Burning issues forces Nagorno-Karabakh conflict on back burner for U.S.
By Claude Salhani - Trend:
There is a need to renew efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict once and for all, said US ambassador to Azerbaijan, Richard Morningstar, at a farewell event on July, 24, in Baku.
Words well spoken, indeed. But are they backed up?
All parties concerned are in favor of finding a resolution to this thorn in the side of the Caucasus - a situation of no war and no peace - that is placing the region in eternal limbo.
"Peace would bring substantial benefits to people across the region and ensure Azerbaijan's prosperity into the future," said the American diplomat.
Indeed, peace, naturally, would be beneficial for Azerbaijan, of that there is no doubt. The country is doing quite well on the economic front, and revenues from oil and natural gas are being well invested, a detail that did not escape the attention of French President Francois Hollande during his trip to Baku about a month ago.
During a meeting with the French community in a downtown hotel, Mr. Hollande praised Azerbaijan and its president, Ilham Aliyev, for investing wisely in the country by developing its infrastructure.
If anyone one side might be opposed to a settlement of the problem it must be the Armenians. Why? Because a settlement, in so far as the Azerbaijanis are concerned, can only mean the return of their land, a solution that Armenia will certainly oppose, as they will come out of this agreement minus the land they began to capture in 1992.
But this is why the talks are complicated because this is not an all-sum game. These are negotiations in which each side will have to make concessions. For Armenia it may mean having to give up land in exchange for peace with its neighbor, and improve relations with other Turkic-speaking countries who support Azerbaijan.
Such as Turkey, a major player in the region.
As mentioned above, this is a negotiation in which every side will need to cede something. In Azerbaijan's case they can offer Armenia two things: peace and financial incentives. The first will create trade and tourism--and all the jobs associated with the industry--between the two South Caucasus countries and the second will help Armenia, which is currently in dire economic straits.
The two member countries of the Minsk Group, the United States and France, two countries with large Armenian communities, can offer Yerevan financial support and security guarantees. This will render Armenia less dependent on Russian support, which it is wholly and unhealthily relying upon at the moment for just about everything.
But before we even venture into that domain, there would be the need to bring the two parties together at the presidential level in order to get the ball rolling, at least in the first set of meetings.
However, Ambassador Morningstar's bosses in Washington, the folks on Pennsylvania Avenue as well as those at Foggy Bottom are currently preoccupied with far more burning issues -- quite literally burning -- in the Middle East and Eastern Europe.
In Iraq the Maleki government is fighting for its life as Islamists from the group calling itself the Islamic Caliphate are edging closer to the capital Baghdad every day.
The leitmotif for much of the violence in the Middle East, the conflict opposing Palestinians and Israelis is turning tragic with Gaza now under severe bombardment for 17 days. The death toll keeps mounting, according the respected daily newspaper Haaretz more than 770 Palestinians have been killed and 32 Israeli soldiers have lost their lives in the fighting.
Not to mention the civil war raging in Syria, the precariousness of the political situation on Libya, the nuclear talks with Iran and the civil war in Ukraine between pro-Russian separatists and pro-government troops, with the severe consequences that have resulted such as the downing of the Malaysian Airways jet.
It goes without saying that the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh comes pretty low on the US diplomatic totem pole.
U.S. diplomats in Baku told Trend that there was "nothing really new" in the ambassador's speech. No new policy, no new initiative. But the ambassador was reiterating the U.S. position on the issue. In other words it was really more of the same. A diplomat's going away speech, as it should be; Polite, concise and without much meat on the bones.
It is understandable that with the clock running out on the ambassador's tenure in Baku (he leaves next week), there is little that he can accomplish other that to leave the Azerbaijani people with a little hope for a just resolution of the conflict.
Claude Salhani is a political analyst and senior editor with Trend Agency.
Follow him at on Twitter @ClaudeSalhani