Tuesday, June 28, 2005

New Possibility for Karabagh Peace?

Emil Danielyan, writing for the Jamestown Foundation's Eurasia Daily Monitor, says that the OSCE Minsk Group's co-chairs feel that there is now another window of opportunity for a Karabagh Peace agreement. Although a ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the mainly-Armenian inhabited territory situated within the latter republic still stands, there are concerns that failure to find a lasting solution will destabilize the South Caucasus region and frustrate its potential for economic development.

Nevertheless, although almost everyone urges caution in expecting a breakthrough, both sides still seem content enough with the progress made. What remains the sticking point, however, is Karabagh's status and whether territory surrounding it in Azerbaijan proper should be returned after this issue is determined and agreed upon.
Azerbaijan stands for a "step-by-step" resolution of the dispute that would delay agreement on Karabakh's status, the main sticking point, until after the liberation of surrounding Azerbaijani lands that were occupied by Armenian forces during the 1991-94 war. The Armenians, by contrast, until recently insisted on a "package" accord that would resolve all contentious issues at once. But they are now ready to embrace a phased settlement, provided that they get other international guarantees of continued Armenian control over Karabakh.

Accordingly, each side emphasizes elements of the discussed peace deal that it finds more beneficial for itself. Azimov, for example, said the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers discussed the return of the occupied districts in Azerbaijan proper. For his part, Oskanian was anxious to stress that none of those districts would be given back to Baku without some agreement on Karabakh's status. He said it remains the number one issue for the Armenian side and is high on the agenda of the Prague process.
The two sides were reportedly close to a deal on Karabagh at a US-hosted summit between the Armenian President, Robert Kocharian, and his then Azerbaijani counterpart, Heydar Aliyev, in Key West during 2001. However, although it is believed that the elder Aliyev agreed to outright independence for Nagorno Karabagh, the ailing leader was considered to have met with significant resistance to the idea upon his return to Baku. With parliamentary elections scheduled for November in Azerbaijan, such concerns must surely also weigh heavily on his successor and son, Ilham Aliyev.
U.S. officials are mindful of the possibility of another fiasco. They say that is the reason why renewed hopes for Karabakh peace will not ease U.S. pressure on Aliev's regime to ensure the freedom and fairness of Azerbaijan's upcoming parliamentary elections. They also rule out more leniency toward Armenia's leadership, whose democratic credentials are likewise questionable.

Some Armenian and Azerbaijani pundits have long argued that neither regime is interested in mutual compromise on Karabakh, as it would run the risk of losing power. The next few months should put this theory to the test.
The full article can be read online here.

Tag: | |

Any opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of any publication or organization that he may be working for now, in the past or in the future.