Nagorno Karabakh Republic should evaluate how other states secure their dangerous borders / By Elena Chobanyan



Interview with Executive Director of Americans for Artsakh (AFA), international affairs analyst and consultant Mark Dietzen.


–           Mr. Dietzen, as we know, the Azerbaijani side, violating the ceasefire agreement, recently shot at the villages of Chinar and Aygedzor. What does Azerbaijan want to show through such attacks on civilian villages, as well as its continued killing of Armenian soldiers?

–           Azerbaijan’s new policy is to increase the pain it inflicts on Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh, in order to increase pressure on the Armenian side at the negotiating table. This is evident not only in Azerbaijan’s deliberate escalation of its sniper attacks, cross-border machine gun fire, and diversions, but also in its continued efforts to cause political and economic damage to Armenia and Artsakh. This strategy, however, is actually having the opposite effect: it is only more obvious that Azerbaijan is acting as the aggressor in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, and this will work against Azerbaijan during future negotiations.

–           What does the OSCE Minsk Group really do to help solve the conflict? Do they do a good job?  Do they have a hidden agenda?

–           The most important function of the OSCE Minsk Group is that it maintains a diplomatic process which helps to prevent another all-out war over Nagorno Karabakh. This is its most important function in helping to solve the issue, because, to quote Winston Churchill, “jaw-jaw is better than war-war.” The Minsk Group certainly has a difficult task at hand; after all, the Nagorno Karabakh conflict is a very complicated and intransigent dispute. The Minsk Group deserves credit for the work it does, and the necessary role that it plays in managing the conflict. That said, I frankly think that the Minsk Group could do better. For example, it should be pushing harder for greater resources to implement an incident-investigation mechanism on the on the Nagorno Karabakh-Azerbaijan border. Likewise, if it is to maintain its relevance, it needs to develop the capacity to assign responsibility for ceasefire violations. As to whether or not they have a hidden agenda, I do not think so. The problem with the Minsk Group is not some hidden agenda, but rather, the ineffectiveness of the organization in pursuing its actual agenda.

–           Do you think a peaceful resolution is still possible?

–           Yes, I do think that a peaceful resolution is still possible. However, due to Azerbaijan’s increasingly aggressive behavior, it is becoming more and more likely that the current status-quo is, in fact, the only viable way of moving forward. As I have written before, even if the status quo is not the ideal resolution to the conflict, it is still better than a bad peace.

–           Do the ‘Madrid Principles’ function partially? If not, why?

–           The Madrid Principles, as repeated on May 7 by Ambassador James Warlick in his speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, cannot function in their current form. Certain parts of the Madrid Principles could be viable, but they would have to be part of a new diplomatic document that would be much clearer in the wording of the principles and include an unambiguous order of operations.

–           Why did Ambassadors J. Warlick and J. Heffern say that Armenia should return some territories to Azerbaijan as territorial concessions? What did they mean by that? Is this evidence of another plan?

–           Ambassador Warlick’s said this as part of his announcement of Washington’s decision to make the provenly unsuccessful Madrid Principles U.S. policy, instead of keeping them as a proposal. As I wrote in a June op-ed in openDemocracy, titled “Ambassador Warlick’s folly in Nagorno-Karabakh,” this was a significant setback in the US’ diplomatic work with the OSCE Minsk Group. This poor policy choice makes the Nagorno Karabakh conflict more dangerous, because by not addressing the root cause of the conflict, it consequently is prolonging the conflict.

–           What kind of resolution do you think would be proper for the Nagorno-Karabakh’s conflict?

–           The only proper resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is the full international recognition of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic, Artsakh. As a party to the conflict, the Nagorno Karabakh Republic must also be a party to the negotiations. Artsakh’s return to its place at the negotiating table as a full party to negotiations — with no preconditions — is critical for reaching a peaceful and just resolution to the conflict.

–           In your recent article in openDemocracy, you wrote that the imprecision of the Madrid Principles risks their manipulation. What did you mean by that?

–           In diplomacy, words are incredibly important. The problem I was referring to in my criticism of the Madrid Principles is that the wording of the document is incredibly vague. For example, the document sidesteps the root of the conflict, Nagorno Karabakh’s final legal status, which, it states, will be determined at some undefined time in the future, through some undefined “legally binding expression of will.” This ambiguity greatly flaws the Madrid Principles, because too much room is left for interpretation. And when you have a strongly contested issue, differing interpretations can lead to manipulation, and reignite conflict.

–           As to the status quo, do you think it is bad for Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh?

–           The status quo is better than a bad peace. Though it imposes its own costs on both Armenia and the Nagorno Karabakh Republic, especially in terms of their economic development, the status quo is certainly better than a peace plan which neither confronts the root of the conflict, nor ensures for a lasting peaceful and comprehensive settlement. The status quo is certainly better for Armenia and the Nagorno Karabakh than the peace plan envisioned by the Madrid Principles, which is not in the national interest of either state. Lacking a viable peace plan, the threat of renewed warfare over Nagorno-Karabakh is now even greater.

–           In what state is Nagorno Karabakh’s second road?

–           The first phase of the construction of the Vardenis-Martakert road providing the second major road link between Armenia and the Nagorno Karabakh Republic began in January, 2014, and is progressing well. In May, the Board of Trustees of the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund decided that its 2014 Telethon would again support continued work on the improvement and asphalting of the new highway.

–           What new actions should Nagorno-Karabakh take to increase its security and strengthen its democracy?

–           Regrettably, Azerbaijani ceasefire violations and cross-border attacks are not going to stop in the foreseeable future. Absent new commitment and resources from the OSCE to deal with the security challenges along the line-of-contact, the Nagorno Karabakh Republic should evaluate how other states secure their dangerous borders, and examine best practices that it could incorporate to increase its own security. Strengthening democracy is also of critical importance for Artsakh’s development. As it builds on the democratic progress it has made thus far, the Nagorno Karabakh Republic should examine the assessments of international organizations and identify how the NKR can increase its democratic credentials.

–           If the Nagorno Karabakh issue is solved, what political picture could we have? What would happen in world policy?

–           If the Nagorno Karabakh conflict was solved, then a tremendous amount of resources and energy which are currently expended on the conflict could be rechanneled into confronting the many socio-economic challenges faced by the Nagorno Karabakh Republic, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. The resulting political picture would be very beneficial for peace, security and development in the South Caucasus.

–           Regarding Russian arms sales to Azerbaijan: if it had not sold weapons to Azerbaijan, is it true that Baku would have just bought them from another country?

–           If Russia would not sell weapons to Azerbaijan — as Armenia wants — then Baku would have to look to alternative arms suppliers. Considering that Armenia and Russia are strategic allies and members of the  Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), and in view of Russia’s position as a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group which is mediating the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Armenia is understandably concerned about Russian arm sales to Azerbaijan. The South Caucasus region is already one of the most militarized regions in the world. Considering Azerbaijan’s continued aggressive and anti-Armenian stance, and its constant warmongering, it is important that countries do not sell offensive weaponry to Azerbaijan, since this can affect the balance of power and jeopardize regional stability. Such arms sales can likewise create a false, revanchist impression in Baku, that Azerbaijan can take a second chance on the battlefield and attack Artsakh and Armenia. Thus, the sale of offensive weapons also undermines Azerbaijan’s engagement in constructive negotiations, and international mediation efforts in general.

–           What is the possibility of a new war, and to which side/country it would be convenient?

–           A new war remains possible, but not probable. We can expect to see continued Azerbaijani aggression in the form of ceasefire violations and recurrent diversion attacks. Renewed warfare would not be convenient for anyone.


Posted by on Sep 14 2014. Filed under Armenia / Diaspora, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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