The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict continues even after the ceasefire agreement between Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan in 1994. The peace process under the auspices of OSCE Minsk Group comprised of France, Russia and the USA entered into an active phase following the Armenian Velvet Revolution back in the spring of 2018. We witnessed intense consultations between the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan that resulted in a relatively calm situation along the borderline between Nagorno-Karabakh/Artsakh (its historical name) and Azerbaijan.
Other positive developments to mention are the establishment of direct communication channels to avoid escalations and casualties along the borderline as well as a journalists’ exchange visit between Armenia/Artsakh and Azerbaijan in the aftermath of multiple meetings between the Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan and the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev. These undertakings, however, demonstrate a significant turn regarding what we can call conflict management rather than conflict resolution. To what extent conflict management can be conducive to the establishment of long lasting peace still remains an open question. The recent meeting between Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s Ministers of Foreign Affairs on December 4, 2019 in the margins of OSCE 26th Ministerial Council that lasted three and a half hours did not appear to be as constructive as we would expect them to be. Meanwhile, there are some conclusions to draw from the meeting.
Firstly, parties represented by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Armenia and Azerbaijan reiterated their commitment towards the agenda ‘to intensify negotiations on the core issues of a peaceful settlement’ as embedded in the Minsk Co-chair Joint Statement. The core issues are endorsed by six elements that have been agreed upon between 2009 and 2012. These elements include
(1) return of the territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijani control;
(2) an interim status for Nagorno-Karabakh providing guarantees for security and self-governance;
(3) a corridor linking Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh;
(4) future determination of the final legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh through a legally binding expression of will;
(5) the right of all internally displaced persons and refugees to return to their former places of residence; and
(6) international security guarantees that would include a peacekeeping operation.
The Memorandum issued by Azerbaijan prior to the Bratislava meeting includes the withdrawal of Armenian forces from Nagorno-Karabakh region, the return of internally displaced people as well as the definition of the status of self-rule for the population of the Nagorno-Karabakh region within Azerbaijan. This generated questions about a number of issues, e.g. security guarantees or the problem of refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh. Thus, it provides reason to assume that Azerbaijan speaks in the language of preconditions, which can certainly undermine the overall peace talks at least making them less constructive and comprehensive.
Thus, as it is suggested in the statement issued by the Minsk Co-chairs after the meeting, it is crucial to elaborate on the overall nature of the ‘core issues’ with strong consideration of the interests of all three parties involved in the process: Armenia, Artsakh and Azerbaijan. This approach is embedded in the position of Armenia’s new authorities and especially by Prime-Minister Nikol Pashinyan.
To sum up, the post-Bratislava situation has narrowed the room for positive expectations of taking decisive steps towards ending the conflict despite a number of positive events preceding the meeting, including the act of journalist exchange in an attempt to renew connections between alienated societies. As the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov mentions in his interview after the Bratislava meeting, the journalist exchange ‘did not give anything’. His opinion, however, is not shared among other members of the Armenian society, who think that these kinds of actions are meant to reconcile divided societies as well as break myths in an era of intense propaganda, especially in closed societies.
Having this situation in mind here are four recommendations for the success of peace process:
- Refraining from abusive and maximalist rhetoric
- Reinforcement of the results of reconciliation gained so far
- Continuing the intensive usage of the agreements gained so far and trying to build new communication channels
- Organization of workshops for media representatives from all three parties to the conflict with the aim of eliminating abusive language and incorporating constructive language.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ani Grigoryan is a PhD candidate currently residing at the Institute of Russian and Eurasian Studies, Uppsala University as a guest researcher. Her research interests include but are not confined to Conflict Resolution, Security Studies, Early Sovietization Period and Consociationalism, Mass Movements.