Nagorno Karabakh conflict on focus in the EP
by Roni Alasor and Lorin Sarkisian
Brussels, 3 June 2015 - Middle East Diplomatic (MED) - Nagorno Karabakh conflict and rigth for self-determination of oppressed people have been on the focus in a panel discussion in the European Parliament. Speakers and experts agreed on the urgent necessity for peaceful solution. The conference was organised by the European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy (EAFJD) in cooperation with the EU Armenia Friendship Group in the European Parliament.
Politicians, academicians and experts discussed the current state of play and the possible solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in a debate entitled “Conflicts and the right to self-determination”.
The panel discussion on Nagorno Karabagk conflict was opened by EAFJD President Kaspar Karampetian who thanked Eleni Theocharous, MEP, President of EU- Armenia Friendship Group in the European Parliament for hosting the event.
The moderator of the discussion panel was Giro Manoyan (middle), Director of the International Secretariat ARF Dashnaktsutyun, Armenia. Among the speakers were MEP Dr. Eleni Theocharous, Mnatsakan Safaryan, Armenian Embassy counsellor speaking on behalf of Armenian Ambassador to the EU Tatoul Markarian, Prof. Dr. Andrzej Zieba from the Jagellonian University of Krakow Poland, Dr. Ohannes Geukjian from the American University of Beirut, Lebanon, Dr. Yiannos Charalambides from Cyprus and Dr. Xavier Follebouckt from Louvain la Neuve University, Belgium.
Dr. Xavier Follebouckt from the Institute for European Studies / Louvain la Neuve University analyzed the different aspects of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict and the possible solutions: Enumerated number of reasons for the continuation of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, the lack of agreement on concrete steps for implementation of peace agreement; the non-inclusion of representatives of the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh in the negotiations, the issue of internally displaced people, the problem of the “occupied” territories, the eventual future status of Nagorno-Karabakh as independent or as confederal part of Azerbaijan, the growing hatred and nationalism from both sides.
As final obstacle to peace, Mr Follebouckt mentioned the interest of foreign powers in the region: “The three Minsk Group co-chairs, but Iran and Turkey also, all have vested interests in the issue. Russia, in particular these last years, has played a very ambiguous part in the peace process. As a Minsk Group co-chair, it is an important mediator but, lately, Russia has bypassed the Minsk format to organise bilateral talks between the Armenian and Azeri presidents, under Russian auspices. These infrequent and short talks are useful for Moscow to show itself off as an important mediator and the central player in the region, but it does nothing to help the peace process move forward. Furthermore, Russia is losing its status as a credible mediator. It has become an important arms supplier for both sides, using its relations with Yerevan and Baku to leverage economic or political concessions, but without the will to change the status quo on the ground”.
Both poor countries Azerbaijan and Armenia spend a total of nearly 7 billion dollar for their military budget. Russia, Israel, Turkey and Iran become the main important arm dealers earning in the conflict.
Mr. Follebouckt concluded: “It will be hard to achieve peace. But peace will always be worth the effort, worth the unavoidable compromises. Because peace will not only put an end to the violence and the instability on the ground; it will allow societies on both sides of the frontline to reach across this divide, to look towards the future and start building their nations on solid foundations, rather than on historical grievances”.
Mr. Follebouckt suggested the following ways to solve the conflict:
In order to find a way out of the deadlock, creative ideas and hard work is necessary from all sides, parties to the conflict as well as international mediators. Unfortunately, I don’t have a magical solution that would solve everything. For 20 years, a lot has been tried and even more has failed. It will be hard to achieve peace. But peace will always be worth the effort, worth the unavoidable compromises. Because peace will not only put an end to the violence and the instability on the ground; it will allow societies on both sides of the frontline to reach across this divide, to look towards the future and start building their nations on solid foundations, rather than on historical grievances. A few ideas can be put forward to frame the necessary way to peace.
Different diplomatic initiatives can be taken to build political trust and work towards a solution:
-A crisis hotline could be re-established between Yerevan and Baku to lessen chances of a military escalation and step up direct contacts.
-The Minsk Group format could be transformed to allow the EU to take France’s position. While highly unlikely, this would help construct the NK issue as a European priority, which would benefit from Europe’s transformative policies
-International mediators should step up their efforts to broker an agreement.
They should stop selling arms to both sides and increase the political pressure on the Armenian and Azeri authorities to get them around the negotiation table with clear guidelines and achievable but bold objectives
Popular support and trust-building
But the most important aspect of any settlement is not diplomatic. It is time for the peace process to stop being solely in the hands of politicians, who hold secret talks that go nowhere.
In order for peace to become a realistic goal, the population of Armenia and of Azerbaijan must become involved in the process. An official signature on a political document isn’t enough, what is needed is a real path to peace. So any diplomatic solution must resonate with the societies involved. The Minsk framework is workable, it can serve as a basis for a resolution of the conflict but alone, it can’t achieve much.
The technical solutions outlined are less important for success than the political will to implement them. No mutually beneficial solution is possible without trust. And no trust is possible without popular involvement. In that regard, the competing perceptions outlined earlier have to be reconciled, for example by outlining a third narrative that could underlie the peace agreement. The international community has a role to play in helping craft this third narrative and in emphasizing the virtues of peace. And inside both countries, civil society should be allowed to play a greater part in bringing the rival communities together.
Track II diplomacy should be much more central in the current peace process. There is no will to find a solution because there is no trust. But there is no trust because Armenians and Azeris don’t know each other anymore. The role of civil society is extremely important and is hard to maintain, owing to both countries authoritarian regimes, who have no will for a political settlement and are reluctant to reinforce civic movements. But there is no alternative to a peaceful negotiation and, for it to succeed, we have to contribute, inside and outside the region, to a real transformation of the conflict rather than merely a conflict resolution. A transformation of the context, of the perceptions, of the actors and of the issues of the conflict.
Both Armenians and Azerians claim the “historical right” over the NK enclave, a region where Armenians, Kurds, Azerians and other ethnical minorities were living together at least for many hundreds of years, despite that the region have been always under control of different imperial powers, but later it became as a part of official Azerbaijan. During and after collapsing of USSR, a new nationalist conflict started over NK in 1988 and it cost many thousands of lifes before the active war ended in 1994.
In the area, there have been several Kurdish dynasties since 590 until Kurdistan Red Autonomy in 1923. The town of Lachin on July 7, 1923 became the administrative center of Kurdistansky Uyezd, often known as Red Kurdistan, before it was moved to Shusha. It was dissolved on April 8, 1929 by Stalin : Kurdish schools and newspapers were closed. According to Soviet Bushkapin official statistics from 1931, there were 3,322 Kurdish speakers in Lachin already 80 years ago. Most of the Kurdish population in Lachin were Shi`a Muslims.
However, the Kurds become as victim again between Azerians and Armenians nationalist conflict, all Kurdish villages, schools and museums have been destroyed and burned. As a result of terror and killing, many thousands of Kurds had to flee to Baku-Azerbaijan and are still living there under hard economical-social-political and assimilation conditions.