Baku, Azerbaijan, Apr. 5
By Elena Kosolapova - Trend:
It is clear that there cannot be a status quo in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict any more, Amanda Paul, analyst at the European Policy Centre (EPC), told Trend in email Apr. 5.
Something needs to change and change fast, she believes.
"Even if the current situation stabilizes, to talk about a functioning ceasefire is not realistic under the current conditions - and indeed never was - it was simply a ticking time bomb," added Paul.
The expert also said the situation is very serious in the zone of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
"This is the worst outbreak of fighting since the ceasefire came into force in 1994," Paul said.
She believes there is a very real risk that the conflict will escalate further still, as Armenia battles to take the positions that Azerbaijan has retaken and Baku pushes back against that.
"Hence a fully blown war, which would have devastating consequences for the region, cannot be ruled out," Paul added.
The analyst said the line of contact is now so militarized with heavy weaponry on both sides, including tanks, aircraft, drones and helicopters along with modern technology, that it creates a far more dangerous situation than in the past.
"The current situation requires the full attention of the international community, in particular the US and Russia," Paul said. "Coming at a time when Russian-US relations are in poor shape is not helpful, yet they need to put their differences aside and work together. Other regional players which have some influence - Turkey and Iran - may also take on a role."
"If the conflict explodes the price will be paid by the entire region, hence a unified approach is important," she added.
Paul noted that so far the Russians "have been the most-active in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict."
"While Russia uses the conflict for its own purposes, which is not helpful in terms of helping to bring about a solution or shoring up regional security, at the same time the Russian's do not want a fully blown war in the region," Paul added. "Rather Russia has been more comfortable with simmering conflict situations, which allow Moscow to project its power and influence in the region."
Paul believes there can be little doubt that ultimately Russia would like its own peacekeepers on the ground in Karabakh and this is apparently included in a new peace plan that that Moscow has been putting together.
"Yet history has shown that once Russian boots are on the ground, getting rid of them is difficult and often conflicts become even harder to resolve," added Paul. "Hence there is likely to be continued objection against this."
"What is very clear is that the current system of a tiny OSCE mission visiting the conflict area now and then and only after giving prior warning - even requesting permission from Azerbaijan and Armenia - is totally ineffective," said Paul.
The analyst said that unfortunately the renewed conflict seems to have left the EU paralyzed, unable to go beyond words of concern, which are simply not adequate for such a dangerous escalation right in the EU's backyard.
"Furthermore, if we compare the EU's reaction to the 2008 Russia-Georgia war to its reaction to the escalation over Karabakh there is a stark difference because in 2008 the EU acted swiftly, carrying out shuttle diplomacy and taking a lead in efforts to stop the fighting," added Paul.
"Today, the EU remains on the sidelines continuing to hide behind the OSCE fig leaf," she noted. "However, the OSCE has become more of a conflict manager than a resolver, and its role and influence has weakened over the years as the peace process has become stale and run out of steam."
"When there are long periods of time without an active peace process/settlement negotiation it serves to cement the status quo, which for Azerbaijan, in particular, is frustrating because it is their land that is occupied," said Paul.
"Not surprisingly, therefore, the status quo is far more acceptable for the Armenians," she added.
Follow the author on Twitter: @E_Kosolapova