Baku, Azerbaijan, Nov. 27
By Elmira Tariverdiyeva - Trend:
While the U.S. and NATO are focused on Russian activity in Central and Eastern Europe, there are some developments in the South Caucasus that merit closer attention, according to Luke Coffey's report prepared for The Heritage Foundation, which is a strategic research institute of the United States.
Increasing tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Armenian-occupied Azerbaijani territory of Nagorno-Karabakh is among them, the author wrote.
"Although the South Caucasus is geographically distant from the U.S., events there can have serious ramifications for the transatlantic community," the report says. "Events in the South Caucasus can impact regional security, and by extension, America and Europe's security. Therefore, it is in America's national interests to keep a close eye on developments in the
The region, especially Georgia and Azerbaijan, has played a major role in NATO's Northern Distribution Network for resupplying troops in Afghanistan. Important pipelines transit the region carrying oil and gas to European markets, a report says.
"As Europeans try to become less dependent on Russian energy sources these pipelines will become increasingly important," the author wrote.
The current Nagorno-Karabakh conflict started in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims to Azerbaijan's Nagorno-Karabakh autonomous oblast.
Even though there have been multiple calls from the international community for them to withdraw their forces, Armenia and Armenia-backed militias continue to occupy 20 percent of what is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan's territory. A cease-fire agreement was signed in 1994 but the conflict remains unresolved.
In the past several weeks, fighting in the region has been increasing.
"If these cease-fire violations turn into a full- blown war, the spillover effect could disrupt oil and gas pipelines-which at their closest point are only eight miles from the cease-fire line-and bring instability to neighboring Georgia," he wrote.
"Instability in the Nagorno-Karabakh region benefits Moscow because it allows the Russian regime to leverage its influence-especially in Armenia," the report says.
Due to the geostrategic importance of the South Caucasus, and Russia's new role in the region, the U.S. cannot afford to ignore the latest political and security developments there.
Peace talks over Nagorno-Karabakh have been stalled for years and there is very little the U.S. can do to bring the parties back to the negotiating table. However, remaining silent on the matter offers implicit approval of the status quo, the author wrote.
"The U.S. should continue to call for a peaceful solution to the conflict that includes the withdrawal of Armenian forces from all Azerbaijani territories," the report says.
While the South Caucasus might seem distant to many American policymakers, any spillover from ongoing and potential conflicts in the region can affect the United States and its security interests.
The U.S. ignores the South Caucasus at its own peril.
The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan.
As a result of the ensuing war, in 1992 Armenian armed forces occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts.
The two countries signed a ceasefire agreement in 1994. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, Russia, France and the US are currently holding peace negotiations.
Armenia has not yet implemented four UN Security Council resolutions on the liberation of the Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding regions.
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