Dr. Gayane Novikova
Fragments of the interview to REGNUM Information Agency on June 22, 2011
REGNUM: On June 24, 2011, in Kazan (Tatarstan, Russian Federation) will be held a trilateral meeting of the presidents of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia. The Nagorno Karabakh conflict settlement is a key and only topic on its agenda. In your opinion, what can we expect from this meeting, taking into consideration that Presidents of Russia, the U.S. and France called their Armenian and Azerbaijani colleagues to conclude the work on the Basic principles of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict settlement?
The calls for peace of different intensity are voiced in the process of resolution of any ethno-political conflict from the beginning of its overt phase. They can last “to the end of time,” like in the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that smoothly passed from the 20th to the 21st century. The Kosovo conflict is a bright example of how the external actors after quite a short time of the calls for peace took a tough decision and “resolved” the conflict by force. The recognition of Kosovo’s independence some way changed the European map, but has not resolved the conflict. The inert calls for peace could not stop the transformation of the South Ossetian conflict into an overt military confrontation with the participation of a powerful external actor; currently both Abkhazian and the South Ossetian conflicts are on a stage of deep “freezing.” Thus, the call for peace per se is not enough for peace achievement.
It is well-known that the only document signed by all three parties to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict is the 1994 cease-fire agreement. Then the negotiations about negotiations began, as far as to reach the level of working on documents and to achieve a real, not virtual stage to completion of the work on the basic principles for the conflict resolution there should be very strong preconditions. First, the parties to the conflict should be well-defined. Second, there should be a readiness and willingness of the parties to the conflict to achieve a mutual compromise, but not to make unilateral concessions. Third, the societies concerned should possess a high level of tolerance and the understanding that compromise is inevitable and the question is the cost of that compromise. I would argue that a compromise related to the security of state borders and population is impermissible. However, if it is unavoidable, there should be very tough security guarantees, including a capacity for hard power measures by the international community.
In the case of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict there is an absence of all above mentioned preconditions, at least from the viewpoint of a person, not familiar with the details of the negotiations. If we follow up the dynamics of the joint statements made by the Presidents of the U.S., Russia, and France, it is possible to note, on the one hand, their indeterminacy, and a slight shift in accents, on the other hand. It is possible to state that the latter is coming out of the growing understanding of the threat of resumption of war. In the meantime, the political military situation in the Middle East and the economic crisis in Europe offer background reasons for an attempt to prevent the appearance of another “hot spot” in the immediate vicinity to both regions.
I don’t expect any breakthrough in Kazan, as I did not expect it after all previous high-level meetings and statements of the world leaders’ “Troika.” Furthermore, the coming elections in Armenia and Azerbaijan provide to the presidents of both countries with the opportunity to have a new time-out.
REGNUM: In the past Nagorno Karabakh rejected one of the possible solutions of the conflict, and it was suspended soon after from the negotiations. How serious are the current statements of Armenia’s leadership that the Basic principles should be agreed by three parties to the conflict, i.e. Baku, Yerevan, and Stepanakert?
I would like to think, that the statements of Armenia on inclusion or, more precisely, on restoration of the Nagorno Karabakh at the status of a direct participant in negotiations are very serious. In my opinion, making any decisions without the direct participation of the second Armenian side, firstly, would mean preclude a final settlement of the conflict; secondly, it is simply immoral. Let me once again refer to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: there had been no signed agreement until the representatives of the Palestinian people were included in the direct negotiations with Israelis, but several dozens of years and thousand dozens of lives were lost.
REGNUM: Recently the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan stated that the agreement about the deployment of the peace-keepers in the area of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict has been achieved. According to him, the peace-keepers will be neither from the countries – co-chairing in the OSCE Minsk Grout, not from the neighboring states. The Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied this information. In your opinion, the peace-keepers from what country or countries could be acceptable for all parties to the conflict?
Deployment of peace-keepers in the area of the conflict requires huge political efforts and financial investments. First, the peace agreement has to be signed (in the case of Nagorno Karabakh conflict there is no peace agreement, but the growing militaristic rhetoric instead) and agreement of all the parties to the conflict is needed (here we see Azerbaijan’s unwillingness to recognize Nagorno Karabakh as a party to the conflict). Second, after achieving agreement on the mentioned points, the next very critical issue is the definition of the mandate and functions of the peace-keepers, as well as their capability to carry out the mission. Unfortunately, they are not always capable, and this is a factor necessary to keep in mind when making the principal decision on the use of a peace-keeping operation per se.
The question whether there is an agreement regarding peace-keeping operation in Nagorno Karabakh, or not, is a matter of speculation. Of course, each side has its own preferences regarding who should be peace-keepers and where they should be from; but it will be possible to answer this question only after the implementation of all preconditions for their deployment in the area of the conflict. The next step will be to decide what international organization should be responsible for the operation. The EU umbrella could be the best alternative. However, this international body has no financial or military capabilities. Furthermore, the EU has no special desire to send its peace-keepers to the South Caucasus.