Thomas de Waal, a senior associate with Carnegie Europe specializing in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus region, responds to questions posed by Hetq.
Mr. de Waal, there is an opinion in Armenia that after the latest escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh the political situation has changed in the region. Do you agree? If so, what kind of changes have taken place in the Southern Caucasus?
I believe that the South Caucasus has entered a dangerous period, in which the chances of war have increased significantly. The Line of Contact is extremely militarized and the mechanisms that were created in the 1990s to forge a peace are not strong enough.
Presidents Sargsyan and Aliev met with Vladimir Putin in Saint Petersburg. The only thing that was announced after the meetingwas that the number of international observers would be increased. There was no word about the creation of the mechanisms for the monitoring of the ceasefire regime violations that are noted by Yerevan. Do you think the meeting was effective taking this into account?
The meeting in St. Petersburg was a disappointment in that little progress was made from the meeting of the co-chairs in Vienna on May 16. There was no mention of two significant measures promised in Vienna: a commitment to “resuming negotiations on a comprehensive settlement” and the creation of an “investigation mechanism” for violations of the ceasefire.
This raises concerns that the security vacuum created by the fighting in April could be filled more violence in the summer.
Do you believe this conflict can be solved by negotiations? How far are the sides from the framework document?
I am not optimistic about the chances of a successful negotiated settlement. However, I see no alternative. Even if there is a resumption of fighting, with all the terrible human suffering that will bring, there will still be a need for a political settlement of the conflict when the guns fall silent again.
The framework document is the basis for this political settlement but there seems to be little belief that it can deliver a success.
This is a major reason why there is now talk of a “phased plan” in which the most difficult issue—that of the status of Nagorny Karabakh—can be postponed.