Lamberto Zannier: Minsk Group Process Is The Only Viable Format


NOVEMBER 10, 2011

Italian diplomat Lamberto Zannier became OSCE Secretary General June
30, 2011, taking the place of Mark Perre deBrishambo. OSCE Secretary
General Lamberto Zannier gave an exclusive interview to Armenpress on
OSCE challenges and goals, as well as on the process of NK conflict

The OSCE was created to ensure cooperation and security from Vancouver
to Vladivostok. What do you think has the organization been successful
in achieving this basic goal?

The situation in the OSCE area has dramatically changed since 1975
and the Helsinki Final Act. The OSCE has contributed to many of the
positive developments in our region. For example, during the Cold War
the Organization (then called the CSCE) helped to reduce military
tensions and supported civil society in fighting for human rights;
we helped and continue to help states in transition. Through our
field presences in the former Yugoslavia we have aided post-conflict
rehabilitation and democratization efforts, bringing those countries
towards their stated goal of European integration.

Many countries in our region are celebrating 20 years of independence
this year. This includes our current chair, Lithuania, whose
citizens enjoy rights, freedoms and a level of security unthinkable a
generation ago. So we can point to many improvements in security and
co-operation, not just at the state level, but also for individuals
and communities. On the other hand, there are still old challenges as
well as new threats that we must face together, if we are to achieve
our goal, agreed on by all 56 OSCE States at the Astana Summit last
year, of a genuine Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security community.

What are the main challenges for the organization nowadays and what
new tools is the OSCE elaborating to fix them?

Security threats have changed in the 21st century. The OSCE is
increasingly focusing on transnational threats such as terrorism, human
trafficking and other forms of organized crime as well as tensions
that arise over issues such as energy security or environmental
challenges. These new threats can only be tackled by the joint
efforts of states, so co-operation is more important than ever –
through high-level political dialogue and by creating links between
different agencies and organizations at a working level.

We are also looking at ways to enhance our operational effectiveness.

This year under the Lithuanian Chairmanship of the OSCE, we have had
a series of discussions on how to better deal with conflicts and all
parts of the conflict cycle. We are looking at how to ensure that there
is action following an early warning and how we galvanize the necessary
political will to act quickly in conflict and pre-conflict situations.

The OSCE has long been working to ensure stability and peace in the
South Caucasus. In your assessment what have been the main achievements
in this region? What are the main challenges that still remain?

The OSCE has been working very hard over many years to ensure long
term stability. The South Caucasus is a region which still presents
security challenges. Confidence-building and reconciliation is a slow
and difficult process that can have setbacks. We would all want to see
quick progress, but patience, resolve and perseverance are needed to
build the trust needed to generate progress. The OSCE has put at the
disposal of all stakeholders in the region its tools and mechanisms
for conflict prevention and will continue to operate with the goal
of advancing security, stability and prosperity.

Now let’s turn to the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, as the OSCE Minsk Group
is dealing with it for so long. Azerbaijan has tried to change the
format of the negotiations. How do you assess these steps and do you
think that the Minsk Group format is still an accurate one?

It is tempting to focus on formats, but I prefer to focus on the
substance of the negotiations. We have seen steps forward before within
the framework of the Minsk Group when there has been political will,
and I firmly believe that with commitment and good faith progress
is possible.

The international community always states that status-quo around
the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict should change. In your opinion what
mechanisms have to be undertaken in order to achieve this objective?

There have been far too many incidents along the Line of Contact
recently – more than 20 fatalities already this year. So no, we can’t
continue like this. The OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Lithuanian Foreign
Minister Audronius Ažubalis, has called on the sides to withdraw
snipers from the Line of Contact, and obviously I support that. I would
also emphasize the importance of implementing the confidence-building
measures agreed between the Presidents in Astrakhan and Sochi. The
OSCE, is ready to assist in the implementation of these measures.

The leadership of Azerbaijan is using militaristic rhetoric almost
every day. Don’t you think that in these conditions the peaceful
settlement of the conflict is becoming harder and what steps in your
opinion should be taken to avoid this kind of rhetoric?

Both sides have repeatedly agreed that a peaceful settlement is the
only long-term solution. Finding a settlement requires patience and
determination. It takes courage for leaders to speak out for peace
and to prepare their people for compromises, and I urge the leaders
of Armenia and Azerbaijan to make the public case for peace.

In 2012-2013 elections are expected not only in Armenia and Azerbaijan
but also in OSCE Minsk Group co-chairing countries. In your opinion
is it possible to at least achieve consensus on the Basic Principles
of the settlement before that?

There is a window of opportunity now and I urge both sides to make
every effort to seize it. The Minsk Group Co-Chairs, with the support
of the international community, are working hard to bring the sides
to agreement on the Basic Principles and I remain optimistic.

Additional Question

Recently in one of your interviews you said that Turkey can play a
positive role in the settlement of Nagorno-Kharabakh issue. In what
ways do you think it can be done taking into account the position of
Turkey in the issue showing unilateral support to one of the parties
of the conflict?

Turkey has a role as it is part of the Minsk Group, which through the
Co-chairs from France, Russia and USA leads the OSCE’s efforts to find
a political solution to this protracted conflict. The Minsk Group
process is the only viable format accepted by all: any negotiation
format has to be accepted by the parties that are in the negotiations,
and this is also the case for the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. In this,
as in any negotiation context, it is also necessary to take into
account all relevant factors, including the regional dynamics. And
if the conflict in itself has remained largely frozen, the overall
situation in the larger region has evolved. This factor needs to be
taken into account as well: in fact, overall improvements of relations
between all key actors in the region would create better conditions
for progress. If Turkey intends to play a more visible role, taking
into account its geo-strategic position, this can only happen if
it is agreed with all relevant stakeholders. This is a message I
also brought to Turkey, pointing to the fact that an improvement of
relations between Armenia and Turkey would promote reconciliation and
more open contacts between the peoples of the region, thus creating
better conditions for conflict resolution. And if this happened,
I would certainly welcome it.