Thursday

11th Aug 2022

Opinion

War in Nagorno-Karabakh – the ceasefire that never was

  • Should Armenia ever agree to such a demand from Azerbaijan to end the current fighting, there would remain little, if anything, for there to be subsequently negotiated (Photo: Timon91)

Great hopes and optimism were placed in the ability for a Moscow-brokered ceasefire to hold this weekend.

Such misplaced optimism highlights an unwillingness to accept what the current problem actually is.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Azerbaijan has tired of negotiations and concluded that its aims are best served, at least for now, by the use of force. Convincing it otherwise is the real task at hand.

Finding a negotiated peace to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has occupied the OSCE for nearly 30 years. This fact alone serves for some as reason enough to dismiss its role.

Indeed, president Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan has himself taken to criticising its function in recent months and during one public address, even declared the process "meaningless".

Time, however, should not be the measure for judging the long-term value of negotiated settlements. If ever Andrzej Kasprzyk (the longstanding representative of the chair-person in office at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for these negotiations) should despair, he can perhaps draw inspiration from the Prespa Agreement, signed in 2018 between Greece and North Macedonia.

Matthew Niemitz spent nearly twenty years as personal envoy of the UN Secretary General before being able to conclude negotiations on the naming dispute between the two countries.

Not wishing to undermine the seriousness of that dispute or its resolution but the factors at play in Nagorno-Karabakh clearly present a significantly more complex set of issues. In this context, thirty years can perhaps be forgiven.

Time has, nevertheless, compounded barriers to a negotiated solution in Nagorno-Karabakh rather than eased them.

As events of the past two weeks have shown, in no way has it reduced the possibility of a return to war. What we are witnessing today is the worst fighting since the original ceasefire in 1994.

As part of a negotiated solution, the international community, both in terms of sate actors and expert observers, has coalesced around an ensconced doctrine of neutrality and balance. Of course, this is necessary to maintaining the confidence of both sides and enabling them to try and bridge divides.

Such strict neutrality, however, whilst key to third-parties playing a role in mediating the overall conflict, must have its limits when examining individual events and issues that constitute the whole.

To put it another way, in a conflict that rests broadly on the basis of weighing the arguments of territorial integrity versus the rights of self-determination, outsiders will always run the risk of being accused of subjective bias.

In establishing the series of events that have peppered the conflict, however, we can seek to establish actual facts. Such an exercise does not necessitate neutrality or balance – there is simply an objective truth to be found.

The current clashes constitute one of those moments. As hundreds of lives are lost, the international community watches on, calling for peace and a return to the negotiating table. Notably, it largely continues to make those calls to both sides, ultimately undermining its message in the current context.

During the European Parliament's debate last week on the subject, EU foreign affairs chief Borrell made the following comments in responding to MEPs.

"The Turkish [Foreign] Minister [Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu] was in Baku, and I was really concerned when I saw that he was expressing full support to Azerbaijan. My last talk with Azerbaijani Minister [Jeyhun Bayramov] was also very worrisome, because he was clearly saying that the fight will continue until Armenia accepts a concrete schedule for withdrawing from Nagorno Karabakh, which is a precondition for conversation, for talks."

Position laid bare

In these remarks we not only see the position of the Azerbaijani leadership laid bare but also that the senior leadership of the EU is aware of that position.

This latest, resumption in the conflict, as it's somewhat euphemistically called, is not simply a resumption in the conflict but is rather a self-declared offensive by Azerbaijan, aimed at achieving its desired outcome to the conflict by force rather than by negotiation.

In the aftermath of this weekend's failed ceasefire, president Aliyev expressed that view with ever greater strength and clarity when noting that "we'll go to the very end and get what rightfully belongs to us".

Given that the EU's own role in the conflict is limited, it should start to use the one tool it does possess - its voice – more effectively. The problem at hand is about convincing one side, a side has given up on negotiations as a means to resolution, to re-embrace such a path to peace.

If that can be achieved, the principles of neutrality and balance can then, once again, take centre stage in assisting both sides to make the necessary concessions for a negotiated peace to the overall conflict.

For now, however, the focus must be to ensure that the negotiating table is at least still there for tomorrow.

The EU must use its voice to say something meaningful that can truly address the issues of this particular moment. It must ask Azerbaijan to cease its current offensive, to have faith in a negotiated solution, and to return to the peace talks.

Crucially, it must make these call on Azerbaijan alone.

Author bio

Will Lavender is senior policy and advocacy officer at the European Friends of Armenia.

Disclaimer

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

Exclusive

Azerbaijan ambassador to EU shared anti-George Floyd post

Azerbaijan ambassador to EU Fuad Isgandarov shared a virulent rant against George Floyd. Asked why, Isgandarov told this website he doesn't recall the message and forgot how he had responded to it.

The glowing embers of Nagorno Karabakh

Our investigation reveals war crimes were committed by all parties to the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Thousands of civilians have borne the brunt of the conflict. None of the key decision-makers are being held to account.

Only Western unity can stop Iran hostage-diplomacy

The Belgian parliament's recent decision to ratify its prisoner-exchange treaty with Iran is a grave mistake, and one which exemplifies the many downfalls of dealing with Iran's human-rights abuses on a case-by-case basis.

Russia puts EU in nuclear-energy paradox

There's unprecedented international anxiety about the safety of Ukraine's nuclear reactors, but many European countries are also turning to nuclear power to secure energy supplies.

Column

Global hunger crisis requires more than just the Odessa deal

International donors are playing hide and seek. Instead of stepping up their assistance programmes, richer nations are cutting overseas aid, or reallocating funds from other parts of the world towards the Ukraine crisis.

Exploiting the Ukraine crisis for Big Business

From food policy to climate change, corporate lobbyists are exploiting the Ukraine crisis to try to slash legislation that gets in the way of profit. But this is only making things worse.

News in Brief

  1. Sweden overtakes France as EU's top power exporter
  2. Italy's far-right star in European charm offensive
  3. Another migrant tragedy claims 50 lives in Greek waters
  4. Russia hits area near town with 120 rockets, says Ukraine
  5. UN expects more ships to get Ukrainian grain out
  6. Greece to end bailout-era oversight
  7. Denmark to train Ukrainian soldiers in urban warfare
  8. Russian helicopter flies into Estonia's airspace

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Latest News

  1. Russian coal embargo kicks in, as EU energy bills surge
  2. Only Western unity can stop Iran hostage-diplomacy
  3. Kosovo PM warns of renewed conflict with Serbia
  4. EU Commission shrugs off Polish threats on rule-of-law
  5. EU urged to stop issuing tourist visas to Russians
  6. Russia puts EU in nuclear-energy paradox
  7. Almost two-thirds of Europe in danger of drought
  8. West needs to counter Russia in Africa, but how?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us