Senior researcher of the American expert-analytical center "Carnegie Europe Foundation" Thomas de Waal in an interview with ArmInfo comments on the latest impetus around the Karabakh settlement. He shares his vision of the prospects for international recognition of Artsakh, the positions of superpowers in this matter. Forecasts possible further scenarios for the development of the situation around the Karabakh conflict.
The Washington visit of the Artsakh delegation led by President Bako Sahakyan has already provoked quite a tensive reaction, not only in Baku, but also in Moscow, not to mention the US itself. Meanwhile, Stepanakert is making efforts towards international recognition of Artsakh bypassing the Minsk process for at least several years. What are the prospects of this process, to your vision?
Recognition of Artsakh is the old dream of Karabakh people, which, however, did not come true neither in 1991 with the declaration of the independence of the NKR, nor in 2008, when Russia recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. In my opinion, all the big powers have their bets and interests with respect to both the Armenian and Azerbaijani sides of the conflict. In this light, according to my forecasts, these countries will not adhere to the recognition of the independence of Karabakh, as this will create an imbalance that seriously infringes the interests of Azerbaijan, which in turn will lead to the infringement of their own interests in this country. Of course, US congressmen, the legislatures of the US states, territorial units of other countries are and will continue to take similar steps in the future. However, I do not think that this is possible on the scale of governments and legislative bodies at the state level.
You have absolutely and correctly noted the geopolitical component of the Karabakh conflict, having conditioned it by the interests of the superpowers in our region. And as in such conditions it is possible to implement the Madrid principles, in particular, their first point, which says that it is necessary to surrender five Artsakh regions. After all, such a step will undoubtedly change the existing status quo not only between the parties to the conflict, but also the geopolitical status quo between the co-chairing countries, Turkey and Iran?
I think that Turkey, Iran and the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairing countries, as a whole, will not be against the settlement of the Karabakh conflict, even taking into account all the nuances. For example, Russia does its utmost to preserve its influence in the region. Accordingly, Moscow, of course, strives for a settlement, however, not in a package, but in a phased manner, since in these conditions, at the first stages of the settlement, its influence will not only persist butwill also grow.
You mean the point of the Madrid principles, presupposing the introduction of peacekeepers into the conflict zone?
Yes, but not limited to. Thus, superpowers, in my opinion, do not oppose a settlement, on the contrary they welcome the very prospect of that. It is another matter that there is no local demand for peace and such a settlement in Baku, Yerevan and Stepanakert themselves. Against this background, the superpowers do not want to rock the boat, press and thereby infringe on Baku and Yerevan in the interests of preserving their own bilateral relations with the conflicting countries. In the end, such a line does not come from the interests of the international community as a whole.
Do you think that the trend of refusing pressure on the parties to the conflict will remain actual in the future as well ?
The situation in this sense can change only in the case of a new conflict (let the Lord rule it out) resulting numerous victims, aggravation of the conflict. In such circumstances, superpowers will simply be forced to deal with the conflict more seriously, including through pressure on its sides. At some point, we saw a manifestation of this trend during the post-April negotiations in Vienna. In my opinion, these attempts were not very strong. The second circumstance, which can cause pressure, can be caused by the emergence of a new strategic calculation, necessarily on both sides of the conflict aimed at comprehending conformity, based on mutual settlement of the settlement, on their own interests. Unfortunately, for the time being, we do not see such awareness in either Yerevan or Baku.
There is no awareness, but there is a muscle play and aggressively militaristic rhetoric. Are you looking at this background in realisticpremises, a request for a "big war" in the countries participating in the conflict?
I do not see any such request. However, I have serious concerns due to the heated situation on the contact line between the opposing sides, and in the societies themselves. In such a situation, the conflict can get out of control and flare up to the scale of the war as a result of another trivial incident at the border. And here the situation will be much worse than in the April days of 2016, as the parties will try to go much further. For me personally, this is the most dangerous scenario.
With the neutralization of the "Islamic state" in Syria and Iraq, the continuing Middle East instability, it seems, is looking for new areas. Could you estimate from this point of view the smoldering Karabakh?
Such a threat and risks exist and will be preserved always. However, at least today I do not see any external player interested in such a provocation of the situation with the aim of further projecting to Karabakh. Most likely, external forces are striving to maintain the existing balance of power and, consequently, the status quo around Karabakh. Of course, it is not very convenient, it does not suit everyone, but it's better than radical changes in the situation.
Proceedingfrom all of the above, what are the visual prospects for resolving the conflict?
Unfortunately, I do not see such prospects at all. In my opinion, the resolution of the conflict can become possible after a change of generations. The appearance of new generation, which finally asks itself, and why do I need this long-standing conflict that prevents my integration into the big world? However, before changing the way of thinking in the two societies to hope for change, unfortunately, not worth it. The change of the ruling elites in the two countries, of course, can make some corrections to one side or the other, however, it is incapable of resolving the conflict. I think that this is exactly the issue that is decided not only by the leadership, but also by the peoples of the two countries. In this light, it is the radicalism of the two societies that influences the process of peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict extremely negatively. For decades, assuring the people of a quick and complete victory over the enemy, the authorities have trapped themselves, as people today demand an unconditional victory precisely as a result of appropriate processing by the authorities. At the same time, the huge influence of the authorities on the media in both countries of the conflict is quite capable of changing the trend over time in the direction of strengthening the radicalism in the opposite direction. Of course, in case of the appearance in Baku and Yerevan of such a desire and a request for peace.