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The Deadlock in the Karabakh Negotiations: A Possible Way Forward
December 9, 2011 05:13AM
Dr Beniamin Poghosyan
The Karabakh conflict negotiation process is in an obvious stalemate after the apparent failure of the Kazan summit which took place last June. Three-years of mediation efforts by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev accompanied by efforts of the Minsk Group’s two other Co-chair-state-leaders have delivered no results. The much anticipated breakthrough which should have taken place at the Kazan trilateral summit was transformed into a half page statement with no concrete steps and decisions. President Medvedev’s further efforts to move the process through bilateral meetings with Azerbaijani and Armenian Presidents did not bring any meaningful results. Meanwhile, the situation in the front line is deteriorating mainly due to Azerbaijani snipers deadly attacks and retaliatory actions of Karabakh Armed Forces.
The current deadlock can be interpreted as a failure of the whole of the Prague process which was started in 2004 and resulted in elaboration of Madrid Document in November 2007 and in different modified versions of basic principles, the last of which was expected to be signed in Kazan. The Minsk group co chairs have reiterated that they did their best to improve the Madrid principles and they are not able to suggest any further amendments to the document.
The situation is daunting especially taking into account the bellicose rhetoric of Azerbaijani leaders who, boosted by oil and gas revenues, are consistently threatening to resume full scale hostilities.
The international community needs to double its efforts in order to maintain stability in the region as any military action could have a spillover effect which could directly involve other regional states. Simultaneously the current deadlock could be overcome through elaboration of a new negotiation package which may become the ground for future talks based on real compromises.
It would be important not to make the same mistakes which were the main reason for the current impasse. The main obstacle on the road to success of negotiations during the Prague process was the notion that the main compromise which is needed by Azerbaijan is the willingness not to resume hostilities. The whole negotiation process was developed under the overt Azerbaijani threat to start war. This situation has emboldened Azerbaijani leaders who started to overtly implement a policy of blackmail and to harden their position demanding full control not only over the security zone but also over the whole Karabakh. Thus Azerbaijan has rejected any possibility of Karabakh independence, denying one of the main principles included in Madrid document which envisaged organization of legally binding expression of will for determining the final legal status of Karabakh.
The new negotiation package should include reasonable compromises from both sides. This approach may be based on the recognition by Azerbaijan the legitimacy of the referendum held in Karabakh on December 10, 1991 organized in full compliance with the Soviet Union laws which were in force till December 21, 1991 Alma Ata declaration. Simultaneously Armenia and Karabakh should recognize the legitimate concern of Azerbaijan regarding the status of the current security zone as well as the fate of Azerbaijani refugees. The territorial swaps between Karabakh and Azerbaijan should result in establishing mutually acceptable borders which will guarantee the land corridor between Karabakh and Armenia and defensible borders for Karabakh simultaneously bringing larger part of the security zone under Azerbaijani control.
The core element in this new package should be the recognition by all sides of the conflict as well as by mediators that negotiations based on blackmail and threat could not bring any results. Such an approach destroys the scratches of confidence between the conflicting parties, thus making any possible settlement even more unrealistic. In the meantime, it is obvious that full scale hostilities between Karabakh and Azerbaijan will drag the whole region backwards and will have serious implications not only for the South Caucasus but also for the Greater Black Sea region with possible involvement of Russia and other CSTO member states, including Turkey and Iran. This is the worst case scenario which will likewise threaten the implementation of programs envisaged by the Southern Energy Corridor project. The deadlock in negotiations could make this scenario more realistic. That is why the international community and especially the Minsk Group Co Chair powers should make all efforts for elaborating a new package of negotiations given that the Madrid principles have proven their ineffectiveness during seven years of active diplomacy.