Friday, May 3 2019 21:43
David Stepanyan

Hrachya Arzumanyan: There are three scenarios of Artsakh settlement in the 21st century

Hrachya Arzumanyan: There are three scenarios of Artsakh settlement in the 21st century

ArmInfo.In an interview with ArmInfo, expert on military and national security issues Hrachya Arzumanyan discourses upon and justifies the need to revise the principles for the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as inconsistent with the security architecture of the 21st century. He brings arguments in support of his own vision of the settlement based on three possible scenarios.

The meetings of the leaders and foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan, which have intensified over the past year, seemingly are leading towards the elaboration of a new negotiating agenda and a resumption of negotiation process stalled in the recent years. Do you think that the Madrid principles worked out in 2007 correspond to this situation?

 

Apparently, the revision of the principles of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement is a necessity. I state this through the prism of my own assessment of the possibilities of settlement on the basis of the Madrid principles. In this light, it is necessary to recognize that these principles do not correspond to the security environment of the 21st century. First of all due to the fact, that in this environment the meaning and sense of the very concept of “settlement” is changing. And in this light, we have to speak not in terms of a final settlement, but in terms of the process, which would be acceptable, allow controlling the conflict, restraining it within certain limits.

Within the framework of such a process, the main goal of the players involved is to prevent the chaotization of the territory in which the conflict takes place. The international community is interested in the existence in the given territory of subjects who will be ready to assume and ensure the basic functions of state administration. At the same time, issues of international legitimacy and recognition, while continuing to play an important role, are no longer regarded as decisive.

In the conditions of a turbulent security environment and narrow horizons of strategic foresight, long-term planning attempts are groundless. As a result, the philosophy of the Madrid principles, which implies a final and complete settlement within the framework of a multi-stage plan, is inadequate to the existing realities.

 

And what is the alternative to the principles, in your opinion?

In my opinion, in these conditions it makes sense to think about the philosophy of "small steps" and the corresponding principles and strategies. The goal of the settlement in this case is the movement towards solving local and particular problems in small steps and avoiding actions and initiatives that may destabilize the situation.

Within the framework of such an approach, a strategy developed on measures to build trust at the local level with the involvement of the forces and capabilities of actors of the regional security system seems promising. In this case, geopolitical centers of power and security guarantors need to solve a less costly and simpler task: accompany and monitor processes, facilitate the implementation of steps and initiatives that do not require a radical review of the existing regional security system.

It is important to understand that this is not about the conservation of conflict, which is fraught with an increase in internal tension and an explosion, but small changes and balancing on the edge of what is possible and acceptable to societies. Thus, both individual societies and the regional security system as a whole are pushed towards evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, development. In this sense, we can talk about an ecological, holistic approach to the development of the regional security system of the South Caucasus.

Do you think that in their current state, Armenia, Artsakh and Azerbaijan are able to solve such a task without external intervention?

In any case, priority should be given to the ability of the states of the region to maintain the regional security system of the South Caucasus without the direct participation of the centers of power. In conditions of limited resources, the presence of a large number of conflicts, initiatives envisaging direct and actual intervention of external actors should be recognized as impractical. In my opinion, even at present, the states of the region are able to provide regional balance, being security providers.

Taking security functions directly by the centers of power will inevitably turn the countries of the region from providers into security consumers, for which these countries will have to pay a very high price in all senses. In this light, it is necessary to sufficiently soberly evaluate the currently available alternatives and scenarios of a possible future for the region. New initiatives can either strive to maintain the existing balance and status quo, or trigger an escalation of tensions. Until an acceptable level of trust is reached in the region, which allows the opposing sides to think about reducing the level of hostility, discourse on any other alternatives should be considered as detached from reality.

The general background and atmosphere are understandable. Let's talk about specific scenarios and, of course, the principles of settlement. Is there a threat of large-scale hostilities? In Armenia, and especially in Russia, such a scenario is often forecasted...

Taking into account the abovementioned, one can speak of three settlement scenarios around Artsakh, each of which will be based on its own principles.

As regards the implementation of the scenario of large-scale hostilities, I can say that their unfolding with a high degree of probability will lead to a regional war. And in this war, both regional and geopolitical centers of power will be involved. I do not think that such a scenario today is in anyone’s interests, including Azerbaijan.

 

Accordingly, the second scenario, according to which the parties to the Karabakh conflict simply recognize the prevailing realities as given, is seen in a much more real light. The fact is that in its present form the conflict around Artsakh emerged at the stage of the creation of the USSR. Overcoming international isolation and striving for international recognition, the Soviet Union transferred Artsakh and Nakhijevan to the Azerbaijan SSR in the framework of establishing relations with Turkey. After that, in 1923, the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region was established on a part of the territory of Artsakh. In 1991, the USSR collapsed and the Azerbaijani Republic recognized by the international community and the unrecognized Artsakh Republic were established on the territory of the former Azerbaijan SSR. The existing line of contact between Artsakh and Azerbaijan is the result of hostilities. It is also recorded in the armistice agreement concluded through the mediation of Russia in May 1994 by Artsakh, Azerbaijan and Armenia. In this scenario, the parties recognize the long-term situation of the dynamic status quo and efforts are being made to design it within the framework of international law.

Does the new Armenia’s initiative regarding the return of Stepanakert to the negotiating table fit into such a format? The logic you described seems to suggest just that ...

The steps in this direction should involve the restoration of the distorted format of the negotiations and the return of Artsakh as one of the main parties to the conflict along with Azerbaijan. At the same time, Armenia reassumes the role of the security guarantor of Artsakh, and not a party to the conflict.

Of course, the main problem of this scenario is the conviction or coercion of Azerbaijan by the international community to once again agree with the recognition of Artsakh as a party to the conflict. Recognition as the main state actor with whom Baku is negotiating without unleashing large-scale hostilities, as it was in 1992-94.

In this case, the settlement around Artsakh boils down to solving two interrelated problems. The first one is finding a way to formalize the status of Artsakh as a state entity within the framework of international law. The second is the clarification of the borders between Azerbaijan and Artsakh. It is important that decisions within the framework of this scenario are limited to the territory of the former Azerbaijan SSR and allow to avoid increasing the scale and number of actors directly involved in the decision.

Generally, these two scenarios for resolving the conflict around Artsakh have been discussed for a long time. What is the third scenario?

The third scenario envisages that the parties to the conflict recognize the need to restore the status quo ante, that is, return to the previous situation. Within this scenario, the problem arises of determining the point of return and clarifying the actors that are parties to the conflict and are involved in the settlement process.

Acknowledging the completion of not only the Soviet, but also the post-Soviet period, it seems appropriate to roll back to a point before the emergence of the USSR. In this case, a new settlement frame is built on international treaties signed after the end of the First World War and the decisions of the League of Nations. Azerbaijan, recognizing itself as the legal successor of the ADR, appeals to this basis. And the consent of the Republic of Armenia to move to the same basis will create the necessary legal prerequisites for the use of this frame.

And what benefits are there from the implementation of this scenario, both for Armenia and Azerbaijan?

The adoption of this frame makes it possible to remove the existing formulation of the Artsakh problem, which is the result of decisions taken within the USSR, when the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan become supporters of the conflict. The conflict itself and the problem boil down to clarifying the boundaries and signing peace agreements between these subjects. In this case, the Artsakh Republic gets the right of veto on the decisions taken if they do not take into account the interests of the Artsakh society. Within the framework of this frame, there is a generalization of the problem, as the borders must be clarified not only in the Artsakh direction, but, for example, the status of Nakhijevan.

In addition, the range of actors directly involved in the settlement process is expanding. However, achieving solutions within this frame will allow talking about establishing a long-term peace and reformatting the South Caucasus with the inevitable revision of the role and place of geopolitical and regional centers of power. – l-

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