Experts: United States should exert pressure on Armenia to strengthen role in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution

Experts: United States should exert pressure on Armenia to strengthen role in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution

Azerbaijan, Baku, Sept. 16 / Trend E.Tariverdiyeva /

The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group do not have any fundamentally new ideas on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. However, the United States and Russia may exert pressure on Armenia in their effort to strengthen their role in this process, experts believe.

"Over the past 1.5 years, the United States was quite passive in the region and allowed Moscow to take the lead on security issues in the area, including Karabakh," the Heritage Foundation's leading expert on Eurasia and a member of the Trend Expert Council, Ariel Cohen, wrote Trend in an e-mail. "However, it would be desirable if Washington and Moscow could convince Yerevan to return the seven occupied regions under Baku's jurisdiction."

The Azerbaijani and Armenian foreign ministers will meet next week in the United States, OSCE Minsk Group U.S. Co-Chair Robert Bradtke said in an interview with the BBC this week. He added that the co-chairs have "new ideas."

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 Nagorno Karabakh and the seven surrounding districts.

Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a ceasefire agreement in 1994. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group - Russia, France, and the United States - are currently holding the peace negotiations.

Armenia has not yet implemented the U.N. Security Council's four resolutions on the liberation of the Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding regions.

According to experts, the scheduling of the meeting to find a peaceful settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in the United States show Washington's desire to strengthen its role in the South Caucasus.

A successful mission in the Nagorno-Karabakh negotiations is important for the U.S. president, as negotiators, actively participating in the process, demonstrate its relevance and geopolitical weight in the region, Kazakh Risk Assessment Group Director Dosym Satpayev believes.

"Playing the role of successful peacemaker is necessary for the current U.S. administration as a bargaining chip in the next presidential election in 2012," Satpayev told Trend over the telephone from Alma-Ata.

Americans, Satpayev said, consider the Caucasus region important and want to take precedence in solving its problems. In this sense, assistance in resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is, of course, important for the United States, he added.

Cohen believes that the United States should boost its profile as a co-chair in the OSCE Minsk Group.

A long-awaited appointment of a U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan would be play a certain positive role in the peace process, Cohen said.

However, British journalist Thomas de Waal, author of book "Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan - between war and peace", does not share the view that the United States lost interest in the conflict.

The recent spurt of activity by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was definitely a sign of Russian activity in the region, the Senior Associate for the Caucasus at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.  Waal, said.

"But it was well coordinated with both the French and American co-chairs. The signs are that all three co-chair countries work harmoniously together on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue," De Waal wrote Trend in an e-mail.

Experts believe that the United States can work together with Russia to put pressure on Armenia to achieve progress.

According to Satpayev, Armenian sources have spread unofficial information that the mediators have increased pressure on the parties to the conflict, in particular on Yerevan, to achieve some progress for the OSCE summit to be held in Astana in December.

Satpayev said Washington is ready to put pressure on the parties to achieve progress.

"But in this respect, Azerbaijan's position is quite tough and principled, and Azerbaijan is unlikely to agree to a compromise this year, even as a U.S. diplomatic reverence," he added.

However, it is worth noting that the United States has little to offer for the negotiation process as a mediator, Cohen said, adding that it would be desirable if Washington and Moscow could convince Yerevan to return the seven occupied regions under Baku's jurisdiction.

"But if Moscow plays along and exerts pressure on Armenia, I would be very surprised," he said.

Meanwhile, all of the observers believe that the co-chairs do not have any radically new ideas that may affect the negotiation process, despite Bradtke's statement.

Azerbaijani political analyst Rasim Agayev said that "if (the new idea) is radically new, then it should relate to the status of Karabakh."

"But suppose that we are talking about old ideas interpreted under a new situation. It always comes back to the manner of the old plan, which must be adjusted," Agayev said.

De Waal concurs.

"I do not believe there are radically new ideas on the table about Karabakh," he said.

"What is under discussion are creative ideas to 'square the circle' on the issues, that divide the two sides on the Document of Basic Principles," De Waal added.

Political scientist Fikret Sadikhov said if the co-chairs' "new ideas" are related to efforts to "appease Armenia and calm Azerbaijan," then they will come to nothing.

"If the Minsk Group still cannot get a clear answer from Armenia about its proposal based on the Madrid Principles, I do not know how Armenia will respond to 'new ideas' put forward by the Minsk Group," Sadikhov said.

Therefore, according to political analysts, no tangible progress is expected from the meetings.

"So, most probably, there will be more meeting and talks, but not as much substantive progress," Cohen said.

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