European expert suggests breathing fresh air into Karabakh peace process

European expert suggests breathing fresh air into Karabakh peace process

PanARMENIAN.Net - Almost two decades since the signing of the ceasefire agreement, a solution to the protracted Nagorno Karabakh conflict remains elusive, columnist Amanda Paul said in her article “Nagorno Karabakh and 2012: another lost year” published in Today’s Zaman. “While the conflict represents the biggest security threat to the South Caucasus region, it is the regional conflict that has received the least international attention. 2011 was a lost year for Karabakh. Unfortunately, 2012 has gone the same way with the peace negotiations, under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group, in deadlock. There has been less pressure from direct stakeholders and negative discourse penetrating the two societies. The leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan have not met since February.” the article said.

“While at the recent Dublin OSCE Ministerial Council the Minsk Group co-chairs called on “the parties to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict to demonstrate the political will needed to reach a peaceful settlement,” no meeting took place between the two foreign ministers, although they are slated to meet at the end of January,” the article said.

“The situation on the ground remains dangerous. The fragile ceasefire continues to be violated, with frequent exchanges of fire in a trench warfare environment. In 2012 over 30 lives were lost, including children. During the spring, violations across the heavily militarized Line of Contact increased, as did attacks across the Armenian-Azerbaijani state border. The visit of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was accompanied by several deaths. With each side continuing to purchase even more advanced military technology, it is a very risky situation. The humanitarian issue remains a real concern, as well,” the article said.

“This autumn has been particularly tense. Firstly, because of the decision by Hungary to extradite Azerbaijani Army Lt. Ramil Safarov to Baku where he was pardoned and promoted. The expected first flight from Stepanakert Airport in Karabakh to Yerevan by the end of the year has angered Baku, also increasing tensions.

Yet a new conflict would currently not seem to benefit the leaderships of either Azerbaijan or Armenia. The consequences of war would also be horrendous, spreading into the broader region, possibly drawing in other regional powers as well as wrecking regional infrastructure including pipelines,” the article said.

2013 is set to be a challenging year, not least because of presidential elections in both Armenia and Azerbaijan, the author believes.

“The response of the international community should be stronger and more proactive than ever before. While there is a need for more pressure to cooperate on confidence-building measures of both a military and civilian nature, there is also a need to breathe some fresh air into the peace-process. While the existing co-chairs are not going to be replaced, it has been suggested by some analysts that a new “Minsk Conference” be convened to reflect the current situation and come up with some new thinking on how to further promote and support efforts aimed at finding a solution,” the article concluded.

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