Nagorno-Karabakh Problem: On The Edge of Peace Talks

22 February 2012
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On 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan and Armenia became independent. With this progression the responsibility of Russia to administrate and solve the contradictory position of Nagorno-Karabakh, a south-western province of Azerbaijan, had dissolved. In a few months the conflict turned out to be 2 year long war which concluded with the defeat of Azerbaijan. Besides the entire Nagorno-Karabakh region, Azerbaijan also lost the neighbor and surrounding areas of the territory where a homogenous Azeri population existed previously. More than a million Azeris forced to leave their homes in Armenia, Karabakh and surrounding regions since 1988, the beginning of the conflict (1). 


Hitherto, Azerbaijan experienced a long lasting isolation period. Throughout the time Turkey was the only country which permanently stands behind Azerbaijan. Furthermore Azerbaijan and Turkey became together and applied embargo on Armenia. Turkey refused to normalize its relations with Armenia unless it withdraws its troops from the occupied territories of the region. Furthermore unfortunately peace negotiations that perpetuates since 1992, actions of mediators, and uncertain attitudes of the Minsk Group members caused Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to be unsolvable. As a result of the Turkey-Azerbaijan union, the closed entry points of the two countries weaken Armenia economically. Besides, this weakness also effects negatively the socio-economical position of Armenian public.


Since 1992 some measures for the solution of the conflict has been taken. The fact is that, France and USA, where the Armenian lobby is strong, did not act rapidly so this caused Russia to become effective in the region. Previously Moscow has not been trying to find a way for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict because insolvability in the region would be in Russia’s benefit. However, the war in Georgia turned in a negative way for Russia. Since then the Russians “have been increasingly keen to show their nice side and want to take the driver's seat in finding a solution to the conflict” (2).

The attempts have started when Azerbaijan and Armenia became a member of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in 1992. From that time, the problem was started to be undertaken on the international arena. Since 1992 different mediators intervened to solve the problem. Neighbor states, Western powers, and international organizations have tried to find a consensus between the defendants of Nagorno-Karabakh. Sometimes this kind of a third party intervention is required in ethnic-based territorial conflicts. In addition to the efforts of the states in the region which were trying to find a solution, OSCE established the Minsk Group which has the representatives from the countries: Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey, Belarus, Italy, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Slovakia, and Sweden. On 1997 Russia, USA and French co-presidents were appointed to Minsk. However after years of negotiation trials by third party mediums, a diplomatic solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute seems to be troublesome. Despite this fact, politicians are saying that a solution will be achieved this year.


Actually according to the international verdict of United Nations, Nagorno-Karabakh is a part of Azerbaijan. However it seems this verdict stays only on paper because the West keeps on ignoring the occupant position of Armenia on the Nagorno-Karabakh region and other neighborhood territories (3). Furthermore the political leaders in Baku think that Nagorno-Karabakh should stay in Azerbaijan and Armenia to withdraw from the seven occupied territories. Leaders in Baku want that Nagorno-Karabakh to remain in Azerbaijan and they want Armenian troops to withdraw from the seven occupied regions. On the other hand Yerevan wants its right of self-determination. It is known that both sides are growing impatient with diplomatic efforts, which are producing almost no results.


From another perspective, the consequences of a conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh would be high for the European Union. The conflict in Georgia showed that war is a bad solution. So the low attention of the EU is surprising. New Eastern Partnership of the EU declares that their aim is “stability, security and prosperity in the Eastern Neighborhood” (4) but these aims of the partnership will be impossible without a resolution in Nagorno-Karabakh. If we take a look from the Azerbaijani side, it is a fact that more than 35,000 lives have been lost. Nagorno Karabakh dispute is called as a frozen conflict by Westerners but it can clearly be seen that it is anything but frozen.


Both Azerbaijan and Armenia continue to compete in militaristic terms and this competition makes this region the most militarized part of Europe. Besides Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Croatia, Rwanda, Burundi, Angola, Sudan, Turkey, Georgia, Chechnya, Tajikistan, Kashmir, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, have been all burned by ethnic civil wars. Furthermore there is always the possibility of spreading these conflicts to other places of the world. According to an article, “Azerbaijan is currently spending $2 billion (€1.4 bn) on military procurement, which is more than the state budget of Armenia” (5). Also in both Azerbaijan and Armenia propaganda of hate works very actively and antagonism is very obvious. It is hoped that a constant international attention to the conflict will result in a final agreement. However despite the positive talks of the Minsk Group members under the asylum of OSCE, politicians, it seems that peace remains a hope with Nagorno-Karabakh region.


Today the Minsk Group’s effectiveness about the solution is being discussed in international arena. In such an environment it is important that international institutions and neighboring states should undertake this problem. Turkey, as another member state in the Minsk Group, demands the withdrawal of Armenia from the seven regions that belong to Azerbaijan and making a step towards peace on Karabakh. Now Armenia should provide a progress towards a solution. In the mean time Azerbaijan might raise the military power and use this militaristic advantage as an aversive power in the solution of the problem (6). Azerbaijan is a rapidly growing state which has energy reserves. This confident nation does not want to be isolated once again by its relatively small neighbor of Armenia. These issues that disturb Armenia can make this state giving its consent to some concessions. 

It is now 18 years since Armenia and Azerbaijan began a full-scale war over Nagorno-Karabakh. There are more than 30,000 troops in combat-ready mode. So it will be right to underline that the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh is far from frozen. It would be hard to leave all the animosity back but both Azerbaijan and Armenia should learn to cooperate for a stable and more prosperous Southern Caucasus. Without a solution, Nagorno-Karabakh region is like a ticking time bomb. Also it is obvious that if the dispute continues, entire region will continue to be weak and needy.

Consequently, the EU is required to show that it has learned a lesson from the war in Georgia and become an active peacemaker in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In addition to the EU, Russia, and the USA; it is in every state’s benefit to ensure that a solution can be really achieved. The region should be an example of how to achieve peace in an ethnic civil war instead of being an arena for the competition of the international powers. For this purpose the parties are coming closer and there is a possibility for a positive conclusion of the agreement in 2010 spring.







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