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The Future of Karabakh – The future of peace building

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Preface

A number of developments that have taken place since August 2008 {the war in Georgia, the intensification of Armenian-Turkish relations, the increasing role of energy resources, the promulgation of the mediators preliminary version of the so-called “Madrid” basic principles for the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict) have revived the interest in finding a common ground between the parties of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.

The visit by a group of Azerbaijan and Armenian intellectuals to Nagorno-Karabakh and their meetings with the Presidents of both countries on July 3rd 2009 also drew attention to the peace-making initiatives.

It became clear that further progress in official negotiations and the approval of the basic principles for resolving the conflict in the first place could create the conditions necessary for the effective use of potential second-track diplomacy, including the active involvement of representatives of the Azerbaijani community of Nagorno-Karabakh in this process.

For this purpose, a roundtable discussion on “The Future of Karabakh – The Future of Peace building Initiatives” was held at the Centre for Strategic Studies on the initiative of the international non-governmental organization “International Alert»* on July 14th 2009. In this discussion, the experts shared their views on a number of important issues such as the prospects for negotiations to settle the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh as well as the assessment of the role and capacity of second-track diplomacy.

 How to untie the “Karabakh Knot”?

According to most experts, settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh has become more difficult due to the clashing geopolitical and geo-economic interests of a number of regional and world powers over the South Caucasus.

During the discussion, it was also expressed that the Nagorno Karabakh conflict is not only a conflict among the interested regional parties, but also the conflict of external powers. Therefore, the conditions for the settlement of the conflict could be created only when the external powers come to an agreement on the transformation of the South Caucasus into a single geopolitical space.

Thus, they proposed the European Union as a model case. In addition, it was stated that although the solution of the conflict is impossible in the near future, the conflict could take another form. It was noted that during the first phase of the conflict following the “hot” phase in 1994, the interested parties in the conflict – Russia and the West- reached their targets to a large extent and the continuation of the conflict in its former form became extremely disadvantageous for them. If the “Madrid principles” were implemented, Armenia and Azerbaijan would have the chance to decide on this problem.

Under these circumstances, although external forces may continue to maintain some influence, the final resolution of the conflict would largely depend on the policies of Armenia and Azerbaijan.

It was also suggested that there is a certain level of trust both in Yerevan and Baku in the current Russian government to find a solution to the conflict. Russia is a regional power that perceives the South Caucasus within its exclusive zone.

of interest and has naturally been interested in the restoration of peace in the region. Thus, Russia cannot take a unilateral position as was the case in 1992, when the Russian position resulted in many tragic consequences.

It was particularly noted that taking into account the views of the Armenian Diaspora abroad is an important factor since a significant number of Armenians now live outside Armenia. The Armenian Diaspora in the West has a huge number of entities whose activities are concentrated on the whole complex of Armenian-Turkish relations. Of course, they exert significant influence over the Republic of Armenia as well as the situation in Karabakh. The part of the Diaspora taking a more radical stance on this issue considers the Karabakh conflict as a transitional interim step towards the creation of an Armenian Union of Republics modelled on the European Union. For them, this could address the question of indemnities and finally realize their dream of creating a “From Sea to Sea” Armenia. Thus, the Diaspora factor and the mythological idea that is behind all activities of the Diaspora should always be taken into account. It was also noted that the normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia should take place parallel to the settlement of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

During the discussion it was also noted that the implementation of any signed document for resolving the conflict particularly regarding the return of internally displaced persons, would not be easy, as these communities are not ready to live together yet. It was also suggested that such agreements could be considered artificial since these negotiations had been held exclusively between the official structures.

Within these communities a liberal, open-minded as well as an open political culture should take root. Otherwise, this conflict will not obtain a viable solution in the long term. As a positive development, Azerbaijan positions itself as the only country that can guarantee the Karabakh Armenians economic prosperity, high political culture, and freedom. In turn, the Armenian side would be able to recognize not only the rights of Armenians, but also the right of Azerbaijanis that were expelled from Karabakh to co-exist in that territory.

Second Track Diplomacy

According to the experts, second track diplomacy should play a significant role in the final settlement of the Karabakh conflict by achieving tangible progress in the official negotiation process. As| a result of a debate on this issue, it was suggested that second track diplomacy – a process that increases the capacity of people in the negotiations – could deal with the problems facing them peacefully without any violence. This is a long-term process that aims at changing perceptions and

attitudes to the conflict. Efforts at promoting second track diplomacy should be carried out both within and among these communities.

Experience in other conflict-laden regions demonstrates that second track diplomacy is very important before, during and after the conclusion of an agreement between the parties. If one reaches a final settlement by neglecting the role of second track diplomacy, including contacts between peoples, conflicts may arise again.

It was also noted that the attitudes of the official authorities in Armenia and Azerbaijan on the issue of second track diplomacy is a very important factor. In fact, while Azerbaijan has not prohibited, it has discouraged attempts to promote direct communication between people through second track diplomacy.

The Armenian side used the second-track diplomacy in order to legalize the concealed of what had been illegally occupied. Today, the second-track diplomacy of the governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan cannot resolve the conflict.

It was also observed that a very important factor in second track diplomacy is the careful selection of people. In addition, it can focus on constructive work and the willingness to listen to the other side assuming that any concession can be made by each side.

Moreover, it was suggested a peace building process, not only between the warring nations, but also between the conflicting consciousnesses. There is a need to change the manner of relations, for example, the tone of the accusations.

There are many people who have realized and continue to make a career in politics by inciting hatred. 80% -90% of any peace building efforts should be focused on the population inside Azerbaijan and Armenia. The result of dialogue should not to cause the other party to accept his own point of view; the main thing is to see how adequate and effective existing stereotypes are in their societies. Moreover, what should be done to change the stereotypes formed in each country to move forward in the process of conflict resolution.

During the discussion the view was expressed that the beginning of this conflict was inflamed by intellectuals. The intellectuals, who express the view of the most advanced part of society and understand that when it comes to territorial claims in your state, another point of view cannot be possible, at some stages it has even played a positive role. But there came a point when it had failed at all stages. Former “ultra-nationalism” is not working and is seen with skepticism.

There is a need to analyze the situation of civil society and public diplomacy, an objective assessment of achievements. Civil society must accurately identify areas where something useful can be done. Then perhaps, at this stage of the civil society they should try to synchronize their efforts with the general political process. It is also crucial to carry out certain monitoring of public opinion on the forms of cohabitation, stereotypes, etc.

It was highlighted that taking forward the negotiations at an official level, requires serious work from both the media and non-governmental organizations of both countries. That could involve the possible resumption of the parliamentary groups of Armenia and Azerbaijan in the framework of various international initiatives and meetings of representatives of the same profession, for example, writers, painters, etc.

It was suggested that the huge role of “human dimension”, despite all the criticism that exists in relation to public diplomacy, should be taken into consideration. For example, the visit of an Azerbaijani delegation to the graves of their relatives in Nagorno-Karabakh could be viewed as a move to bridge the gap at a societal level.

 The prospects for inter-communal dialogue in Nagorno Karabakh

Roundtable participants agreed that, in the process of second track diplomacy, the views of the Armenian and Azerbaijani communities of Nagorno-Karabakh should be equally considered.

As a result of a debate on this issue, it was suggested that in Nagorno-Karabakh, there are many people who subsist at the expense of the war. The proportion of these people in Azerbaijan and Armenia is smaller in magnitude.

Given the fact that today, the militarization of Nagorno-Karabakh is excessive in scope; these armed men cannot imagine what they will do in the case of peace and who will hold them. Until we find the answer to this question – what to do with these people and what they can do to ensure their status and existence – resolving the conflict will always have insurmountable obstacles, which will be permanent in Nagorno-Karabakh.

It has been noted that today in Nagorno-Karabakh, not only the representatives of the Armenian community of Nagorno-Karabakh, but also the Armenians who moved there from Azerbaijan as a result of the events surrounding the Nagorno-Karabakh, play an important role. They represent a significant section of intellectuals and the educated stratum of the modern population of Nagorno-Karabakh. Their positions are slightly different from the position of indigenous representatives of the Armenian community of Nagorno-Karabakh and they have their vision and view of the contours of this conflict.

Experts have agreed upon the point that representatives of the Azerbaijani community of Nagorno-Karabakh, driven from their homes in 1992, want to go back and all measures should be taken to ensure their speedy return. Most of the representatives of the Azerbaijani community are confident that all problems, initiated in Nagorno-Karabakh were introduced by outside forces. They believe today that with the support of the international community they can begin to build bridges of trust between the representatives of both communities.

Conclusion

This roundtable discussion has highlighted several problems whose solution depends directly on governmental institutions, expert unions and international organizations. In particular, it was proposed that representatives of the “International Alert» have a similar discussion with the expert community of Armenia in order to clarify their views on the prospects of negotiations to settle the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh and the evaluation of the role and capacity of second track diplomacy. In the course of the discussions a number of experts emphasized the desirability of increased participation by the representatives of the Azerbaijani community of Nagorno-Karabakh in the peace processes at the level of civil society, NGOs and the media.

All experts agreed that without a focus for all interested powers in the region it is impossible to ensure that representatives of the Azeri and Armenian communities of Nagorno-Karabakh would be able to live together there. Both Azeris and Armenians need to understand that Karabakh – is a land that they were united, are presently united, and will be united in the future.

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