Escalations in Karabakh conflict zone ‘still possible’ even though major war is ruled out, says Chatham House expert

11:32 • 17.03.18



Azerbaijan is highly unlikely to unleash a major war over Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) at the moment, but escalations along the Line of Contact are not absolutely ruled out, according to Laurence Broers, Associate Fellow for Russia and Eurasia Programme at Chatham House (London).


In an interview with Tert.am, the expert said he sees that the only deterrent structure in the post-Soviet region is now very vulnerable to react to possible challenges while Azerbaijan may exploit that fact “using domestic and international triggers, threats and opportunities”.

Asked to comment on the proposal for expanding the OSCE monitoring group on the frontline, as well as strengthening the capacities of Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk, Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Mr Broers said he treats the the plan as “just a component” in a broader context of conflict settlement.


“I think it is just a component in a broader set of measures. Unless everything is agreed, there’s no movement on any of the individual components. As we know, Azerbaijan is very concerned [over the plan for] embedding the Line of Contact, and sees increased confidence-building measures such as the expansion of the resources for Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk’s mission as doing that, i.e. – embedding this unacceptable situation. So I think it has no real strategic interest. If this isn’t tied to specific issues such progress in the peace process. Armenia and Azerbaijan have very different understandings as to what the movement in this process might look like,” he said, ruling out any essential changes in the short and medium terms.


He cited the political developments in Armenia and Azerbaijan (implementation of constitutional reforms, and snap presidential election) as a serious impediment to intensified negotiations at the moment.


But the expert agreed that there have been fewer escalations since the April 2016 fighting, with the hostilities and casualties having dramatically dropped in the second half of 2017.

 

Commenting on the snap presidential election in Azerbaijan, Mr Broers cited economic and political arguments underlying Ilham Aliyev’s decision to reschedule the date. He noted that Russia too, is holding a presidential election in April, a fact which many international experts believe will divert the international attention from the poor democracy standards and massive human rights abuses pursued by the Aliyev regime. “I think there are rather simple, maybe banal answers. Simply, bringing the election forward deprives anyone who wanted to participate in it or monitor this process [of real chances to have their engagement by giving them] six months less time to prepare for that. I think it’s too simple to understand.”

                                                                                                          
The expert also admitted that the Nagorno-Karabakh issue doesn’t attract a positive international attention. “There is very little demand and visible common ground between the parties. And I think until that appears, no international actor or outside state will be willing to come and take control of, or facilitate, the situation. Russia is the only state, I think, that is more inclined in that direction, but even then, Russia doesn’t want to left alone with this conflict.”

 

Mr Broers, who is also the editor-in-chief of Caucasus Survey (the first dedicated scholarly journal for the Caucasus region) said he sees a high degree of intertia in the geopolitical structure of the conflict. “Azerbaijan has quite a unilateral foreign policy, i.e. - it’s not part of any geopolitical bloc, and Armenia pursues a policy of complimentarity; so again, it doesn’t have a kind of clear alignments. And I think it keeps the conflict going. Until there is a kind of more visible demand, common ground that outside actors and mediators can work with, the process will be stranded,” he added.   


The expert also expressed his agreement to the international mediators’ repeatedly voiced call that the responsibility for final peace "lies with the parties themslves". “I am not sure what else the Minsk [Group] at this moment can do to complete this process,” he said.

 

Hripsime Hovhannisyan





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