Political analyst Andrey Areshev has answered EADaily’s questions concerning the future of the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process in view of the recent clashes on the contact line.
There are several opinions concerning the causes of the recent clashes in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone. Who did they benefit – Armenia or Azerbaijan?
One of the parties has never concealed its displeasure with the status quo in the region and has kept threatening the other with a new war. This time too they made such statements both in the Russian media and in the pro-governmental Baku-based press. Media sources make different conjectures about what might have motivated the Azerbaijani authorities to embark on such a military adventure. Here we can analyze both internal and external factors as to me they are inter-related: dropping fuel prices needed urgent provision of stabilization loans, which, in their turn, might have been provided upon certain terms.
The Armenian parties have no reason to whip up tensions. They have repeatedly said that they want the peace talks to continue on the basis of mutual concessions. The renewed war has become a defeat for both the Armenians and Azerbaijanis and for all those who hoped for a continuing peace process.
Has the situation in the region changed as a result of the so-called four-day war in Nagorno-Karabakh?
Some geopolitical players are making their best to keep the region permanently tensed. It is not a secret that now that the Turks have spoiled their relations with the Russians, they are trying to catch their eye by means of different specific steps. The Russians are facing a hard choice. If they openly support the Armenians, they will spoil their relations with the Azerbaijanis, which may cause unrest in Dagestan and other republics of the North Caucasus. On the other hand, if the Azerbaijanis win, the Russians will lose their positions in Armenia and will be faced with a strong alliance of Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan. No doubt that here Turkey and Azerbaijan have been acting in coordination.
In general, we can say that the post-Soviet area is being reformatted against Russia’s interests and that Central Asia may soon join the US-controlled Baltics, the hostile Ukraine and the explosive South Caucasus as one more center of instability.
Is there any consensus among the world’s geopolitical centers concerning the Nagorno-Karabakh problem?
Officially, the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs are unanimous and eager to help. On Apr 10, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry agreed to try to normalize the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh.
But foreign policies in the present-day world are carried out not only by official authorities. There are also groups of interests and trans-border economic and other structures, including terrorist organization. So, rephrasing a classic quote, we can say that “if wars are started, it means that somebody needs it.”
So, can we say that any of the conflicting parties has become stronger as a result of this last escalation?
The parties are giving quite opposite answers to this question. The Azerbaijanis’ attempt to break through the contact line in the north and south was curbed by the self-sacrificing counteractions of the Armenians. Judging from Ilham Aliyev’s words, he is still eager to get Nagorno-Karabakh back especially now that he has gained several hundreds of square meters and he rejects any possibility of Nagorno-Karabakh’s involvement in the peace talks.
In this light, the co-chairs’ job appears to be very hard. They still are based on the slightly amended Madrid Principles. But their key task today is to prevent any escalation.
Can the co-chairs pressure Armenia and Azerbaijan into adopting some settlement plan?
Some experts suggest applying the Camp David principle for Nagorno-Karabakh. This is hardly possible due to lack of unanimity among the co-chairs. Of course, they will continue their consultations. But as long ago as in 2006 they admitted that they had already exhausted their imagination. In 2011, the presidents of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia were close to adopting a document stipulating “status in exchange for territories,” but at the last moment the signing was wrecked and everyone who is aware of this problem knows who did it.
One of the goals of Azerbaijan and its ally, Turkey, is to reformat the peace process and to transfer it from the OSCE to the UN or elsewhere. This blackmail will hardly work out but it can stymie the negotiating process.
What can we expect from this situation – a new war or peace?
I think now there will be a pause. The parties will take time for a “post-flight analysis.” But unfortunately there are no guarantees that there will be no more outbursts.
What are Russia’s role and goals in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process?
Unfortunately, there are no long-term solutions that can please both parties. Russia is doing its best to prevent a new war. In this light, I see no alternative to efforts to reconfirm the ceasefire agreements reached in 1994-1995. One of the factors that calmed down the conflicting parties might have been the initiatives of Russia and Iran, who are not political motivated here and are actually committed to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Here we need also to restore the balance of forces broken in early 2010 when Azerbaijan signed a number of new weapon purchase deals. So, why not making regular the meetings of the defense ministers and chiefs of general staffs? For it is not normal that the conflicting parties have no single channel of communication.
The Russian authorities may also help to confront international terrorism, while Russian NGOs might point to the instances of humanitarian law violations registered during the conflict.