Nagorno-Karabakh: conditions of a just settlement

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Baku, 5 August 2013 –

There is growing interest in the settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in the West. Media outlets publish analytical articles on the issue. Although authors have different opinions they share the view that the problem must be solved. From this point of view Alexandros Petersen`s article is of particular interest.

Hopes pinned on Kerry, and the reality

For analytics and experts, assessing geopolitical dynamics of the South Caucasus in the context of Azerbaijan’s energy policy is a necessary condition. The reason is that having embarked on path of rapid development, Baku is now capable of influencing a large geopolitical arena. This process started in the second half of 1993, and Azerbaijan`s sphere of influence has considerably broadened since then. And it`s already usual for acclaimed Western political analysts, experts and diplomats to examine regional processes in the light of Baku`s geopolitical position. Among them are Henry Kissinger, George Friedman, and Joshua Kucera. The latest such research was conducted by acclaimed geopolitical expert Alexandros Petersen, who attempted to look at the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict through the prism of Azerbaijan`s geopolitical role in the region (see: AlexandrosPetersen. Kerry, GoFixKarabakh! "TheNationalInterest”, 24 July, 2013).

First of all we would like to note one point that is typical of the majority of foreign experts – they forecast the fate of the South Caucasus in the context of interests of certain circles. This means that any such analysis or forecast has a subjective point. And Mr Petersen`s article is no exception. He calls on US Secretary of State John Kerry to seize the opportunity to ensure Washington`s geopolitical interests. However, Mr Petersen lays our his views on major features of the region`s geopolitical dynamics.

He looks at the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in the light of energy policy. According to Mr Petersen, Azerbaijan`s choosing Transadriatic pipeline as an export pipeline for its natural gas to reach European markets can change geopolitical dynamics in Eurasia. This decision of Azerbaijan reaffirmed the country`s commitment to making its contribution to ensuring Europe`s energy security. In the current geopolitical situation, such a move requires quite a strong political will. Mr Petersen warns that some circles can make attempts to throw the region into tumult. For him, Washington should act bearing this in mind.

It`s clear that Azerbaijan`s energy policy in the South Caucasus influences processes on a global scale. And the recognition of this once again shows the absurdity of statements of Armenian analysts. They claim that Armenia is becoming a key geopolitical actor in the region and that this factor shapes the policies of superpowers. They claim that it is Armenia`s growing role that lays behind the West`s constant pressure on Turkey and Azerbaijan. But the reality proves that the contrary is true.

According to Mr Petersen, although Secretary Kerry enjoys support of Armenians, to achieve success during his tenure, however, he must tweak his approach. The point, for Mr Petersen, is that Azerbaijan is of great geopolitical importance in terms of both energy security and many factors with respect to the U.S.`s military withdrawal from Afghanistan. He believes that the Nagorno-Karabakh problem can be used to spoil the process of Washington`s pulling its military out of Afghanistan, and that some circles can attempt to change the balance of power in the South Caucasus, which will cost the USA and NATO a number of resources.

Undoubtedly, Mr Petersen`s assumptions can prove false at least because the U.S. has several options of withdrawing its military from Afghanistan, and also because involving Azerbaijan in this is not a reasonable approach. It’s a fact that Russia and Iran are increasing their military presence in the Caspian and even conduct joint exercises. And it should not be forgotten that Al-Qaida is at war against any country that helps the Americans. This shows the inappropriateness of considering Azerbaijan as a route for the U.S.`s military withdrawal from Afghanistan. However, Mr Petersen`s attempt to link the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to geopolitical and military processes in Central Asia is well worth considering.

But what is the reality? Armenia occupied Azerbaijan`s lands. Under these circumstances, an unconditional withdrawal of the aggressor`s military of Azerbaijan`s lands must have been a fair settlement of the problem. And linking the problem to global processes that take place beyond the region, instead of trying to find a concrete solution to the conflict is "putting the cart before the horse”. This view is evidenced by the content of "advice” – featured in the article – on what steps the U.S. should take to solve the conflict.

Mr Petersen says that Secretary Kerry has long represented the interests of vocal Armenian-Americans as a Massachusetts senator. For him, the status-quo must be changed before military operations begin. But how? Here we should note two positive views of the author: the first is that "territory of Karabakh is within internationally recognized Azerbaijan”, and the second is that Karabakh "is occupied by Armenia”. If these two theses are unconditionally accepted in the negotiations, Secretary Kerry will definitely make history. Otherwise, no positive result can be achieved.

Geopolitical interests and a sense of justice: is a coincidence possible?

Official Yerevan`s absurd and unfounded foreign policy bring Secretary Kerry`s chances of achieving success on this issue to nought. According to articles in the Armenian media, Serzh Sargsyan is trying to win more support by manipulating between the West and Russia on the Nagorno-Karabakh problem. In addition to remaining committed to keeping the Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent districts under occupation, they even make territorial claims against Nakhchivan. And they say this opportunity will be given as a result of the geopolitical struggle between the West and Russia. (ИгорМурадян. НаКаспииштиль //, 25 iyul 2013).

Armenia is seeking new ways of making territorial claims against Turks. Armenia`s prosecutor general has recently even said that Ankara must "return” several lands to Armenia. Taking into account Yerevan`s claims against Georgia`s Javakhetiya, it`s easy to imagine the situation of this diminutive state. How can Armenia, with its silly plans, speak of a just settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict? 

The only way out is exerting pressure on the aggressor to make it move towards peace. But neither the West nor Russia has made any such step so far. So it`s not clear what language John Kerry will speak to Armenians concerning the Karabakh problem. Mr Petersen can have fair desires, objective conclusions and forecasts. But in reality America has no mechanisms of making it all come true. The West has tolerated every caprice of Armenia so far.

However, Mr Petersen`s article shows that the South Caucasus is experiencing geopolitical changes. First of all, it is recognized that Azerbaijan is a key geopolitical actor in the region. With its energy policy Baku reminds the world of the necessity of considering it. In this sense, Washington should also change its approach to the Karabakh problem. And it is not important which secretary of state will do it.

Secondly, the West understands that neither Armenia nor Georgia will be able to play a central role in the regional geopolitics because they don’t have economic, political and statehood resources for this. They must be with Azerbaijan in any case.

Thirdly, considering the Nagorno-Karabakh problem in the context of the Middle East-Central Asia geopolitical arena causes many complex factors. This process can aggravate the situation. In other words superpowers can use the conflict to ensure their own interests. So this puts the region into very volatile situation.

This proves that the only way to solve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is to take a fair position. All other options can escalate tension ion the region.

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