The dangerous marsh of Karabakh

Azat Artsakh – Republic of Nagorno Karabakh (NKR)


Soon it will be ten years since bloodshed was stopped in Karabakh but
the conflict remains unsettled. The month of February of this year
“dragged” the quest for peace from the deadlock to a real marsh. The
situation with the conflict has never been so disorderly. Today
everybody knows that the delay in the process of negotiations was not
related to the presidential elections in Armenia and Azerbaijan, and
Heidar Aliev’s retreat from power. It is obviously the consistent
crisis: Baku and Yerevan suffer from maximalism and are not willing
for compromises, and Stepanakert does not participate in negotiations
yet. The new president of Azerbaijan Heidar Aliev has realized that
he has no power to admit the loss of Karabakh (his father was almost
going to take that step), and therefore prefers not continuing (on
the acquired basis) the negotiations with Robert Kocharian started
three years ago in Key West and Paris. Foreign minister of Azerbaijan
even proposed starting the negotiations from “zero” but nobody knows
where this zero is. Robert Kocharian does not agree to give up what
has been achieved. But if they propose starting negotiations from
zero Robert Kocharian suggested starting them with Nagorni Karabakh.
Baku appeared in a controversial situation. If they formerly
emphasized that Azerbaijan’s patience is not limitless, and they
would liberate the territories occupied by Armenians at any cost
(even by violating all their obligations of settling the conflict in
a peaceful way) today they are of the opinion that time works for
them and there is no need to hurry. It is known that the parties and
the international organizations have always been absolutely for a
rapid peaceful settlement. Baku also reminds regularly that the life
of the Azerbaijani refugees in tents is unbearable any more. And
suddenly such slowness. Moreover, I. Aliev is categorically against
compromises, which even his father did not dare to make. Perhaps he
has discovered another “possibility” of regulation, that of
unilateral dictate. Formerly they blamed Robert Kocharian for not
being concessive and tolerable, for the syndrome of the winner.
Whereas today, I. Aliev has gone further ahead of Armenians assuming
the bearing of a virtual winner in the economic and military
competition. We may only welcome the fact that he has been supporting
peaceful settlement of the conflict more often, yielding only to the
announcements of the defence minister about revenge by force. We
shall ascribe these zigzags to the fact that the head of state
adjusts to his role in hard conditions, and come back to the hard
fate of the Karabakh settlement. Despite the disorderly situation,
one thing is clear: Baku and Yerevan cannot impose on each other
their favourable variants of solution neither in respect to the cause
of the conflict (the status of Nagorni Karabakh) or elimination of
the consequences (occupation of territories outside the border of
NK), nor the methods of problem settlement (package or false stage by
stage variant). The approaches of the parties in many respects were
very different in the past too but they have never been that
polarized. The doubts concerning the effectiveness of the meeting of
the two presidents today are becoming clearer. It is high time to
reconsider the “lazy” process of negotiations for Nagorni Karabakh
but never to start from “zero”. It is necessary to return to the
stable mechanism of regular negotiations between the accredited
delegations of all the parties within the framework of international
mediation, with an open agenda to achieve agreements in any question
(no matter if those are insignificant in the beginning). A true
alternative to the deadlock in the negotiations is the ancient saying
“Slow and steady wins the race”; it will be favourable for all the
parties. Patiently proceeding “from the simple to the complicated” is
more effective than any attempt at solving the problems immediately.
If seeking for the settlement is to go on within the framework of the
OSCE (otherwise there are a lot of candidates) there is no more exact
calculation than the resolutions of the December 6, 1994 summit of
Budapest. Those were passed by consensus, on the highest level, and
what is more, not before the peak of military actions (as the
Helsinki resolution of March 1992) but after the cease-fire. It is
more substantial than the other processes for the mechanism of the
negotiations. The later created forms of relationships (meetings of
presidents, missions of the co-chairmen) were some additional forms
never brought into being outside the mandate of Budapest. This was
the result of inconsistency of the parties and the departure of the
co-chairmen from the OSCE resolutions under the pressure of the
parties. By the way the Budapest summit had set an aim to conduct
negotiations without delay and open the Minsk consultation. The OSCE
and the co-chairmen could have revealed more clearly to what extent
the parties needed international mediation in conflict settlement.
How can the parties demand activity and new suggestions from the
mediators if they do not hurry at all (some quietly, others
announcing to the world). The efforts of the parties for finding
peace should not be weaker than those of the mediators. There are
already many ideas on resumption of the negotiation process, there is
also a variety of new suggestions. But this will have meaning only in
case of more serious approach to the problem by the parties which
have brought the long-lasting deadlock situation to a dangerous