Vicious Circle in the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict


Since the very first days of mediation efforts by the OSCE (called CSCE initially) in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the approach has been top-down and not very effective. The societies in both sides, including in Nagorno-Karabakh, have rarely been updated or consulted with. The negotiation format is closed-door, otherwise called Track I.  It is not backed by Track II and societal support at large. Yet solutions to conflicts may be lasting only if they are acceptable to all parties, which has not be the case in the Karabakh talks up to the present. This is due to a lack of trust at all levels (including Track I) and the lack of general ripeness. The societies are not ready to accept agreements, which do not correspond to exclusivist ends propagated by the regimes throughout the last 15-20 years.

There were speculations that the then American co-mediator Carry Cavanaugh put a hold on the negotiations at one point, stating that the public was not moving as quickly as the negotiators. There are many similar cases worldwide. With the Cyprus mediation for example, in 1992 UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali put a hold on the ongoing negotiations and urged the sides to show goodwill and accept the “8 Trust-Building Measures” instead. Yet in the case of Nagorno-Karabakh, the international pressure and rapid geopolitical changes in the region are pressuring the parties to come to an agreement in a reasonable time-frame, while, no serious efforts are made to work with the societies and to create platform for a lasting solution.

One might question why to invest in Track II efforts, if the negotiating sides themselves are not ready to accept any resolution. Yet the status quo does not satisfy any of the sides anymore, and the rapidly changing international and regional developments require breaking the vicious circle created by the parties (including the mediators).  One vicious circle has regimes on both sides not letting societies transform. Thus, the societies are kept as slaves to the conflict, and the mediation process is a victim to the lack of public support for a possible resolution.

Apparently, the regimes in Armenia and Azerbaijan alike were the main stumbling blocks in initiating cross-border initiatives (though Azerbaijan is seen as being more aggressive on this), perhaps for their narrow political ends, and the lack of will to help bring the process to a possible resolution. It should be noted, however, that the mediators themselves have never actively initiated or supported such measures. The vast peace-building expertise and capabilities of the OSCE, the largest international player in the greater region have never been actively supportive of trust building between Armenians and Azerbaijanis.

In a conflict where many refugees and IDPs will eventually be returning back, while every segment in society, including those who have co-existed together in the past, believes that co-existence is no longer possible, major confidence-building measures are needed to support the mediation process and help bring negotiating parties closer to finding a mutually acceptable resolution. Therefore, it is of utmost urgency for all the sides to show goodwill by openly supporting confidence-building measures and for the mediators to help employ the wide arsenal of capabilities of the OSCE and other European structures at hand.

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