by Mahir Zeynalov

Today's Zaman
Dec 5 2010

Before US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton departed for Astana to
attend the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)
summit, many claimed back home in the US that Europe's largest security
watchdog "is not of any use at all".

Amid such increasing concerns regarding the whole structure of
the organization, one should also be worried if mechanisms used by
this organization would be proper platforms to resolve conflicts,
particularly those dealing with ethnic animosities, decades-long
hostilities and persistent hatred. Besides being a platform
for reconciliation, the OSCE summit this week has turned into a
battleground between Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and his
Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sarksyan.

The Azerbaijani and Armenian presidents, as usual, again traded abusive
language and threats over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict - the most
bloody and protracted conflict in the post-Soviet space. Armenia, in
a surprising move, vowed to recognize the self-declared, unrecognized
Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent entity if Azerbaijan matches its
war rhetoric with a military offensive by resuming war.

President Abdullah Gul, in an interview with Reuters this week, said
Turkey is playing an increasing role in ex-Soviet states. "Even though
there is no breakthrough point (in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict)
at the moment, there are some positive steps taking place," Gul said.

"There is a silent, but very determined diplomacy."

But views differ on whether Turkey has the capability to deal with this
conflict. Turkey has played a very significant role in pushing Iran
back to the negotiating table with the international community over
its suspected nuclear programme. Similarly, Turkey also continues
to play a constructive role in Iraq and the Balkans. The country
also successfully mediated between Israel and Syria in 2008-2009 but
did little with regard to Nagorno-Karabakh, and many argue this has
something to do with Russian hesitation to let Turkey become involved
in the matter.

Hasan Koni, an expert on Turkish foreign policy from Galatasaray
University, said Turkish foreign policy is now designed in a way
that is set to compromise on a wide range of issues to achieve a
breakthrough, which could be true for the Cyprus problem, the Kurdish
issue and Nagorno-Karabakh, as he explained how Turkey could exert
its influence to settle Nagorno-Karabakh.

He argued that the OSCE Minsk Group had been established to keep the
leaders of the two sides talking, using delaying tactics [to prevent
any outbreak of war]. "I have 'wrestled with France' as I was an
adviser to a (foreign minister) in the mid-1990s when the EU member
state worked assiduously to stop the peace process between Azerbaijan
and Armenia, through the use of the alleged Armenian genocide issue,"
he said. The primary goal of France, Koni said, is to block Turkey's
route to Central Asian energy resources and prevent better ties with
Turkic countries.

There are nearly 400,000 ethnic Armenians living in France, and the
country made denying the so-called Armenian genocide a crime several
years ago.

Koni alleged that Russia has many military bases in Nagorno-Karabakh
that help it command an extensive area in the Caucasus region. The
country has also been a historical and long-established ally of
Armenia. Koni also said the Armenian lobby in the US makes this
country antagonistic to Turkey and Azerbaijan on the Armenian issue.

"These are the co-chairs of the Minsk Group. A complete 'delaying'
tactic," Koni said.

Drawing a pessimistic and bleak picture, Koni said as a member of
the OSCE Minsk Group there is less that Turkey can do because Turkey
is now in a position that allows it to step back with regard to many
issues that it is involved in to reach a deal rather than moving on
the offensive.

Talks over the status of Nagorno-Karabakh are very analogous to the
Middle East peace process between Israel and Palestine in terms of
the methods used to keep the sides talking. Russia is continually re
warding Armenia to make it stay at the negotiating table and push the
Azerbaijani side to keep talking as a way to prevent Azerbaijan from
resuming the war against Armenia.

Azerbaijan, as a result, is trying to persuade the international
community that the conflict poses an imminent danger to security in
the region, including vulnerable energy routes, in a bid to elevate
the dispute to international platforms for discussion.

Koni said even four consecutive United Nations Security Council
resolutions would not really mean anything because these resolutions
are being deliberately used by major powers.

While Armenia placed massive military power into the provinces adjacent
to Nagorno-Karabakh, where no single Armenian lived, the UN Security
Council adopted four resolutions, calling on the aggressor state to
withdraw its troops from the occupied territories. These resolutions
have not yet been implemented.

Vefa Guluzade, a former foreign policy aide of the late Azerbaijani
President Haydar Aliyev, said Azerbaijan is working hard to resolve the
issue as soon as possible and is consequently making huge concessions.

Azerbaijan earlier pledged "the highest autonomy ever on earth" for
Karabakh Armenians if they agree to stay inside Azerbaijan. Guluzade
said they enjoyed autonomous status during the Soviet period even
though it was a facade, a fake independence, lacking the privileges
that a normal autonomous state would have, but "this is a big
compromise already" because Azerbaijan will give them more than they
have ever had before.

Noting that Russia is a primary stumbling block in resolution of the
conflict - as the country constantly provides every type of aid to its
ally, Guluzade said Azerbaijan and Armenia would become members of NATO
if they resolve this problem. "Russia does not want this," he added.

Both under the auspices of former President Vladimir Putin and Russian
President Dmitry Medvedev, Aliyev and Sarksyan met numerous times
to agree to discuss basic principles to establish a foundation for
a settlement of the dispute.

Guluzade said all talks through Russian mediation have failed to yield
any tangible results, adding that Aliyev is very constructive during
the talks, but that Russia constantly pushes Azerbaijan to keep talking
to its arch foe. According to the Azerbaijani side, it would be a good
thing if there was a breakthrough. But talks have gone on for decades
and Azerbaijan believes that resuming war is a more effective way
of solving problems there. Russia thus pushes Azerbaijan to talk as
a tactic to distract it from war. Dismissing any optimism regarding
peace talks under OSCE Minsk Group mediation, Guluzade quipped that
the talks are doomed to fail "until Russia disappears."

Speaking about Turkey's role in bringing the protracted conflict to
the attention of the international community, Guluzade said Turkey is
sincere and seeks justice. "But this is not how things work," he said.

Acknowledging that Turkish leadership has intensified its
activities and wishes to spearhead a process that will address the
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict by the current government, Guluzade said
Turkey simply does not have that capacity now.

He also praised the current government for taking the issue of
Nagorno-Karabakh seriously. The former adviser said Turkey previously
remained indifferent to the occupation of Azerbaijani territories in
the early 1990s. Former Prime Minister of Turkey Suleyman Demirel
did not speak out when the Khojali massacre, a mass slaughter of
ethnic Azerbaijanis in Khojali town in Karabakh, where more than 700
civilians, including 100 children, were killed in couple of hours,
was committed.

Now both sides are talking for the sake of talking, as the alternative
would be a war. The Turkish leadership and the international community
should pay more attention to this small spot to urgently address
the conflict instead of 18 years of diplomatic overtures that have
produced almost nothing thus far.

From: A. Papazian