An April 2 meeting between the defense ministers of Turkey, Georgia, and Azerbaijan might have easily passed as routine. Yet in a region like the Caucasus, fraught with deeply entrenched interstate rivalries, this summit could hardly be described as inconsequential. At the meeting, Azerbaijani Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov identified Armenia as a regional threat, remarking that it “is the only state in the region which lays territorial claims to our countries.” The same day, Russian fighter jets stationed in Armenia began three-day drills. Though these two events probably coincided by chance, they illustrate two distinct – potentially competing – regional orders in the South Caucasus: a deepening Turkey-Georgia-Azerbaijan coordination and a historic Russian presence represented by the Kremlin’s close alliance with Armenia.
Policymakers and analysts have spent the past two decades applying the same insights and settlement approaches to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with the same limited impact. There is an underpinning perception that everything that could have been said has already been said. This, combined with a set of overused words such as ‘stalemate’, ‘deadlock’, ‘frozen’ and, more recently, ‘simmering conflict’ brings with it a certain level of fatigue and apathy on the part of the conflict parties and external observers.
However, tangible contextual changes within protracted conflicts often open up windows of opportunity for new dynamics in peace processes. In this respect, does Armenia’s stated intention to join the Russian-led Customs Union provide a window of opportunity for renewed mediation in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?
This week, the ISN focuses on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan over this de facto independent territory has been running since the break-up of the Soviet Union. Mediation efforts by the ‘Minsk Group’, a group of OSCE member states, haven’t brought any substantial success. Some even argue that they’ve been counterproductive.
As other disputes stuck in a ‘no peace, no war’ situation for so long, Nagorno-Karabakh belongs to the ‘frozen conflicts’ species. But the dramatic meltdown of the South Ossetia conflict last summer showed that frozen conflicts should be taken very seriously indeed.
- Check out this ISN Special Report on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict by our senior correspondent in the South Caucasus, Karl Rahder.
- For information on current peace and stabilization efforts, check out this OSCE link and this ICBSS Policy Brief.
- And here are two papers pulled out of our Digital Library: one by the Elcano Royal Institute on foreign mujahedin in Nagorno-Karabakh and one by Swisspeace on ‘no war, no peace’ societies.