Saturday, April 9, 2016

Pull the pieces around Karabakh: who's in and who's out

After the clashes that seemed to pull to pieces ages of negotiations over Karabakh, it's time to pull the pieces together, as long as kalashnikov are silent. Or not loud-speaking. On the 5th of April Chief of Staff of Armenia and Chief of staff of Azerbaijan met in Moscow and - from what can be empirically deduced - decided to resume the cease-fire. Commentators - and Russian Prime Minister D. Medvedev - actually talked about a truce. But if it is the case, details of a possible new temporary no-combat adjustment have not been made public. The 1994 cease-fire was based essentially on the good will of the parties to implement it, and this could be enough to revive it in the shape it had worked in the past. And it can be broken with the same easiness witnessed last week.

In what still looks like a precarious situation, the ball rolls in the play field of diplomacy.
The "Devil's triangle" of Armenia-Azerbaijan-Karabakh (de facto, self proclaimed authorities) did not establish diplomatic ties. So of course any diplomatic effort passes through the direct participation of the international community.

Who is "the international community" dealing with the Karabakh unsolved conflict? And who's in and who's out?
The Minsk group, composed by Russia, United States and France is in. It survived the storm, and it is still named as the only appropriate facilitator and mediator of the conflict. It might not have gained an excellent reputation, but it scored well compared to alternative paths. In a phase of growing tensions it should be recalled that the Council of Europe, through its Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), made a couple of false steps, so to speak, inflaming tempers with its (draft) Resolutions. And the last thing needed now is an international organization that exacerbates expectations and confrontations. 

So, if the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Minsk group is an emanation of is still in, as well, the Council of Europe PACE should be kept out.

A deafening silence echoes from the corridors of Russian led international organizations. And when it's not a silence, it's worse: it's a mess.
The Eurasian Economic Union made itself ridiculous. Not only the members states did not voice a sound support to the fellow member state, Armenia - as it is usually the case in Unions where a member is threatened by a large scale conflict-  but their reactions were largely uncoordinated, as it there were not a Union at all.  Kazakh President Nazarbaev asked to move the planned meeting from Yerevan to Moscow, due to the ongoing clashes. Belorussian diplomacy supported Azerbaijani stances.
The Organization for the Treaty of Collective Security, beside a first declaration in support of Armenia, did not play any visible role in the crisis.
The CIS summit of the 8th of April, in Moscow, where Armenian and Azerbaijani Ministers of Foreign Affairs met in person, issued a statement recalling the principles negotiated within the Minsk format. Full stop.

This as far as it concerns International Organization the belligerent(s) is/are members of.
As for individual players, Iran made itself available to be in. Iran played a role of mediator at the very dawn of the conflict, more than two decades ago. But it must be proved by facts whether an entry point is still available.
Russia is doing better as a lonely wolf than as pack leader. Key institutional figures travelled the region, and it's clear that Russia feels in full shape to maximize its position in the Karabakh theater. 

By the way, Foreign Minister Lavrov, interviewed while touring the region, made a statement which is at the same time a pearl of sarcastic callousness, and an adamant truth: "There was the idea about withdrawing snipers from the Line of Contact. It is very risky when people are looking at each other through gun sights". 

A simple, good point to keep in mind. 
Stop selling guns could be a way to avoid such a scenario. But this option is out of the to-do list, apparently.

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