EU could become neutral mediator and honest broker on Karabakh issue - expert

January 05, 2014 | 15:11

YEREVAN. - The term that describes best the prospects of the
Nagorno-Karabakh issue in 2014 might be that of cautious pessimism,
political analyst Gunter Walzenbach told Armenian

A senior lecturer at the University of the West of England, Bristol,
Gunter Walzenbach noted that the events around the Vilnius summit and
the continuing uncertainty around the future shape of the Eastern
Partnership will have raised awareness among EU decision makers not
just for the security concerns of individual countries, but also for
the strategic foreign policy orientations of Russia.

`In this context further progress or deterioration of EU-Russia
relations will also have repercussions for `frozen conflicts' such as
the one in Nagorno-Karabakh. While measures for successful conflict
resolution were also part of the drafting and negotiation process of
the new association agreements, it remains doubtful whether the EU
foreign policy process can now produce an approach towards conflict
resolution that is more coherent and consistent than previous
efforts', he said.

Walzenbach added that the instruments in the hand of the newly
established European External Action Service (EEAS) are limited and
the EU motto of `more for more' is no convincing replacement for
stronger forms of economic and political conditionality.

However, from the expert's point of view, this is not to say that
previous efforts and EU involvement in the Nagorno-Karabakh issue did
not proceed on the right track.

`In principle, the EU's soft power image, concrete action in terms of
civil society engagement on both sides and a strengthened role for the
Union's Special Representative can surely help in the long run to
build credibility as well as the necessary expertise to become the
neutral mediator and honest broker so much needed in the Southern
Caucasus', Gunter Walzenbach emphasized. Yet, formally, he noted, all
the main responsibility still rests with the OSCE Minsk Group, and
disagreement will continue as to whether France is an adequate proxy
for the EU as a whole within this forum.

The expert believes that whatever type of specific solution might
eventually be championed by the negotiating parties in the case of
Nagorno-Karabakh, it will have profound repercussion for other
`frozen' conflicts in the same or related regional settings.

`Yet a combined or integrated approach in relation to conflict
resolution in the cases of South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Transnistria,
is of an order to tall for current EU diplomacy. In this
constellation, perhaps, more has to be expected from the political
leadership of both Azerbaijan and Armenia. Further meetings at
presidential level have been confirmed and sound promising, to say the
least', he noted, adding that, in part, though, these are a reflection
of the degree of relative stability both leaders enjoy in their
respective political system.

While there are no convincing arguments to be found that recurrent
skirmishes and power gestures turn into a `hot conflict', according to
Gunter Walzenbach, genuine conflict resolution seems equally remote.

`In the current state of affairs negotiation teams, diplomats and
decision-makers may have not much choice but look out for new windows
of opportunities coming along with broader changes in Russia's
relations with the West' emphasized the expert.

News from Armenia -

From: Baghdasarian