Alexandros Petersen, Dinu Patriciu Fellow for Transatlantic Energy Security and associate director of the Eurasia Energy Center at the Atlantic Council, was interviewed by Leyla Tagiyeva of Azerbaijan’s News.Az on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
How do you see the state of the Karabakh conflict settlement process, considering recent events?
There is no doubt that the Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia is not only of bilateral but also of regional concern, since Turkey is now normalizing relations with Armenia which affects the situation. Russia is involved in the process, supplying Armenia with money and arms. Moreover, this assistance is provided at the diplomatic level. We should not forget Iran either.
Another factor that makes the conflict of international concern is the interest of the superpowers, primarily, the United States, the transatlantic community and the EU in its resolution.
We should also realize that not only the West but also the East – the countries from the other side of the Caspian Sea and further to the East – are interested in the settlement.
Azerbaijani authorities call the conflict a threat not only to regional but also international security. Do you agree with this?
Yes, this conflict is a hindrance to the East-West transportation corridor from Asia to Europe. So there is no doubt that this is an international conflict. To be honest, it should not be viewed as a purely regional problem. It is odd that despite the international importance of this problem, little is being done to achieve a settlement, at least by the countries that call themselves “superpowers”. I think Russia plays a big role here, hampering progress on the part of the Minsk Group, but there are other reasons too.
What changes are needed to make the superpowers take effective measures to settle the conflict?
There are several important aspects here. First of all, we should step up the work of the Minsk Group, especially the United States and France. Moreover, we should let Turkey become active in the process as a Minsk Group member and a country that plays an important role, especially in relations with Armenia. I think these three powers – the United States, France and Turkey – should put consolidated pressure on Russia to play a constructive role in the Minsk process.
But Russia has repeatedly proposed several initiatives on settling of the problem, in particular, promoting meetings between the presidents.
Yes, in recent years we have seen Russia playing a leading role here by promoting high level meetings, including between the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia without involving other Minsk Group co-chairs. Yet, in the current situation, Russia’s attempts to become the only arbiter in the conflict settlement are counterproductive. Therefore, we should strengthen the Minsk process and put pressure on Russia not to replace this process.
There is another aspect related to the medium and long-term. In order to achieve a settlement of the conflict, regional integration and cooperation between the three states in the South Caucasus, a kind of a conference on regional security based on the Helsinki process needs to be created. I think by doing this we would achieve settlement not only of the Karabakh problem but also the South Ossetian and Abkhaz conflicts, thereby promoting the interests of all the aforementioned superpowers.