2019 11 22
Doubtful role of international community in Nagornyj Karabakh conflict

united_nations_changed_logoNagornyj Karabakh conflict is complicated as any other “frozen conflict”. It has no simple solution, and it would be highly difficult to reach the compromise for its direct participants alone. Therefore international community, viewing large scale of violence, decided to take active part in the peace building process. From the beginning its role seemed to become effective, but today it is rather clear that situation is more stagnating than going forward, and something must be definitely changed.

From UN to OSCE

International involvement in Nagornyj Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan was not possible at the outbreak of hostilities, since the conflict started before the dissolution of the USSR. Things come to head after the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

It could be expected that the UN Security Council would solve the problem, and it passed four resolutions dealing with the crisis. All of them accentuate the necessity for  withdrawal of Armenian forces from Azeri areas seized in the fighting (<http://cnx.org/content/m41037/latest/>), but what we see today – twenty percent of Azerbaijan territory are occupied by Armenia, and it is not going to withdraw. This fact demonstrates inability of the United Nations organization to solve major international problems. International politics today is more the politics of force than of law, and no one is going to implement UN decisions if feels powerful enough for that. Professor Nabil Ayad (director of the Diplomatic Academy at the University of Westminster in London) thinks that “UN’s active involvement in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will help the resolution” (<http://en.1in.am/4173.html>), but actually there is no big chance that it will really help.

The second international body, which tries to help Armenia and Azerbaijan regulate Nagornyj Karabakh conflict, is OSCE Minsk Group co-chaired by France, the Russian Federation, and the United States. “Upon the membership of both states in the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE) in 1992, the latter as a regional arrangement under Chapter VII of the UN Charter undertook a major role of mediating the conflict resolution. (…) After the Khojaly massacre on February 26, 1992, the CSCE Ministerial Council took a decision to convene a conference in Minsk on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, to work out a final settlement to the conflict. However, due to dissonances on the idea of conference the Minsk Conference was quickly replaced with “Minsk Group”, which comprised of  eleven participating states (Belarus, Czech Republic, Slovakia, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Sweden, the US, Armenia and Azerbaijan). In March of 1995, the mandate of the Minsk Group co-chairs was adopted” (<http://www.thewashingtonreview.org/articles/osce-mediation-of-nagorno-karabakh-conflict.html>).

A brief look at the main Minsk Group co-chairs easily explains, why there is little (if no) progress in negotiations. In time of George Bush junior United States had been strongly supporting Georgia in its conflictual relations with Russia and desire to get back its separatist territories. But today Caucasus in general and Nagornyj Karabakh in particular are not top priorities for America (also in energy sector, because now Americans are oriented towards their own shale gas and shale oil, and Caspian resources are of second importance for US). Besides Georgia is totally oriented towards the West, and Azerbaijan prefers to implement balanced foreign policy, not wishing to become just an American geopolitical bridgehead in the region. Therefore it is difficult for Baku to expect bigger help from Washington in case of Nagornyj Karabakh.

At the same time Russia is clearly partisan actor in Minsk Group. Officially it demonstrates strong wish to solve the conflict (organizes trilateral meetings etc.), but in practice Moscow supports Armenia as its strategic ally in the region. Therefore, when Ali Hasanov being Azerbaijan deputy prime minister said:  “We need to become much stronger so that if we become involved in combat in Nagorno-Karabakh we can stand up to Russian troops, because that is who we will have to face” (<http://www.todayszaman.com/news-308523-azerbaijan-says-will-face-russian-soldiers-in-karabakh-in-case-of-war.html>), – he was close to truth, especially keeping in mind the words of Russian military base in Armenia commander Colonel Andrey Ruzinsky that “Russian military base in Gyumri may interfere, should the Azerbaijani leadership decide to restore jurisdiction over Nagorno Karabakh in a military way” (<http://www.1news.az/politics/karabakh/20131031020325204.html>), despite the fact that Russia’s right to support Armenia – even as a member of CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) – in this case is more than disputable.

To make a long story short: “There is no a serious pressure by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs on the non-constructive position of Armenia. There is still no result. Therefore, the President of Azerbaijan is dissatisfied with the course of negotiations and the activities of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs as a whole. We think that if negotiations are continued without any pressure on Armenia, it will not produce results. However, we see no alternative for the negotiations. We believe that there is still the possibility of a peaceful settlement of Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, because the international community has not fully expressed its position. This conflict will be settled peacefully and the occupants will step back if the international community starts exerting a serious pressure on Armenia” (<http://en.apa.az/xeber_ali_hasanov_____azerbaijani_president_is_d_210385.html>).

EU as a chance

Azerbaijan is a member of the European “Eastern Partnership” (EP) program and expects bigger initiative from EU in solution Nagornyj Karabakh conflict.
In the final Joint Declaration of the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius (2013) we can find such words: “Recalling the statements on the earliest peaceful settlement of conflicts reflected in the Prague and Warsaw Declarations, the Vilnius Summit participants welcome the EU’s intention to strengthen its contribution to encourage progress in further promoting stability and multilateral confidence building. They welcome the EU’s strengthened role in conflict resolution and confidence building efforts in the framework or in support of existing agreed formats and processes, including through field presence when appropriate. They emphasise the need for the earliest peaceful settlement of the conflicts on the basis of the principles and norms of international law. They welcome the recent meeting in Vienna between the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan with the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group and the Presidents’ agreement to advance the negotiations toward a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict” (<http://www.eu2013.lt/en/news/statements/-joint-declaration-of-the-eastern-partnership-summit-vilnius-28-29-november-2013>).

In this context one small thing should be noted. Text of Vilnius Declaration looks very nice (especially its part “including through field presence when appropriate”), but in Warsaw EP Declaration (2011) we can find exactly the same words: “They welcome the EU’s strengthened role in conflict resolution and confidence building efforts in the framework or in support of existing agreed formats and processes, including through field presence when appropriate” (<http://www.easternpartnership.org/sites/default/files/joint_declaration_eap_summit.pdf>). It means that some sentences are just copy pasted with the intention only to demonstrate EU enthusiasm in “frozen conflicts”, fully understanding that “existing agreed formats and processes” are not effective as it was shown above.

European Parliament in 2013 adopted a resolution which confirmed that Armenian troops have occupied Azerbaijani territories and urged to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict on the basis of UN Security Council resolutions and the L’Aquila statement of the mediating countries’ leaders in 2009. But the status of European Parliament in the governmental system of EU is not very solid for the moment. So again these are pleasing declarations for Azerbaijan, but reality is not so much pleasant: “Traditionally, the EU has invested a great deal of political energy in maintaining a neutral approach to the conflict. It has tried to develop a balanced partnership with Armenia and Azerbaijan, avoiding partisanship. Alas, this neutrality has been significantly undermined, first through the precedent of its explicit support for the territorial integrity of Moldova and Georgia along with more tangible engagement on the ground there, and also through its ambiguous position on Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. Currently, track-two diplomacy is not Azerbaijan’s priority. Baku wants and needs track-one diplomacy, where EU involvement in negotiations could help with conflict resolution. This involvement would also serve EU interests in various ways” (<http://www.epc.eu/documents/uploads/pub_3587_an_azerbaijani_perspective.pdf>).

In other words, EU notes “Azerbaijan’s strategic role in diversifying Europe’s energy supplies”, but puts no real effort to practically support its position in case of Nagornyj Karabakh. At the same time its active role could help to break the peace keeping monopoly of Russia in the region and together with Azerbaijan investment show Nagornyj Karabakh people other – progressive – perspective of development, which can hardly be granted by economically weak Armenia and geopolitically contradictory Eurasian Union with imperialistic Russia in front.


As a conclusion it can be said that existing mechanisms of international community involvement into Nagornyj Karabakh conflict give no result and sometimes (Russia’s role) are even destructive. Therefore they must be updated or changed with clear understanding that Azerbaijan will never accept compromise, presupposing the loss of its occupied territory. More active role of EU could help (also in the framework of EP program), but for the moment European Union speaks loudly but acts slowly. This kind of “slow” policy has to change if we really want to see peace in the region.

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