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Settlement of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict requires restraint and political dialogue

22:33 | 22.04.2016 | Analytic


22 April 2016. PenzaNews. Rising tensions over the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) became one of the main topics discussed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian in Yerevan on April 22.

Settlement of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict requires restraint and political dialogue

Photo: Flickr.com/mfarussia

“Together with Russia and other mediator countries we are trying to reaffirm and strengthen the ceasefire agreements of 1994–1995, and ensure adequate conditions for the restoring peace negotiations,” Edward Nalbandian said.

“We are united in the opinion that the use of force is unacceptable and there is no alternative to the peace talks,” Armenian Foreign Minister stressed.

Earlier, during the Direct Line Russian President Vladimir Putin promised that Moscow will continue its efforts to resolve the situation within the framework of international organizations and on a bilateral basis.

“Whatever they may say, Russia is interested in a solution to this issue because we want to work in a full-fledged manner with both Azerbaijan and Armenia,” the head of state said.

Meanwhile, despite the declared truce, Baku and Yerevan continue to accuse each other of violating the ceasefire and report new casualties.

Commenting on the situation, Guido de Graaf Bierbrauwer, Senior Program Officer Peace Activism, PAX (IKV Pax Christi) said that it is quite difficult to objectively assess the situation on the line of contact.

“One of the key problems in this conflict is that there are hardly any international and neutral observers. The ceasefire that was agreed upon in 1994 was less than perfect. Each year dozens of soldiers died because of ceasefire violations,” he told PenzaNews.

However, in his opinion, despite the escalation of tensions the risk of a full-scale regional war now is not any greater than it was before.

“Armenia won the war in 1994, and took control over Nagorno-Karabakh and territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan never accepted this and probably never will. This automatically means that Azerbaijan has no interest in a situation that is absolutely calm,” the expert said.

He did not rule out that the situation could go out of control. However, the proximity of Russian forces may have a deterring effect on the sides to really go into a full war, he said.

“The roadmap to a peaceful solution has been written down in the Basic Principles or Madrid Proposals: international peacekeepers, return of land, security for the people in the conflict region, safe return of refugees, a corridor between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, an interim status for Nagorno-Karabakh providing guarantees for security and self-governance and eventual determination of the final legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh through a legally binding expression of will,” Guido de Graaf Bierbrauwer reminded.

From his point of view, Baku and Yerevan will have to work together hard to restore a relationship of trust.

“Both sides fuelled the conflict by spreading hate propaganda. But in order to get any closer to the real peace, a lot of work need to be done by people and organizations close to the people, who educate people for dialogue and peaceful coexistence, who set up think tanks to think of practical solutions to bridge the gap. This is the only way to reach sustainable peace,” European analyst added.

Sharbatullo Sodikov, researcher at the Analytical Center of MGIMO, expert of the Russian Council on International Affairs, shared the opinion that Azerbaijan and Armenia should pay special attention to the ideological sphere, in particular, the resumption of friendly and trusting relations.

“Both sides could focus on promoting the principles of a peaceful coexistence, fight against extremism and nationalism in the territory of their own states, and strengthening border controls. These steps can provide a long and full-fledged dialogue between Yerevan and Baku on Nagorno-Karabakh settlement,” the expert said.

He also stressed that the Russian Federation could significantly contribute to the de-escalation of tension, being a “regional peacemaker” in the conflict zone.

At the same time, in his opinion, the possibility of large-scale hostilities between Azerbaijan and Armenia at the moment is small.

“It seems that in the near future there will be no war between the conflicting parties - neither Baku nor Yerevan is ready for such a development, while Russia is building new relations with the West in terms of sanctions,” Sharbatullo Sodikov said.

However, according to him, Azerbaijan, being an oil state, has significantly increased its ranking in recent years and to a lesser extent tends to make compromises in the international arena.

In turn, Ilgar Velizade, Head of the Baku-based South Caucasus Club of Political Scientists noted that in recent years, parties have been actively preparing for the phase of open armed confrontation since more than 20 years of negotiations have not moved things forward from the point reached in 1994 in Bishkek.

“In spite of the attempts of Azerbaijan to speed up the settlement process and start the realization of practical steps, in particular, the withdrawal of Armenian occupying forces from Azerbaijani territory, return of Azerbaijani internally displaced persons to their places of permanent residence and the substantive discussion of the future status of Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenian side strongly opposed this,” the analyst explained his position.

Moreover, according to him, the leadership and the citizens of Armenia had the impression that Baku “has not enough willpower to take action, which may change the situation at the front.”

“They said that Azerbaijan will never dare to cross the line of defense. However, the state has shown that it is capable of decisive action for the sake of the security of its own population,” the expert stressed.

According to him, the conflict settlement requires a specific agenda and a clear timetable for the implementation of commitments, including the “de-occupation of Azerbaijani territories.”

“Only in this case there will be the light at the end of the tunnel. If the negotiation process will again apply only to the ceasefire, there is no sense in participating in the process. At the same time the future status of Nagorno-Karabakh should be the subject of an agreement between the Armenian and Azerbaijani communities in the region - it is they who must decide how to build the necessary management, of course, with international mediation,” Ilgar Velizade said.

Meanwhile, Tigran Balayan, Spokesman of the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stressed that Yerevan shares the view of the international community that fighting could not help to resolve the problem.

“There is no alternative to a peaceful settlement; the conflict can only be resolved by diplomatic means. I do not like to make predictions, but one thing is clear - the war is not able to solve the existing problems. [...] Therefore, despite the fact that the NKR Defense Army can at any moment repel the enemy and protect the population of the country, we continue to talk only about diplomatic solutions,” the official representative of the Armenian Foreign Ministry said.

According to him, to resolve the conflict, Azerbaijan should embark on a constructive path of peaceful dialogue and return to the negotiating table.

“The role of mediators [OSCE Minsk Group] is not in putting pressure on the parties, as it is seen in Baku, but in promoting dialogue and rapprochement of the parties. The mediators cannot solve the problem themselves and it is very difficult for us to try to negotiate and find common ground with the party, the position of which conflicts with all the proposals and statements of the international community, presents all the facts and the nature of the conflict in a distorted way and does not want to listen to anyone but themselves,” Tigran Balayan explained his view of the problem.

He also emphasized that Armenia is ready to move forward on the basis of negotiating proposals that are on the table.

“We have always had respectful and constructive approach to negotiation process and the mediators, and if you study the history of the process, you will see that whenever there was the opportunity and chance for a real breakthrough, it was Baku who took a step back. Last time it was in Kazan in 2011, when at the last moment Azerbaijan has made 10 amendments to the nearly completed document, having broken all previous agreements,” the press secretary of the Armenian Foreign Ministry added.

In turn, Orkhan Gafarov, Expert on Russia and the Caucasus region, Political Risk Analyst at Ankara Policy Center, Turkey, noted that now the situation has calmed down.

“The collision was expected – there have always been mutual provocations. This year Azerbaijan has decided to put more pressure on Armenia. However, in my opinion, there will be no full-scale regional war in the near future, because the world’s major powers such as Russia, Iran, Turkey and other countries in the region are not interested in. In both Yerevan and Baku there is a feeling that serious negotiations with Moscow will start soon. I hope in the near future this issue will be solved by diplomatic means,” the analyst said.

He also stressed that Russia, as a member of the OSCE Minsk Group and a close neighbor of the conflict parties, plays a significant role in the solution of this problem.

“At the same time Azerbaijan and Armenia should negotiate and seek a peaceful settlement, which is the only possible way to resolve the issue without casualties or damage. The dialogue between Baku and Yerevan should continue only in the diplomatic field, including at the level of presidents, foreign ministers, NGOs and other public figures,” Orkhan Gafarov added.

In his view, the Madrid principles are the most productive and positive steps for both sides to resolve the situation.

“Some experts of the region believe that the problem can be resolved this year. This view is shared by some members of the diplomatic community. The Russian influence can be positive for the region and may further contribute to the determining of Nagorno-Karabakh status. I think this year the countries will get the chance to resolve the conflict and it is important not to miss it,” the analyst concluded.

The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has started in February 1988, when the Nagorno-Karabakh autonomous region declared its withdrawal from Azerbaijan SSR.

The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) was proclaimed on 2 September 1991. On 10 December 1991 the referendum about the status of NKR was held, where 99,89% of the participants supported its independence but results were not recognized by the international community. On 6 January 1992 the parliament of NKR of the first convocation accepted the Declaration “About the state independence of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.”

In the following military conflict, Azerbaijan lost control over Nagorno-Karabakh.

The negotiations over the situation around Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) have been going on since 1992. Azerbaijan insists on preserving its territorial integrity. Armenia, in turn, defends people’s right to self-determination, protecting the interests of the unrecognized Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, as it does not take part in the negotiations.

The recent escalation of the conflict took place on the night of 2 April 2016. After violent clashes the parties accused each other of violating the truce.

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