U.S' intermediary role on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict not to be decisive: experts

U.S' intermediary role on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict not to be decisive: experts

Azerbaijan, Baku, May 6 / Trend , E.Tariverdiyeva/ 

The role of the U.S. mediation in the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict can be successful for Azerbaijan, as well as Washington is less biased to the parties than any other active mediator, but it will not be decisive.

"The US differs from Russia as a mediator in that it is not a neighbouring state, Russia has a long history in the region," British Expert on Caucasus Ziba Norman believes. "Caucasus's entrenched interests there are at the heart of Russia's geopolitical strategy and he US is more detached from the situation."

The Azerbaijani Foreign Minister met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on May 5. The meeting focused on some issues of bilateral interest, including speeding up settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, cooperation in Afghanistan and struggle against terrorism, energy security, as well as diversifying energy deliveries to Europe.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's meetings with the Azerbaijani and Armenian foreign ministers at the White House laid basis of discussions between these countries' presidents, US Assistant Deputy Secretary of State Matthew Bryza believes.

"Today's discussions in Washington has laid basis for constructive discussions to be held between Presidents Ilham Aliyev and Serzh Sargsyan in Prague on May 7. And we hope considerable progress will be reached and differences in basic principles will be reduced in these discussions," Bryza told Trend in a telephone conversation from Washington.

At each meeting, the secretary of state stressed her readiness to do her best which can support efforts as part of the OSCE Minsk Group to provide breakthrough in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process, Bryza added.

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.

Western experts say U.S. is less biased to the countries in the region than negotiators such as Russia and Turkey who have offered their assistance in the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict on numerous occasions.

"The meetings of the Foreign Ministers of Azerbaijan and of Armenia with the United States Administration should be seen as part of a broad effort by the international community to sustain the current moment in the Nagorno Karabakh peace negotiations," expert on South Caucasus Licinia Simao said. The U.S. plays a crucial role as one of the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, she said.

Simao said the new Obama Administration has shown how far it is willing to go in supporting local developments in the Caucasus (for instance by refraining to openly recognise the Armenian genocide, in order to support Turkish-Armenian dialogue).

"U.S. supports Russia's efforts to bring the Azerbaijani and the Armenian Presidents to an agreement that can allow substantive progress in the future," University of Coimbra fellow Simao wrote to Trend via email.

"U.S. can help compensate each side for the concessions that both will need to make, American expert on South Caucasus Mark Katz said.

He said the main advantage of Washington is that the U.S. has (especially compared to Russia) is that the U.S. is friends with both Azerbaijan and Armenia.

"Russia is much, much closer to Armenia than to Azerbaijan.  Indeed, I believe that Russia does not want the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to be resolved," professor at George Mason University Katz told Trend via email.

Katz said if it happens, Armenia and Azerbaijan will normalize ties and pipelines will run from Azerbaijan through Armenia to Turkey skirting Russia.

"If the conflict is solved, both Armenia and Azerbaijan would become more integrated into the West, and both would have much less need of Russia," Katz said.

Simao said both Armenia and Azerbaijan have close relations with the U.S. and both can influence and be influenced by its policy choice. "It is therefore central to have the US engaged in the peace process," she said.

According to Azerbaijani political scientist Tafik Abbasov, the U.S's role in settlement of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict must appear in support of Russia's efforts.

The OSCE Minsk Group countries are equal right states, but one of them is the first. Russia has more informal right for leadership.

"Russia has powerful levers of pressure on the aggressor, and if the United States take a more flexible position that Moscow would have easily brought a moral duty to curb the aggressor to its logical conclusion, would help significantly," Abbasov, Azerbaijani expert of the analytical group of Lider-TV, told Trend .

Obviously, the U.S. also has its interests in the Caucasus region, which will affect Washington's mediatory efforts.

Nevertheless, the US has very significant interests in the region, not least of which is the need to maintain energy transport links to the West. This is Azerbaijan's trump card, Норманн wrote to Trend via e-mail.

U.S. is lobbying the projects on construction of Transcaspian oil - and pipelines to ensure energy security of Europe. Two U.S. companies- Exxon mobil and Devon are represented in the largest oil project in Azerbaijan, Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli, proven reserves of which is 1 billion tons of light oil.

Turkey needs to maintain good relations with the US, and the US will not wish see a diminishing of its influence in the region, which would be the natural outcome if Azerbaijan felt the need to stop energy supplies via Turkey and opt for alternatives. "The US are thus in a position, by virtue of their own interests, and those of Turkey, to argue most strongly for the border opening and Nagorno-Karabakh settlement to be linked," Norman said.

Although Russia is recognized as a crucial actor in solving the conflicts in the Caucasus, and Moscow has been willing to take up a more conciliatory tone and a pro-active attitude regarding the Karabakh conflict, the U.S. and the Europeans remain crucial partners in bringing about a peaceful solution to this conflict, Simao said.

E.Ostapenko contributed in the article.

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