Agency WPS
May 12, 2006 Friday


by Ambassador Vladimir Kazimirov, the head of the Russian mission for
truce in Karabakh

OF THE KARABAKH CONFLICT; The very idea of a resolution of the
Karabakh conflict by force must be abandoned for good.

Debates over Nagorno-Karabakh are becoming heated: if a peaceful
resolution of the conflict is possible or the Azerbaijanis and the
Armenians are doomed to another test of bloodshed. The opponents may
be counted on to loose a propagandistic barrage to celebrate the next
anniversary of the cease-fire accord. Established with Russia's help
on May 12, 1994, the accord is actually the only tangible result of
the peace process turned over to the OSCE. This truce is all twelve
years of the talks have to show for the effort.

A year of relative quiet in the political lives of Azerbaijan and
Armenia, 2006 created the illusions of a breakthrough. The meeting of
Presidents Ilham Aliyev (Azerbaijan) and Robert Kocharjan (Armenia)
in France on February 10-11 confirms the old axiom that considerable
expectations usually result in disappointment. And yet, search for
the peaceful resolution of the conflict must continue.

Everyone knows that the Azerbaijanis and the Armenians thoroughly
distrust each other and that's probably the most distinctive feature
of the old conflict. Distrust of the other side and fear of
deception, treachery, or sabotage account for the sides'
uncompromising stand on the matter. It is as if they are doomed to
striving for fulfillment of their own demands first and foremost. The
Armenians want the status of Karabakh determined. The Azerbaijanis
want seven occupied districts liberated and returned to them. As a
result, the clumsy process of talks breeds blind alleys one after
another instead of progressing from one concession to another.

How can this fatal distrust be lessened? It is this distrust that
precludes accords. Not even their signing will guarantee
implementation. Leaderships should be responsive and tolerant, they
should stop this endless fault finding that encourages mutually
shared hostility. Contacts between structures of the two societies
are needed. This is precisely what is missing.

Nothing feeds mutual distrust as effectively and profusely as threats
and hatred. Needless to say, Azerbaijan is the leader of the two
where threats are concerned. Yerevan and Stepanakert barely manage to
keep up with Baku where state officials never miss a chance to
threaten to settle the matter by sheer strength of arms.

The "peace or war" dilemma in the meantime is false because there are
no alternatives to a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Not only
because of something as vague as humanism - because of the rigid laws
of logic, because of the correlation of forces in the region that
does not really call for military adventures. The existing
correlation of forces is going to preclude success for a long time to
come, and a protracted war will deadly. Its advocates cannot even
hope for victory. Even success which is highly unlikely will only
shift the conflict to a new generation.

Everyone objects to continuation of the conflict: Russia, United
States, France, European Union, Commonwealth, NATO, and many others.
What pressure will be applied to the aggressor without even
accomplishing anything yet? Fiasco instead of victory!

It did not take Baku long to forget the bitter years of 1992-1994.
Elaborating at length on occupation of their land, the Azerbaijanis
never display the willingness to get to the root of the matter and
think of how their lands came to be occupied. Moreover, this is an
outright taboo. In the meantime, Azerbaijani leaders have spent years
trying to resolve the conflict by force, refusing to honor and even
wrecking cease-fire. I remember my conversation with President Heydar
Aliyev in Baku on July 20, 1993. I remember his scream "We'll crush
the Armenians!" This refusal to heed common sense resulted in the
loss of seven districts. Baku is saying that it will win them back in
a war all over again now.

All these calls for vengeance are unlikely to work. They are not
going to compel the Armenians to leave the "security zone" around
Karabakh or to win Azerbaijan support in the international community.
The other way round is more likely. It will be, however, a mistake to
believe that all these calls are made for "domestic use" only and
that Azerbaijan does not really have the strength to do what it
pledges to accomplish. Deceiving the people, sawing enmity, and
maiming psyche of new generations, troubadours of the war only
aggravate distrust and thus interfere with the attempts to resolve
the conflict, slow down the process of tackling moot issues.

Incidents and victims on the line where the warring sides stand face
to face serve to mount tension. The Armenians claim they are prepared
to observe the accord between Azerbaijan, Armenia, and
Nagorno-Karabakh dated February 6, 1995, a document aimed to resolve
incidents and lessen losses. Baku does not bother to honor the accord
and does not even pledge to try to. Neither does the OSCE seem to
care. This latter does not care about the only existing accord on
Karabakh, and the monitoring missions it mounts every now and then
cannot prevent new victims or complications. The arms race President
of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev openly cultivate could only be condemned.
The OSCE is silent on that subject too.

All of these are artificial barriers erected by the ruling elites
because even mutual concessions imply dangers to them. Avoiding
concessions, the elites are trying to retain their positions of power
at the cost of the two peoples. This ostentatious patriotism and
demonization of the enemy are all too frequently corollaries of the
domestic political situation.

Seeking to finally establish peace in Karabakh, the very idea of a
resolution by force must be abandoned for good. That should be a
priority in 2006. No progress is possible without it. Responsibility
for resolution the conflict accepted, the OSCE should become more
determined and never hesitate whenever something compromises its
peace mission. It should not dismiss the threats uttered by state
officials or the hosannah they sing to the arms race. It should not
feign not to notice bloodshed. Both peoples need a breakthrough that
will lead to peace. At least in 2009 or 2010!

Source: Vremya Novostei, May 4, 2006, p. 5