U.S, Washington, Jan. 13 / Trend N. Bogdanova /
The profound historic and material mistrust between Armenia and Azerbaijan is the single most decisive factor in the stalled process, expert at the State Department's Foreign Service Institute John Sitilides said.
This is compounded by Russia's strategic interest in consolidating and enlarging its influence in the Caucasus, as well as the increasingly lucrative energy grid expanding across the region," DC and chairs the Woodrow Wilson Center Southeast Europe Project, Sitilides told Trend .
The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Armenian armed forces have occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan since 1992, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and 7 surrounding districts. Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a ceasefire agreement in 1994. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group - Russia, France, and the U.S. - are currently holding the peace negotiations.
"The Nagorno-Karabakh settlement process remains at a strategic standstill, even as Turkey aspires to engage Russia in pressuring Armenia, as well as legislative procedures in Ankara and Yerevan to ratify the protocols normalizing their bilateral relationship," Sitilides said.
Turkish and Armenian foreign ministers Ahmet Davutoglu and Edward Nalbandian signed the Ankara-Yerevan protocols in Zurich Oct. 10.
Diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey were broken due to Armenian claims of an alleged genocide and its occupation of Azerbaijani lands. Their border closed in 1993.
Yerevan will further point to the OSCE Minsk Group process and related statements in late 2009 reiterating that no linkage exists between improving Turkey-Armenia relations and resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Sitilides said.
The U.S-Russia cooperation is an unlikely prospect, as the United States and Russia have divergent visions of how the Caucuses should develop politically and economically, expert said.
"The critical factor here may well be Turkey, which is asserting its strategic independence from the U.S. and NATO, and is increasingly keen to cooperate with Russia in the Black Sea and Caucasus regions in pursuit of its own interests," Sitilides said.