Sabine Freizer: “International mediators’ failing to express determination in negotiations moves away the parties from peace”

Baku: Senior fellow of the Atlantic Council’s Program on Transatlantic Relations, international political analyst Sabine Freizer said in her article that the conflict between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh has flared this summer into the worst violence since a 1994 truce. APA reports quoting the official website of the Atlantic Council that Freizer’s article covers the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, tension on the frontline and peace talks.

“The often-forgotten conflict between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh has flared this summer into the worst violence, killing at least eighteen soldiers in recent weeks. The surge in fighting not only shows that renewed, all-out warfare is a danger; it also lets Russia step in as mediator to secure its own role in the Caucasus. The government of President Vladimir Putin is unlikely to want truly to resolve the fight, which keeps the region from serving as a secure transit route for oil, gas or other Western interests.

The spate of shootouts, mortar and sabotage attacks has given autocrats in the region an opportunity to divert public attention from their coercive policies. Putin used the fighting to portray himself as a peacekeeper, calling the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia to meet in Sochi on August 9. Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenian forces reported eighteen soldiers killed from July 30 to August 4. Official counts often understate the actual casualties, including civilians. This is a significant spike compared with the recent average of thirty people killed a year, mainly by episodic sniper fire or landmine explosions.

This fighting comes twenty years after a 2004 ceasefire that was to be a first step in ending the conflict. But the next steps – a pullback of forces, deployment of peacekeepers and return of displaced persons – never occurred. Ethnic Armenian troops continue to hold Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan has used its oil revenues to boost its military budget to $3.7 billion last year, twenty times the spending level of a decade ago. In Twitter messages on August 7, President Aliyev stressed Azerbaijan’s intent to recover lands it has lost, saying, “the weaponry and ammunition we have acquired in recent years suggest that we can accomplish any task.”

The Ukraine conflict deepens the sense of hopelessness. Russia’s annexation of Crimea undermined principles that Azerbaijan and Armenia agreed would underpin any deal: non-use of force and territorial integrity. It suggests to Azerbaijan that it, too, might attempt a quick offensive to regain lost territory with only limited international opposition. Four UN Security Council resolutions on Nagorno-Karabakh from 1993 still require implementation. But now many in Baku are disappointed with the limited effect of EU/US sanctions and consider it another example of the West’s inability to guarantee the territorial integrity principle its governments say they uphold. Russia’s seizure of Crimea also weakens the right to self-determination, which Azerbaijan and Armenia have agreed should be the third basis of any settlement. Russia’s obvious and profound manipulation of the March 16 referendum in Crimea to support its forcible takeover has undercut the whole idea that such elections can be used as acts of self-determination, for example as part of an effort to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. International mediators’ failing to express determination in negotiations moves away the parties from peace,” says the article.

SOURCE: AZERI PRESS NEWS AGENCY