ICG: NATO should facilitate dialogue and contacts between Armenian and Azeri militaries

PanARMENIAN.Net - Azerbaijan wants to create a strong army to "regain" Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent districts, either by improving its negotiating leverage with Armenia or going back to war. It has exponentially increased its military budget, though it has not so far gained clear superiority over Armenian forces, says the "Azerbaijan: Defense Sector Management and Reform" report released by the International Crisis Group.



"If the new military is to be not only stronger but also better governed, however, it needs deep reforms to make it less corrupt and personality driven, more transparent and better directed. So far there has been insufficient political will either to do the part that should involve increasing democratic and civilian control or to break the habit of treating the army as above all an instrument with which to protect elite interests.



A war in Nagorno Karabakh is unlikely in the immediate term. But in the longer term fragmented, divided, accountable-to-no-one-but-the-president, un-transparent, corrupt and internally feuding armed forces could all too easily be sent off to fight to satisfy internal power struggles. A modern and efficient army, even if subject to democratic, civilian control, is not unproblematic while the Nagorno-Karabakh situation remains deeply resented in the polity. However, the ability to hold the leadership responsible for expenditures and policy priorities at least has the potential to make the system more responsible and predictable. NATO, which is helping with military reform, should enhance Azerbaijani knowledge of peacekeeping and laws of war, and when possible facilitate dialogue and contacts between the militaries of the two sides. The EU, U.S. and Russia should also reinvigorate efforts to push the parties to reach a peaceful resolution of the conflict.



In the meantime, NATO should carefully review its strategic purpose in working with the militaries of Caucasus states, particularly with respect to unresolved conflicts. It should focus its military cooperation with Azerbaijan strictly on efforts to improve democratic, civilian control of the armed forces and not move beyond the IPAP while Nagorno-Karabakh remains unresolved. Especially the U.S. and the EU should at the same time move resolution of that simmering conflict much higher up their agendas and seek, in cooperation with Russia, to put pressure on both Azerbaijan and Armenia to compromise in line with the principles proposed by the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)," the report says.
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