Azerbaijan, Baku, May 27 /Trend, E.Ostapenko/
Replacing the French co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group with the representative of the entire EU can give new breath to the negotiation process on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement, said Borut Grgic, specialist on conflicts, Director and Founder of the Institute for Strategic Studies in Slovenia.
"The EU should become one of the permanent co-chairs in the Minsk Group. Nothing else makes sense, he told Trend. - If this means that we get rid of the French seat, so be it."
He said France is not an active player in ensuring security and promoting stability in the South Caucasus. Far more involved are the eastern EU member states. Therefore, an EU seat on the Minsk Group would ensure that interests and responsibilities are better aligned, said Grgic, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's Eurasia Centre in the U.S.
Wednesday the EU adopted revised ENP report, which is now under consideration of the European Parliament and other EU agencies.
In the report, the EU declared readiness to step up its involvement in the conflict settlement. The revised ENP report says that 'the EU would be ready to step up its involvement in formats where it is not yet represented, e.g. the OSCE Minsk Group on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement'.
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.
"An EU seat in the OSCE Minsk Group would mean a greater degree of direct EU engagement in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process," said Grgic, who in 2005 served as adviser to the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Slovenian Foreign Minister.
He said the eastern EU member states would use this new position to do more to resolve this conflict because it is in their interest to have stable and secure neighbours.
The EU has always supported the efforts of the Minsk Group, while not directly involved in conflict resolution.
Another event occurred in the negotiation process on Nagorno-Karabakh in the last days. Thursday, the presidents of the co-chair counties issued a joint statement on the conflict at the summit of the G8 in French Deauville.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, U.S President Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy called on the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders to demonstrate the political will and to finalize the work over the basic principles of [the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict] during the upcoming Armenian-Azerbaijani summit in June.
The Presidents Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan and Serzh Sargsyan of Armenia have been holding periodic meetings since June 2008 on the coordination of positions in order to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Despite this, the basic principles have not yet been agreed.
Grgic said there will be much progress made by June. For the progress, the conflicting sides should take action themselves, without waiting for a "magic formula" from the outside
"Counting on Russia or the EU to bring to the table a magic formula is not a good strategy.
There is no magic formula," said Grgic.
He said the key is with the two presidents. "They have to find a way to balance out internal and external risks, block out external pressures, and strike a deal. If there is no deal between the two presidents, war is a serious possibility," said the analyst.
The road to peace will have to start with an Armenian withdrawal of its forces from the seven surrounding regions, he said. "Here the EU can be of help by offering a temporary peace-keeping force that would ensure the security of the current Nagorno-Karabakh population until a final deal is agreed."
Armenia has not yet implemented the U.N. Security Council's four resolutions on the liberation of the Nagorno-Karabakh region and the occupied territories.