Saturday

10th Apr 2021

Opinion

Why did the Armenia-Azerbaijan peace process just fail?

  • Previous fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh in 2017. The long-running conflict risks dragging in Russia and Turkey, with grave geopolitical repercussions for the entire region (Photo: nkrmil.am)

The ongoing escalation of Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh is a most serious and significant one - just not surprising at all.

This is mainly due to the lack of tangible progress in the OSCE Minsk Group-led peace talks between the two sides, which have been held since 1994.

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The absence of substantive negotiations over de-occupation of Azerbaijani territories, return of internally-displaced persons to the regions of their origin, the unblocking of transport, economic and other communications with Armenia has fuelled strong skepticism about peaceful conflict resolution.

Back in the summer it was evident that the smell of a new war had already hung heavily over the conflict-torn area.

The imitation of negotiations over the last few years and the prolongation of the status-quo have become the frustrating and discouraging aspect of the Minsk Group's mediation.

Clearly, the OSCE Minsk Group has failed to facilitate the sides' dead-end talks over the past several years.

The mediators' deadlock is increasingly seen as the most disturbing factor within the risk of the current escalation to turn into a full-blown war, which is fraught with growing regional instability, deeper geopolitical fragmentation, and even future socio-economic irrelevance and backwardness.

This is because their diplomatic efforts imply actions aimed at achieving 'negative' peace: preventing, stopping, or not permitting a renewal of hostilities in the conflict zone.

In fact, ineffective methods of conflict resolution are mostly directed to reach speedy agreements, hence establish negative peace.

Negotiations on stopping wars and entering agreements on non-use of force are only attempts to halt - or, at least, control - violence already happening, which has been caused by deep-rooted problems and circumstances.

However, there is also 'positive' peace which implies eliminating the internal and structural reasons and conditions arousing a violent conflict, toward the curtailment of which 'negative' peace processes are aimed.

So far, unfortunately, very little, if not nothing, has been done to achieve 'positive' peace.

This is not to belittle the role of the Minsk Group co-chairs or reduce their efforts to naught. But if conflicting parties are unable to reach 'positive' peace under the auspices of the international mediators in the near future, 'negative' peace will easily collapse and one way or another will lead to renewed hostilities it was aimed against.

This process could go on forever, which is evidenced by the ongoing skirmishes in and outside Nagorno-Karabakh, where a fragile 'negative' peace has been kept up for more than 26 years now.

If – and it is a big if – this heavy fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan evolves into a full-blown war, the long-running conflict may risk dragging in Russia and Turkey, along with severe negative economic consequences and grave geopolitical repercussions for the entire region.

This situation will also create diverse new challenges in the EU's eastern neighbourhood.

Perhaps the time is ripe for Russia and Turkey, the two powerful regional actors – through closer collaboration with the OSCE and the UN – to help Azerbaijan and Armenia search for an internationally-just and peaceful conflict resolution, respectful of two nations, their territorial integrity, national interests, and inherited traditions.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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