Alexandros Petersen, a nonresident senior fellow at the Council’s Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center, was interviewed by Azerbaijan’s on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Was the year 2009 fruitful in terms of settling the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?

The presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia met more than ever before in 2009 and if reports about those meetings are accurate, we are very close to seeing progress on resolution.  This year also saw the added impetus of the Armenia-Turkey protocols, which have lent urgency to the process on Nagorno-Karabakh.

What do you expect from 2010 in resolving the conflict?

Early 2010 should see whether this added urgency is positive. We may see normalization of relations among all three parties.  We may see rising tensions.  But, 2010 ought to be a decisive year.  I hope that 2010 will be the year of great progress on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement.

How would you comment on the U.S. Congress decision to allocate $8 million to the separatist regime of Nagorno-Karabakh in the 2010 financial year?

This is an enormously regrettable move in Congress, but that said, the incident provides an interesting window into the deliberately inefficient U.S. system of government.  The separation of powers and the weakness of political parties allows for populist congressmen to make such an allocation without the Executive Branch – the White House and the cabinet – having much say in the process, even though Democrats control both branches of government.

The move was motivated by congressmen playing to their very politically active Armenian-American constituents, but has no bearing on whether the U.S. as a country recognizes the separatist entity in Nagorno-Karabakh.  This should be interpreted as message to Azerbaijani-Americans to become more politically active in the U.S.  After all, it is U.S. voters that Congress will listen to the most.

Azerbaijan has presented a note of protest against the U.S. Congress decision.  What are your views in this regard?

This is a sign that Azerbaijan is increasingly a confident and independent international player.  That is positive for both Azerbaijan and the U.S.  I do not think it will seriously harm bilateral relations, but the move by the U.S. Congress definitely throws a monkey-wrench into the very sensitive negotiations over Nagorno-Karabakh, where the U.S. is playing a major role.  The Azerbaijani ambassador’s note will underscore this fact.