Minsk Group to be instrumental for Nagorno-Karabakh Peace Talks
U.S. , Washington, Sept. 15 /Trend special corr. M.Assenova/
The United States will continue working through the Minsk Group to achieve an agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan on peace talks on Nagorno-Karabakh, said Justin Friedman, Director of the Office of Caucasus Affairs and Regional Conflicts at the U.S. Department of State. He was speaking at a conference dedicated to 20 years of independence in the South Caucasus, which was held by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC. The conference focused on lessons learned from the tumultuous independence of the region and on its uncertain future.
Mr. Freedman said the U.S. will also continue supporting the reconciliation process between Armenia and Turkey, and Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity through the Geneva Talks on Abhazia and South Ossetia.
The U.S. administration has pursued advancing sovereignty of all three countries in the South Caucasus so that they can pursue five interlocking goals: live in peace, integrate into geopolitical and economic groupings of their own choosing, develop their economic potential, build the infrastructure of democratic governance, and protect the freedom and personal liberties of their citizens.
According to Mr. Friedman, the context of the region is complex with the Soviet legacy of instilled divisions along ethnic lines and the "frozen conflict" landscape of today that has implications for sovereignty of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The region is an intersection of three powers - Russia, Turkey and Iran - which have distinct and conflicting interests in the South Caucasus.
He noted some of the successes in the region such as the remarkable post-Rose Revolution transformation of Georgia from a corrupt state toward transparent governance and rule of law. In Azerbaijan, the construction of BTC and SCP led to economic independence to support political independence. Armenia has also made some steps toward democracy and market economy despite its partial isolation. Further support for economic development and democratic institutions will allow the South Caucasus countries to become more stable and eventually resolve their most pressing security problems.
"The best way forward for the South Caucasus may be to continue supporting Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan in their efforts toward Western economic and political systems, but this will be a long process with some hurdles to overcome," Mr. Friedman said.