Azerbaijan’s, Armenia’s seeking European integration can serve as stimulus for settlement of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

Azerbaijan, Baku, Dec. 12/ Trend , E. Ostapenko, E. Tariverdiyeva/ Azerbaijan and Armenia's seeking to develop cooperation with the European Union within the Eastern Partnership program of the European Union can serve as stimulus for both parties to settle Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as soon as possible. 

"Strong presses by the European Union and strong perspectives for the European integration of Azerbaijan and Armenia is the strongest force that helps resolve this conflict," Niklas Nilsson, expert on security of the South Caucasus, said to Trend from Sweden.

Twenty-year old conflict has resulted in occupation of 20% of Azerbaijan's lands - Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding regions. In 1994, Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a ceasefire agreement at which time the active hostilities ended. The Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group (Russia, France, and the US) are currently holding peaceful, but fruitless negotiations.

Regarding Azerbaijan's and Armenia's seeking euro-integration, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov said after bilateral and multilateral meetings between EU and the South Caucasian countries in Helsinki on Dec. 9: "It will leave bad heritage in past."

Minister said during the meeting with Armenian side it was mentioned that the conflict delays cooperation with the European Union and sides will make more efforts in accordance with the Moscow declaration.

Leaders of Azerbaijan, Russia and Armenia signed Moscow Declaration in Moscow Nov. 2. The Declaration calls for reinforcing efforts of sides to reach peace in the region within the frames of the OSCE Minsk Group. 

Experts say seeking euro-integration, indispensable condition of which is the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, will help Azerbaijani and Armenian governments to find a common denominator and achieve settlement of the conflict soon.

"Strong presses by the European Union and strong perspectives for the European integration of Azerbaijan and Armenia is the strongest force that helps resolve this conflict," Niklas Nilsson, coordinator Silk Road Studies Programat the Central Asia - Caucasus Institute (Sweden), said.

Nilson said it also requires sincere commitment by the European Union to become more active in resolution of the conflict and in the region as a whole which may take place within the Eastern Partnership.

Eastern Partnership calls for development of cooperation between EU and six former socialist countries - Ukraine, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia and Belarus. The project, initiated by Poland and Sweden in May 2008, was key focus of EU summit held in Brussels on Dec. 2-3.

Rasim Musabayov, an independent Azerbaijani political scientist, believes that Euro integration can bring positions of Azerbaijan and Armenia together, as well as will enable to achieve progress in settlement of the conflict. However, at present he regards it only as opportunity.

Michael Emerson, a European expert for Caucasus studies, hopes for quick settlement of the conflict and it may be achieved as a result of both countries' willingness to develop cooperation with Europe.

"What is important at the end is not so much "who owns the Nagorno-Karabakh", but how the people who reside there and may return to reside there are able to live in decent economic, social and political conditions," Emerson, senior research fellow of the Centre for European Policy Studies (Brussels), told Trend via e-mail.

As not only Europe, but also Russia has geopolitical interests in the South Caucasus region, the EU's active participation in processes of the region may arouse Russia's negative reaction, experts said.     

"Russia in particular is unlikely to react to the Eastern Partnership in itself, because everything depends on the country-specific and especially on the political initiatives that may be taken in the context of this policy framework," Nicolas Tavitian, director of Inside Europe, an Armenian think-tank in Brussels, told Trend via e-mail.

Nilsson, coordinator of the project on Settlement of conflicts and interethnic relations in South Caucasus, believes that Russia will probably accept European engagement, if they promote economic cooperation. At the same time Russia will try as much as it can to exclude the European countries from role in the conflict resolution, he said.

As Russia is seeking to play an exclusive role in conflicts resolution in Caucasus, it will not accept the limited role in these processes, Nilsson said. 

Russia is skeptical towards European engagement, Nilsson, an expert for conflicts in South Caucasus, said. However, at the same time Russia doesn't see very big problems with the European Union, especially if it finds the European Union as Germany, France and Italy which are Russia's main European partners, he added.

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