Politicians create war but they rarely deliver lasting peace.

Over the next few years we will be remembering the centenary of the
First World War. At the time it was considered to be the "war to all
end all wars" but in fact it was the war that started many wars.

Millions of people suffered, and died, throughout the last one hundred
years as a result of treaties and other political decisions taken in
the name of achieving peace. However these were short-term political
expediencies which subsequently led to popular uprisings or armed
conflicts because they did not fundamentally address the wishes of
the people; it supported the politicians who had power and wanted to
maintain it. Mass movements of people, the drawing of complicated
borders, and unsatisfactory political structures have blighted the
past. It is difficult to recall an example of where such a solution
has given rise to a sustained peace.

The situation in Nagorno-Karabakh is a good example of the consequences
of an arbitrary political decision; one taken by Stalin in 1923. With
a majority Armenian population, common sense would have allocated
this region to the Armenian SSR and not the Azerbaijan SSR.

The unfurling of this arrangement ultimately led to the war in
the 1990's, and the terrible human tragedy that was experienced by
hundreds of thousands of people on both sides in that period. The
ceasefire that was brokered in 1994 achieved a worthy short-term goal
but failed to deliver any prospect of long term success.

As each year goes past there is a constant supply of politicians,
diplomats, European funded Peace Building and Conflict Resolution
organisations, journalists, youth groups and more, who are "involved".

It is never quite clear what they are exactly doing, how effective
it is, and whether it is more of an "interest" project which will
never have any consequence on the real outcome.

The massive hurdle in the resolution of this conflict is the obsession
with the past. This consists of two broad issues

Who has historical rights to Nagorno-Karabakh, and Recreating the
1988 demographics, principally for the Azeri population.

The 2 sides will never agree on issue 1. The Karabakhian lands have
been populated by both Armenians and non-Armenians for centuries. The
Armenian SSR and the Azerbaijan SSR were highly mixed communities
during the Soviet period as indeed most countries currently are, so
"rights" should be based on the majority view, today. Basing a policy
on an historical perspective has no sound reasoning or common sense
and will only lead to conflict.

The radical change in populations during the 1988-94 period affected
both sides and it is reasonable to assume that they were all forced
displacements. In the absence of the war the Armenians would have
continued to enjoy living in Baku, Sumgait, Kirovabad, Shahumyan etc
within Azerbaijan, and likewise for Azerbaijanis living in Yerevan,
and other locations within Armenia.

In the last 20 years the displaced Armenians have established new lives
in Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia, or elsewhere in the world and, for most,
if not all, returning to Azerbaijan would never be considered as a
possibility. It is unlikely that the Azeris displaced from Armenia
would ever consider returning to their original homes. However,
for most of those who were living in Shushi, and the 7 surrounding
regions to the previous Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast, they have
been kept in a state of limbo by the Azerbaijani state as a form of
political/humanitarian "pawn". The delay in providing these people
with permanent housing on the premise that they may return one day
shows a wanton indifference to the lives of these people.

It is impossible to re-create the 1988 demographics even if that was
everyone's will. Returning hundreds of thousands of people back to
Nagorno-Karabakh into areas that are land-mined, have no housing,
or adequate services is a major infrastructural undertaking. This is
before consideration is given to the impact on the people who would
move and those currently resident in the receiving area. It could be
another 20 years for this to be fully completed.

Philosophically, the best way forward, is the simplest way forward.

The past cannot be changed. We have to start from the present. Any
solution must be demonstrably in the best interests of all of the
people, and must not provoke conflict.

The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic exists as a fully-functioning state
populated by 100% Armenians. It is undermined by being unrecognized and
therefore cannot trade internationally, borrow money on the financial
markets, open an airport etc. This is not sustainable and is a threat
to the livelihood of the residents.

First action. The international community must recognize the
Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. This will facilitate economic growth,
confidence, inward investment and the extension of de-mining into the
7 surrounding regions. All of this is critical for the second action.

There are no negative consequences to the people of Azerbaijan by
taking this decision, it can be achieved immediately, it will not
give rise to conflict between the people. The politicians represent
the only risk.

Whilst this may seem to be unlikely it is actually the only action
that will ensure progress. It is what the people of NKR want and we
live in a world that respects self-determination. It will commit the
international community to the legitimacy of the future, and provide
the best assurance of peace.

It is a fundamental human right that people who have been forcibly
displaced during a war have the option to return to their homeland.

Second action - establish a cross-border UN commission that can
identify and assess those people who have a legitimate, independent,
wish to return to their original homes. The timing of any return will
be subject to numbers, funds for infrastructure investment, de-mining,
and consideration for the current resident population.

Trust is currently non-existent. Without trust nothing will happen -
the last 20 years have proven that, regardless of the valiant efforts
of those who have tried. Lasting peace is still a distant aspiration.

These actions, which must be initiated by the international community,
will be the first significant steps to sustainable peace.