Resolving the Karabakh crisis is a security issue of the entire South Caucasus

Mamikon Babayan, exclusively for Vestnik Kavkaza
Resolving the Karabakh crisis is a security issue of the entire South Caucasus

The Karabakh conflict, which flared up more than twenty years ago, continues to affect the daily life of the entire region. Despite the signing of the Bishkek Protocol and other settlement attempts, the confrontation has not been overcome yet.

The independence gave Armenia a chance to restore the diplomatic relations with Turkey, but this appeared impossible because of Ankara’s unequivocal support of Baku’s position in the Karabakh conflict. Once in a semi-blockade position, Armenia has gone the path of the militarization of society; the atmosphere of fear and danger of resuming the war has become the determining factor in the development of the republic, which naturally affected its investment unattractiveness.

The worst thing is that the protracted conflict has become the habit of everyday life and the new generation of Armenian and Azerbaijani youth hardly imagines a joint peaceful residence. Experts and people of the older generation, who remember the times when Armenians and Azerbaijanis lived side by side peacefully and created families, are alarmed by this.

The situation in Azerbaijan is also not easy - despite the possibilities for economic development, many of which have been realized, the republic was forced to take the path of militarization and for many years to increase its ground grouping. The reason for this was the long-term destructive policy of Yerevan, which tried to persuade Baku to recognize the actual result of the Karabakh war and to abandon the demands for the de-occupation of seven regions. The mental crisis also did not bypass Azerbaijan - the consequences of the ethnopolitical process in 1988-1994 led to the exclusion of Armenians from the history and life of the republic, although the events of the creation of the Armenian and Azerbaijani republics are inextricably linked.

Today, both Armenia and Azerbaijan have tender spots in foreign policy. The conflict leaves its mark on the relations of Azerbaijan and Armenia with their neighbors. So, Iran’s cooperation with Armenia, Turkey’s contacts with Azerbaijan, and the military cooperation of the Russian Federation with both sides of the conflict are not always clearly evaluated. Among other things, the Karabakh conflict created tools for foreign political influence on the countries of the region. Major global players can easily penetrate into different spheres of life of the South Caucasian countries, increasing their presence, monopolizing foreign policy cooperation. For this reason, the achievement of peace is significantly complicated, since the intervention of other countries implies the satisfaction of the interests of the mediators trying to achieve the peaceful resolution of the problem.

Today, Russia is the only country in the world that is taking real steps to reduce tensions in the zone of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Without the resolution of the Karabakh conflict, it will be difficult for Azerbaijan and Armenia to join any of unions. Although Azerbaijan has established economic ties with its western partners, Russia and Kazakhstan do not exclude the intensification of the economic contacts with Baku, they see the prospects for Azerbaijan’s entry into the EAEU, especially since its trade turnover is primarily focused on Russia. However, if we take into account that Armenia is a member of the EAEU, it is difficult to imagine how Azerbaijan will be able to contact with the occupant country in this organization.

Taking into account the current geopolitical situation, it is worth noting that peace in the region is extremely important for Russia, while Western countries are strengthening their positions in Armenia and Georgia, bearing in mind that the South Caucasus remains a bridge between Russia and the Greater Middle East. Events in Syria, Iran, Iraq affect the entire region.

It is obvious that the settlement is impossible without the observance of two basic conditions: first, de-occupation of the occupied territories, and second, the determination of the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. This is where one of the fundamental contradictions lies. The West adheres to the idea of phased implementation of the former US ambassador to Armenia, Richard Millsha’s plan, who stated that the conflict cannot be resolved without returning certain occupied Azerbaijani territories. The priority for Armenia is not only the exclusion of the use of military force and peace negotiations, but also the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, while Azerbaijan excludes the possibility to recognize the self-proclaimed republic, putting forward the withdrawal of Armenian troops from the occupied territories as a prerequisite for the negotiations, which Armenia strongly disagrees with.

Today there are many ways to resolve the conflict, but as it is known, everything old is new again. And in this case, it will probably be appropriate to recall the territorial claims and attempts to resolve the conflict between the young Armenian and Azerbaijani Republics in 1918-1920. Now, some experts say that to resolve the conflict around Nagorno-Karabakh, it is quite possible to use the ideas of the ADR founders, who tried to move away from ethnic and territorial disputes by creating a confederation capable of becoming a guarantor of political and economic security.

At present, due to the deepening contradictions, we can talk about the creation of a parliamentary republic on the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh with equal representation in the legislative bodies of the Armenian and Azerbaijani peoples. However, to do so it is necessary to ensure the possibility of returning internally displaced persons to Karabakh. At the same time, it is obvious that the leadership of Armenia will have to abandon the idea of existence in the conditions of a mono-national republic - after all, this kind of policy, based solely on force, is essentially a utopia that damages the entire region.

It should be emphasized that the potential Armenian-Azerbaijani confederation in the territory of Karabakh can be based only on the principles of equal representation of both peoples in the government bodies, otherwise it will turn into a time bomb, the explosion of which will lead to unpredictable consequences.

The transition from territorial confrontation to rapprochement will not only relieve the situation in the region but may also attract both Armenia and Georgia to the confederation. After all, the modern world is striving for integration, and the South Caucasus at some stage is unlikely to avoid this fate.