By Rashid Shirinov
The very fact of the increased number of observers, people who monitor the ceasefire and provide credible information about the situation on the ground is a sign of the renewed interest and concern over the developments in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone.
Natalia Mirimanova, an expert in international conflict resolution, made the remark in her interview with Azernews on January 22, when commenting on the anticipated expansion of the Office of Andrzej Kasprzyk, the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. This expansion was discussed at the last meeting of the Azerbaijani and Armenian foreign ministers and co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, which is designed to find a peaceful solution to the conflict between the two countries. The Azerbaijani and Armenian FMs agreed in principle to the co-chairs’ revised concept paper for implementing the expansion of the Office with a view toward finalizing it as soon as possible.
“I hope that the expanded team of Andrzej Kasprzyk will not only do more of the same work, but consider playing a more active role as an intermediary – not necessarily a mediator, but a facilitator of information exchange on the issues of mutual concern and potential hazard, first and foremost for the civilian population,” Mirimanova noted.
She also pointed out the idea for upgraded technical coordination between the designated military across the contact line, including systems of early warning and prevention of military escalation.
“This confidence building measure has been discussed at times, but never materialized yet. Perhaps now is the time to re-open this discussion,” the expert said.
Speaking of the OSCE Minsk Group, led by the co-chairs from Russia, the U.S. and France, Mirimanova noted that it has not been very effective in moving forward either component.
“If civil society and various stakeholders outside the decision making circle could and are in fact working on the substance, the political component requires third party mediation not only between the leaders of the conflict sides, but also between leaders and the civil society and stakeholders within conflict sides,” she said.
Touching upon actions that should be taken to intensify the negotiation process on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution, the expert pointed out the Madrid principles, calling them, in general, a good departure point.
The principles stipulate a gradual settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. In particular, they envisage the withdrawal of Armenian troops from the occupied areas adjacent to the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, provision of an interim status for the region and future determination of its final legal status. Moreover, all internally displaced persons and refugees, who account for more than a million of Azerbaijan’s population, should return to their former places of residence, according to the Madrid principles.
“Not ideal for either side, but not weakening either side’s position. I think for the mediators it is important to convey to the sides that these are principles and not a plan of action so that the sides do not get fixated on the particular ways of the implementation, timing, sequencing and the like,” Mirimanova said.
As to whether these principles would signal readiness to accept a joint framework, she agrees that no details about the status or specific security arrangements can be negotiated in any meaningful way unless they are grounded in the mutual commitment to respect the framework.
The expert also noted that in this case even if one, two or several models are not accepted, Azerbaijan and Armenia will still remain within the common space where they can resume dialogue.
During the recent meeting in Krakow, the Azerbaijani and Armenian FMs and the co-chairs, as usual, discussed the negotiation process on the settlement of the long-standing Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The ministers and the co-chairs talked about next steps for facilitating realization of the agreements reached at previous summits dedicated to the settlement of the conflict.
Commenting on this and previous meetings between the conflicting sides, Mirimanova noted that high-level meetings on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution are more of symbolic rather than contentious significance.
“Real substantive and political work is – or should be – done behind the scene,” she noted. "Substantive component of a peace process, implies generation and assessment of options, scenarios, risk mitigation strategies, and the like, while political component is about dialogue, persuasion, reality check and at times pressure."
Azerbaijan and Armenia fought a lengthy war that ended with signing of a fragile ceasefire in 1994. Since the war, Armenian armed forces have occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan's territory, including Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding regions. More than 20,000 Azerbaijanis were killed and over 1 million were displaced as a result of the large-scale hostilities.
While the OSCE Minsk Group acted as the only mediator in resolution of the conflict, the occupation of the territory of the sovereign state with its internationally recognized boundaries has been left out of due attention of the international community for years.
Until now, Armenia ignores four UN Security Council resolutions on immediate withdrawal from the occupied territory of Azerbaijan, thus keeping tension high in the region.
Rashid Shirinov is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @RashidShirinov
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