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Thomas de Waal: There will be no war in Nagorno-Karabakh29.06.2012 | 18:09
The situation in Nagorno-Karabakh remains tense for many years. Over the years, it has become increasingly hard to solve this problem: the peoples drifted apart each other, the rhetoric of the conflict parties is becoming more aggressive. However, it is unlikely that the Armenia-Azerbaijan war begins again. Armenia, as the winning side, is in no need to fight, and Azerbaijan will not risk the stability of the country. One of the most renowned experts on the Caucasus, a senior fellow of the Carnegie Endowment in Washington, Thomas de Waal told GTimes correspondent about this.
- The Karabakh conflict is one of the hardest in the region. You are one of the best experts on it. What is your opinion on what stage the conflict is now?
- For the first time I came here in 1996. I can say that much has changed, the city looks much better - it is positive. But I must say that fundamentally the situation has not changed - neither war nor peace, and now it is even more difficult to resolve this problem than 16 years ago. Because the publics are increasingly drawing apart from each other, the level of rhetoric has become more aggressive. This issue is not just around the Karabakh, this is conflict of the Armenian state, including Karabakh, against the whole of Azerbaijan. Natural resources also complicate the situation creating arms race. Objectively speaking, the problem has become worse, this is first.
But I think fortunately, the prospect of a new conflict is quite low. As before, the Armenian side, as a winner, has no reason to renew the conflict, since it wants to normalize the status quo. Azerbaijani side, of course, is not satisfied with the status quo, but they do not want to stake achievements over the years: the construction and enrichment of the state, flourishing oil and gas sector and so on. There is simply no reason to stake it all for an indefinite conflict, which inevitably will be a big loss.
- In the world practice there are two principles - the right of nations to self-determination and territorial integrity of states. What do you think about these two principles?
- Of course, both of these two principles are very important. But the world is proceeding from the actual situation. Here we have two poles of the issue - on the one hand, no country has recognized the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh, even Armenia. Hence, it is actually still respecting the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. On the other hand, we must respect the right of the Karabakh Armenians to peacefully live. Even if not to self-define to full statehood, but at least not to wage war and to ensure safety. The essense of these two opposite ideas of the international community is to maintain a shaky peace in Karabakh. We have to think about acceptable things, if there is no full independence, then about what is acceptable for the Karabakh Armenians. If they do not achieve full independence, but their safety is 100% guaranteed, is this enough? I think that should be enough.
- What do you think about the peacekeeping force, can they trust them? Unfortunately, experience shows that sooner or later peacemakers take one of the sides.
- Yes, there were bad cases, but there are a lot of positive. For example, in Cyprus, even in the Balkans. There were problems during the conflict, but when the issue was resolved politically, the peacekeeping forces also played a role in stabilizing the situation. It is hard for the Karabakh Armenians to trust a third party, as they used to trust themselves, I understand that. Still, the risk of new conflict is rather low. But with each passing year the risk may increase. Therefore we must look ahead and calculate that peacekeeping forces will better provide the security there. They should at least to start the conversation.
From the Azerbaijani side we hear such an argument: if the refugees return to the territory around Karabakh (Aghdam, Fizuli, etc.), it is also a kind of guarantee of security for Karabakh Armenians, because a civilian population (the Azeris) will live there, there will be no troops. It is in their interests to avoid war, since they will suffer first in any danger.