Armenia_09_10_07_Nagorno-Karabakh_Getting_to_a_Breakthrough.doc - Policy Briefing Europe Briefing N°55 Baku/Yerevan/Tbilisi/Brussels 7 October 2009


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Policy Briefing Europe Briefing N°55 Baku/Yerevan/Tbilisi/Brussels, 7 October 2009 Nagorno-Karabakh: Getting to a Breakthrough I. OVERVIEW A preliminary breakthrough in the two-decades-old Nagorno-Karabakh conflict – a framework agreement on basic principles – may be within reach. Armenia and Azerbaijan are in substantial accord on principles first outlined by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group in 2005. A basic prin- ciples agreement, while only a foundation to build on, is crucial to maintain momentum for a peace deal. Important differences remain on specifics of a subse- quent final deal. Movement toward Armenia-Turkey rapprochement after a century of hostility has brought opportunity also for ending the Nagorno-Karabakh stalemate. Sustainable regional peace requires compro- mises on all the quarrels, but there is backlash danger, especially in Armenia, where public discontent could derail the Nagorno-Karabakh framework agreement. Presidents Sarkisian (Armenia) and Aliyev (Azerbaijan) need to do more to prepare their publics. The U.S., Russia and France, Minsk Group co-chairs, have stepped up collective efforts, but more is needed to emphasise dangers in clinging to an untenable status quo. Although a deliberate military offensive from either side is unlikely in the near future, the ceasefire that ended active hostilities fifteen years ago is increasingly fragile. There has been a steady increase in the frequency and intensity of armed skirmishes that could unintentionally spark a wider conflict. Though the ceasefire has helped prevent return to full-scale hostilities, it has not prevented some 3,000 deaths along the front line – military and civilian alike – since 1994. The official negotiations have also not significantly tempered the great scepticism and cynicism among both Armenians and Azerbaijanis about a possible end to the conflict. There is deep distrust of the mediating process, and many on both sides are suspicious that the talks are little more than window-dressing. Many also complain about what they perceive as the secretive nature of the talks. This gives rise to suspicions that a peace deal equates to surrender and that leaders who would take such action would be guilty of treason. These fears have been fuelled by years of official and unofficial propaganda on both sides, and particularly in Armenia, there is a growing sentiment that a change in the status quo could create new security threats. Notably, there is concern even among some government officials that Armenia is being pressured to give up something tangible – the occupied territories – in exchange for mere promises of security. These feelings are especially acute in Nagorno-Karabakh.
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