis continue growing further apart, hardening their stance, and passing on the hatred on to the next generation.