PROSPECTS OF NEW US MEDIATOR’S APPOINTMENT FOR KARABAKH SETTLEMENT IN SPOTLIGHT
Aug 21 2013
By Sara Rajabova
The appointment of the new co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group from
the United States could be seen as a positive signal for a peaceful
settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The
appointment of James Warlick is expected to be helpful in the
resolution of the bitter conflict, which has persisted for more
than two decades, but experts are divided on its prospects for the
challenging peace process.
Associate Director of the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian
Studies (IERES) at George Washington University, Cory Welt, said in
an interview to Azerbaijan’s news website Day.az that having served
as the principal negotiator of the US-Afghanistan Bilateral Security
Agreement, Ambassador Warlick is well-versed in dealing with thorny
negotiations on complex political-security issues. “So, he should
feel right at home in the Minsk Group,” Welt said.
The appointment of James Warlick as the next U.S. Minsk Group co-chair
was announced by US Secretary of State John Kerry on August 5. Warlick
is due to take up his new position in September.
Warlick most recently served as Deputy Special Representative for
Afghanistan and Pakistan and lead negotiator for the Bilateral Security
Agreement with Afghanistan. He served as Ambassador to Bulgaria from
2009-2012, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau
of International Organization Affairs from 2006 to 2009 and Director
of the Office of European Security and Political Affairs from 2005
Welt noted that it is the right time for a new co-chair to come
aboard. The expert also said there has been no obvious pathway to a
breakthrough for some time, and it will be helpful to have someone
with a fresh eye assessing how to get Armenia and Azerbaijan to agree
on the Basic Principles of the conflict settlement or whether it is
time to reconsider the existing framework.
He added that the American interests in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
haven’t changed much — the priorities are to prevent an outbreak of
war and to justly resolve the conflict.
Also, Director of the Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council and a
former US Ambassador to Azerbaijan and Turkey Ross Wilson told Day.az
that the South Caucasus is a significant priority for US policymakers,
whether the issue is Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia and Abkhazia,
Caspian gas development and the Southern Gas Corridor or democratic
and economic development.
“It will be helpful that the [US] administration’s nominee to serve as
Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, Ambassador Victoria
Nuland, was responsible for American policy in the South Caucasus for
much of the second Clinton administration, and this will be an asset
for the United States in working with regional leaders and others on
these and other issues,” Wilson said.
He also pointed out that the United States remains a mediator on
the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as a member of the Minsk Group and the
importance that Washington attaches to this role is reflected in the
recent appointment of Ambassador Warlick by the US Secretary of State.
Wilson said Warlick is a highly experienced diplomat and he will
bring important assets to the position of the US Minsk Group co-chair.
“Ambassador Warlick will bring a fresh perspective that may be helpful
now. I hope that he will put early consultations on Nagorno-Karabakh
conflict with his fellow co-chairs and personally with the parties
on the top of his to-do list. If and as the parties demonstrate a
willingness to close the remaining, small gaps that stand in the way
of agreement at least on basic principles, they will find Ambassador
Warlick and others all the way up to Secretary Kerry and President
Barack Obama to be active and energetic partners,” Wilson said.
On the other hand, some experts argue that despite the appointment
of the new Minsk Group co-chair, there will not be any improvement
in the resolution of the conflict.
Michael Rubin, Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute,
told Day.az that “any attention to the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh
is a good thing but I do not believe there will be any breakthrough.”
“Secretary of State John Kerry likes to travel, but there is no
indication that he will make Nagorno-Karabakh a priority; rather, U.S.
attention will be on Iran, Syria, Russia, China and the
Israel-Palestine conflict. There is a limit to what Warlick can
accomplish in the Minsk Group under such circumstances,” Rubin noted.
He also said that the American interests are greater than many in
Washington realize: Karabakh may be an issue of justice to Azerbaijan,
but for the United States, it reportedly enables transit for Iranian
and Russian weaponry and drugs.
However, the time is on Azerbaijan’s side, Rubin said. “Armenia has
lost one-third of its population to emigration since its independence
and is on a negative demographic trend.”
He stressed that Azerbaijan deserves justice sooner rather than later,
but will ultimately achieve what it wants.
Meanwhile, Director of the Institute of Political Studies of the
Academy of Public Administration under the President of Azerbaijan,
political expert Elman Nasirov told the ruling New Azerbaijan
Party’s website that regardless of who is appointed to the co-chair’s
position, he pursues the political course of Washington and fulfills
the instructions of the State Department.
He therefore expects the new co-chair to continue pursuing the same
policy of the United States in the Minsk Group.
“If the United States presents any serious project to achieve
resolution of the conflict, Warlick’s potential will be revealed in the
process of its implementation. So far, we are not witnessing…any
drastic change in the US policy towards the settlement of the
conflict,” Nasirov commented.
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict emerged in 1988 when Armenia made
territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Since a lengthy war in the early
1990s that displaced over one million Azerbaijanis, Armenian armed
forces have occupied over 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s internationally
recognized territory, including Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent
The United States, along with Russia and France, has long been working
to broker a solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict through the
Minsk Group, but their efforts have been largely fruitless so far.
Peace talks are underway on the basis of a peace outline proposed by
the Minsk Group co-chairs and dubbed the Madrid Principles, also known
as Basic Principles. The document envisions a return of the territories
surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijani control; determining the
final legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh; a corridor linking Armenia
to the region; and the right of all internally displaced persons to