Thursday 26 April 2018 Last Update: 05:09 PM

US Expert: Large-Scale Fighting in Karabakh Can Renew at Any Time

Published: 01-21-2018

Incidents along the line of contact between Azerbaijani and Armenian troops have remained commonplace, underscoring the risk that larger-scale fighting could renew at any time, says Carey Cavanaugh, Professor of Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution at the University of Kentucky.

Cavanaugh, who served as the US co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, dealing with the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, made the remarks in his interview with Azernews on Jan. 18.

The expert reminded that in 2017, the Austrian OSCE Chairmanship worked hard to advance the two confidence-building mechanisms that Baku and Yerevan agreed to in 2016 in Vienna and St. Petersburg.

“While an incidents investigation mechanism still appears to remain a bridge too far, it should be possible to proceed with the nominal increase in OSCE monitors from six to thirteen that has been under discussion,” the expert said. “Although this would only be a minor change, agreement and implementation of this measure would signal a willingness by the parties to take real steps toward improving the situation.”

Cavanaugh called the fact that Azerbaijani and Armenian ministers and leaders are once again talking "a positive sign", but noted that they have not yet achieved any visible progress. He reminded that while there was an uptick in incidents along the line of contact in early 2017, strong engagement by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs, the Austrian OSCE chairmanship, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and other key players helped encourage a return to dialogue between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Speaking about settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the expert noted that there are still many challenges to overcome.

“The Minsk Group co-chairs, OSCE, and other outside players can certainly help with the development and implementation of an agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan,” he said.

As the key problem the expert notes the need for the leadership of Armenia and Azerbaijan to publicly acknowledge that lasting peace can only be possible via genuine political compromise.

“To achieve a mutually acceptable solution will demand not just serious negotiations between the governments of Azerbaijan and Armenia, but a concerted effort to build the support needed from all affected populations to embrace such a settlement,” Cavanaugh said. “That will require considerable goodwill, trust, and courage on the part of both leaders.”

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 1994 ceasefire agreement was followed by peace negotiations. Armenia has not yet implemented four UN Security Council resolutions on withdrawal of its armed forces from the Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding districts.