Internet press-conference of Laurence Broers, Research Associate, Centre of Contemporary Central Asia and the Caucasus, School of Oriental and African Studies (London)

On April 20 an Internet press-conference for Armenian media with Research Associate, Centre of Contemporary Central Asia and the Caucasus, School of Oriental and African Studies (London) was held on following topic:  Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement possibilities and conditions of today.
 
These "first-hand" comments Armenian journalists will publish in their media outlets.
 
The internet press-conference with Laurence Broers was organized within the framework of the project “Topical Dialogues on the New Integration Agenda of Armenia” of  the “Region” Research Center supported by U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Section.
 
Armen Minasyan, www.panorama.am
 
- Can an agreement on Iran's nuclear program have an impact on the situation in the conflict zone? If so, how can the status quo change?
 
Answer – If it happens the opening up of Iranian-Western relations could be a positive development, but the impacts on the Caucasus will be secondary. In theory both Armenians and Azerbaijanis have much in common with Iran, and it is seen locally in the South Caucasus in a less ideological way compared to Russia or Turkey. At the same time, Iran's marginal role in the region to date is also due to complications inherited from the age of empire, and the different roles attributed to religion in the character of the state. Particularly for Iran and Azerbaijan, there is a complicated legacy that makes each party view the other side of the border between them with some degree of mistrust. The last thing the South Caucasus needs is another set of regional power rivalries, so I hope that there would be a gradual and pragmatic inclusion of Iran across a wide range of policy spheres. This could reduce the sense of geopolitical enclosure for the South Caucasus as a whole, and be the primary positive impact for the NK conflict.  
 
- Do you consider the gradual involvement of Iran and other countries in the region in the - Karabakh peace settlement possible in the case of rapprochement between Iran and Western countries?
 
Answer - There is an argument that the Minsk Group process has become so stagnant that it needs to be changed. The question is what to change. The co-Chair countries would surely resist any alteration in their status – but could there perhaps be a fourth co-Chair, maybe drawn on a rotating basis from the other permanent members of the Minsk Group? In a climate thirsting for change, any kind of change sounds appealing. But the Karabakh peace process is already crowded, and I personally would rather see the change coming from the conflict parties. I'd rather see more Armenian-Azerbaijani interaction, less Minsk Group interaction. Could the range of official interlocutors be extended beyond presidents and foreign ministers, for example? Could a new track be opened between Armenian and Azerbaijani presidential envoys? Or between the Ministers of Defence? I think this kind of innovation could bring more dividends than yet another international seat at the table. Furthermore, the risks for any new international participants in the process would also be significant. As you know Iran led the first international mediation effort after the collapse of the Soviet Union, which ended unfortunately for Iranian diplomacy and for Levon Ter-Petrosian, who was in Tehran in May 1992 negotiating a ceasefire with Yaqub Mamedov when the Armenian operation against Shusha /i took place. In the light of that experience, I would also expect Tehran to be cautious about getting involved. 
 
- How realistic is it to expect positive results in the Karabakh settlement now? Various international organizations constantly announce of the aggravating authoritarianism in Azerbaijan. Is it possible that in such circumstances the official Baku will manifest a political will to reach an agreement?
 
Answer - Yes, the deterioration in state-society relations in Azerbaijan has been the focus of international attention and there has been a real and significant change over the last 12 months, the full implications of which we are far from understanding. In this context there are ever fewer interlocutors in Azerbaijan outside of the state with whom to engage on peace and conflict transformation issues. The capacity of the Azerbaijani state to make peace, to make credible commitments in this direction, is also unfortunately weakened. But I think that the issue of governance needs to be seen more broadly as well. The last 20 years have seen a progressive dilution and weakening of the democratic impulses across all of the societies involved in this conflict. And the conflict itself has played a key role in this process: it provides the ultimate reason, with which no one can argue, as to why change and reform cannot happen. It justifies the militarization of state budgets, stability in elites and the absence of development. This is ironic, because of course the Karabakh movement was originally precisely about change and reform.   
 
- Today, issues such as strengthening the ceasefire, the exclusion of local conflicts and trust building are gaining improtance on the agenda of the settlement. Do you think the parties have any desire and will to cooperate on these issues? If not, how do you think this can be explained?
 
Answer - Unfortunately I think there is very little will to strengthen any kind of confidence building measures along the Line of Contact. The official Azerbaijani logic here is reluctance to embed a division line which sees parts of de jure Azerbaijani territory under foreign occupation. This is to some extent understandable – Azerbaijan wants to avoid the normalization of a situation it finds intolerable. If the return of the occupied territories around the former NKAO seemed a more realistic prospect, I am sure that the incentive to keep the LOC unstable would reduce. Unfortunately, LOC insecurity only strengthens the perception on the Armenian side(s) that the adjacent territories must be held onto at any cost. It also seems clear that constant bad news coming from the Line of Contact has important shaping effects on internal politics across the conflict. Yet in the absence of interest at the national level, confidence building is still possible at other, local levels. I'd like to highlight the work being done by local communities to document ceasefire violations affecting civilians and their property along the de jure Armenian-Azerbaijani border in the Tovuz/Tavush areas, supported by UK-based NGO Saferworld. This initiative has shown that some kind of confidence building can still proceed at local levels when the bigger political picture is in total deadlock. 
 
Anahit Danielyan, www.karabakh-open.info
 
- Mr. Broerc, how can the process of the Karabakh conflict settlement impact on the current situation in Azerbaijan, associated with severe human rights violations, arrests and violence against journalists and public figures?
 
Answer - Yes, the current focus of international attention is very much on the civil society crackdown in Azerbaijan. But I would like to complicate this picture a little bit, by focusing on different types of opposition relevant to Azerbaijan today. First there is the oppositional political and civil society – political parties, oppositional media and civil groups – who work within a constitutional framework focused on elections, basic freedoms and formal structures. Second, there is a related kind of «dissident resistance», also appealing to international human rights standards but waged at a more individual level. Thirdly, there are oppositional groups in exile, which continue to oppose the Aliyev government from abroad and on constitutional and human rights issues; the Meydan TV group based in Europe is an example. Fourthly, there are spontaneous, unstructured expressions of resistance such as the street protests that took place in Ismayilli in January 2013. This is a less structured form of protest that perhaps highlights local misgovernance and may not be necessarily anti-government as such. Fifth, there is the radicalized Islamic resistance that is expressed by the small yet still notable number of young Azerbaijani men going to fight in the North Caucasus, Afghanistan and Syria. The impact of such fighters returning to Azerbaijan, although arguable, is a further factor here. Sixth and finally, there is a specific, highly symbolic form of individual resistance expressed in self-immolations, often in front of government buildings, of which there have been some half-a-dozen over the last two years. 
 
In listing all these forms of resistance I am not suggesting that they are unique to Azerbaijan. Rather my point is that it is the liberal-constitutional end of this spectrum, acting within the legal framework of the state, that the Azerbaijani government has seen as the most immediate threat. The shut-down of independent civil society carries two main risks, however, which bring us back to the Karabakh conflict. First, there are very few independent societal actors in Azerbaijan who can be accepted as legitimate interlocutors for dialogue by their Armenian counterparts. A wider spectrum of interactions has been narrowed down to a state-managed process, which therefore ties the peace process in an even more direct way to the identity and continuity of current state leadership. Secondly, and this remains to be seen, it raises the question of whether the closing off of liberal-constitutional forms of resistance will result in growth of other forms of resistance. Either way, the potential for the Azerbaijani state to find in its own society an ally and partner in the resolution of the Karabakh conflict remains elusive. 
 
- Do you expect a solution to the conflict in the near future, and why?
 
Answer - In 2005 I edited a publication for Conciliation Resources about the Karabakh peace process entitled «The limits of leadership», which carried a basic message that a closed, top-down structure monopolised by a narrow elite of just a few individuals cannot deliver a functional peace process. Ten years on, the situation has only grown worse, with new, additional pressures arising from the wider regional context, perceived changes in the balance of power between the parties and the imprisoning effects of reductive rhetoric. The individuals at the helm of this ship have even less reason now than they did in 2005 to open up the process. Their priority is not to solve the conflict, but to stay in power; only when solving the conflict becomes compatible with staying in power will we see a peace strategy emerging. In the meantime the status quo is an endless resource for tactical moves that postpone the need for a real strategy of resolution. In this sense, the current situation is a conflict tactician's paradise and a peace strategist's nightmare. A different kind of leadership is needed, one that draws on a solid state-society relationship and has enough legitimacy to face and explain extremely difficult choices. Unfortunately I see no prospect for this in the near future, as the rhetorical and nation-building atmosphere has developed in the opposite direction.   
 
David Stepanyan, www.arminfo.am
 
- 26 soldiers of the Armed Forces of Armenia and NKR Defense Army were killed in January-March 2015. This is more than double the number of deaths in the same period of 2014. Azerbaijani statistics does not show any toll numbers in its Armed Forces. What, in your opinion, are the reasons for this kind of activity by Baku, or Yerevan and Stepanakert, if you think the latter's approach is different?
 
Answer - The rise in intensity and variety of Line of Contact skirmishes and incidents may have various explanations. It might first be noted that there have always been ceasefire violations but they have become much more widely reported than they were. They have taken centre stage in reporting, so while I am not saying that there hasn't been an increase, there is an information tactic at work here as well as a military one. Second, LOC activity may be the necessary corollary of rearmament. In a context where intensive rearmament has taken place, some practical manifestation of the resources spent needs to be seen, in order to balance public expectations that military investment will pay off. Third, LOC activity has important shaping effects on internal politics, and it may be seen also as part of a reaction to wider regional developments in which seemingly secure governments have toppled. Casualties and heightened insecurity shift attention away from political stagnation across the conflict, governance problems and social justice issues, and have a silencing effect on any kind of opposition. 
 
There are also specific motives that may be suggested for each side. For Azerbaijan as the status quo challenger, there are the factors of frustration, change in leadership of the Ministry of Defense, and a sense that LOC incidents and the international coverage of them may alter the balance of power in the negotiations process in Azerbaijan's favor. For the Armenian side(s) as the status quo power, there are incentives to project Armenian capacity to maintain the status quo and respond to Azerbaijani probes. This drives practices of military display in the LOC area, creating situations where the risk of incidents increases, as it did in November 2013 with the Azerbaijani shoot-down of an Armenian helicopter. All sides are locked into a dynamic of reciprocal actions which is difficult to control.  
 
- In the period of 2010-2014 as compared with the period of 2005-2009, the volumes of arms imports by Azerbaijan increased by 249%. Arms imports by Armenia are only 4% of those by Azerbaijan. Could, in your opinion, such an imbalance lead to a breakdown of the status quo in the Karabakh conflict?
 
Answer – We are all being programmed to believe in the asymmetry of this conflict and what it means. I would highlight two points here. First, asymmetry has always been there in this conflict, yet the conflict outcomes have not necessarily been predictable from the asymmetry. Second, there are a number of asymmetric conflicts that are known for their longevity and intractability – despite the Real politik expectation that the bigger rival would crush the smaller one. India by any count is more powerful than Pakistan – yet Pakistan has been consistently able to challenge India and keep the Kashmir conflict live since 1947. Israel has similarly faced huge asymmetric disadvantages since its establishment in 1949. These cases raise interesting questions: how does a smaller conflict party keep going in a situation of asymmetric disadvantage? The question that today's situation around Karabakh raises is how does a supposedly weaker status quo power – Armenia – keep the status quo in place against a larger and wealthier Azerbaijan? That's a question for military strategists. I'd like to highlight a different point which is the cost of maintaining the rivalry between Armenia and Azerbaijan. There is the material cost of wasted development, of course, but beyond that the cost of securitised politics, ideologised foreign policies and and compromised sovereignty. Although Azerbaijan has been to an extent shielded from this cost by its energy wealth, the more embedded the Armenian-Azerbaijani rivalry becomes, the more insignificant, peripheral and vulnerable to external manipulation both countries become. 
 
- 85% of Azerbaijan's arms imports are from Russia that has already supplied Baku with weapons of 4 – 5 billion dollars. At the same time, Moscow supplies arms to the Armenian parties of the Karabakh conflict. Russian experts link the "Arms policy" led by Moscow to the specific features of contemporary global politics, primarily the one led by the US. What do you think the real causes for this are?
 
Answer - Can an arms sales policy be relativized and geopoliticised like that? This is merely diversion – American arms policy has got nothing to do with Russia's supposed «balancing act» between Armenia and Azerbaijan. I would instead highlight two other points. First, surely there are simple market forces at work here: Russia has arms for sale, Azerbaijan has money for arms. Secondly, for as long as neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan cross Moscow's ideological red lines – integration with Euro-Atlantic structures – Russia remains a rational actor. From the perspective of Russia's interests, it is rational to: 1) retain strategic influence over Armenia and Azerbaijan, which the arms race between the two countries does; 2) benefit commercially from the capacity of either party to purchase weapons; 3) benefit symbolically from simultaneously playing the role of mediator on the world stage. From Russia's perspective this is win-win-win, and in this sense I think the Karabakh conflict works effectively to keep Armenia and Azerbaijan under the control of their former metropole.    
 
Artak Barseghyan, Public Radio of Armenia, www.armradio.am
 
- Mr. Laurence, hw do you evaluate the prospects of the resolution of the Karabakh conflict in the conditions of the bellicose rhetoric flared up by Azerbaijan?
 
Answer - Yes there has been an increase in militant rhetoric but I don't think Azerbaijan can be so neatly blamed in this regard. If militant rhetoric is rhetoric that threatens or affirms the use of force, we hear plenty of such rhetoric on the Armenian side(s) too. Every reference to the territories surrounding the former NKAO as «liberated» is also an affirmation and legitimation of the use of force. There is a public outcry that meets statements by Armenian leaders that these territories are not part of Armenian territorial claims. This is a problem for the future, as and when the time comes for Armenians and Azerbaijanis to agree their de jure borders. 
 
Leaving that aside, I would rather put the militant rhetoric issue in context.
In 2005 I edited a publication for Conciliation Resources about the Karabakh peace process entitled «The limits of leadership», which carried a basic message that a closed, top-down structure monopolised by a narrow elite of just a few individuals cannot deliver a functional peace process. Since 2005 the situation has only grown worse, with new, additional pressures arising from the wider regional context, perceived changes in the balance of power between the parties and the imprisoning effects of reductive rhetoric. The individuals at the helm of this ship have even less reason now than they did in 2005 to open up the process. Their priority is not to solve the conflict, but to stay in power; only when solving the conflict becomes compatible with staying in power will we see a peace strategy emerging. In the meantime the status quo is an endless resource for tactical moves that postpone the need for a real strategy of resolution. In this sense, the current situation is a conflict tactician's paradise and a peace strategist's nightmare. A different kind of leadership is needed, one that draws on a solid state-society relationship and has enough legitimacy to face and explain extremely difficult choices. Unfortunately I see no prospect for this in the near future, as the rhetorical and nation-building atmosphere has developed in the opposite direction.
 
- As you know, the UK also has interests in the South Caucasus region in the person of British Petroleum, as present in the oil market of Azerbaijan. How crucial is the role of the "black gold" in the peaceful settlement of the Karabakh problem?
 
Answer - First of all, Britain has no significant role in the Karabakh peace process, not being a permanent member of the Minsk Group. Britain's main contribution to the peace process has been through the support of civil society initiatives working towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict, which it has done consistently since 2003. But the «oil factor» of course has played a huge and ambiguous role. I would split it into two factors: the importance of oil for Azerbaijani state building, and its importance as a factor shaping attitudes among different actors to a resumption of large-scale hostilities. Oil was a critical state building tool in the mid-1990s around which to rebuild the shattered Azerbaijani state. The «contract of the century» internationalized the idea and the legitimacy of Azerbaijani statehood at a critical moment. Since then oil revenues have allowed the consolidation of the incumbent elite while allowing rearmament and some development, giving Azerbaijan a new sense of confidence. In this sense oil might be seen as a key factor driving Azerbaijan's refusal to accept the status quo. But while the oil industry allowed for an internationalized affirmation of Azerbaijani statehood in the 1990s, since then it also means an internationalized consensus on stability and reluctance to see the oil industry threatened by renewed hostilities. In this sense, then, oil is an integral element to the status quo, disincentivizing a new war. But overall, I would underline that oil is not the main issue, which is about territory and security. Oil will eventually disappear, but the Karabakh conflict will remain.  
 
- How probable do you think the appearance of new proposals onto the table of negotiations in the near future is, taking into consideration the rapid geopolitical processes in the world and in the region?
 
Answer - I don't expect any new proposals. I think it's often forgotten or inadequately acknowledged just how productive the Minsk process has been in terms of peace proposals or plans. There have been no less than five in 20 years, which is a lot more than we have seen in the case of Georgia's conflicts, for example. Five peace proposals have covered a lot of different ideas and approaches. But it's limited kind of productivity of course: there are only so many combinations of the same basic elements. Those elements are all there in the Madrid Principles and this is no doubt one reason why they have been on the table for so long. The parties basically agree on the principles, not because they like them, not because they are brilliant ideas but because conceptually there's nowhere else to go. For this reason I expect the Madrid Principles to be with us for a good deal longer. I think it needs to be acknowledged that the Madrid Principles have an especially negative image in NK, which is a product of NK's long-term exclusion from negotiations. So rather than new concepts, I think it is up to the conflict parties to agree on the necessary innovations in process, format and surrounding political environment – the things they can change – in order to take this process forward. 
 
Araks Martirosyan, www.168.am 
 
- Since last summer, in parallel with the Ukrainian crisis the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has entered a much more dangerous phase than we have seen over the past two decades. What factors do you think led to an unprecedented increase in tension in the conflict zone?
 
Answer - The rise in intensity and variety of Line of Contact skirmishes and incidents may have various explanations. It might first be noted that there have always been ceasefire violations but they have become much more widely reported than they were. They have taken centre stage in reporting, so while I am not saying that there hasn't been an increase, there is an information tactic at work here as well as a military one. Second, LOC activity may be the necessary corollary of rearmament. In a context where intensive rearmament has taken place, some practical manifestation of the resources spent needs to be seen, in order to balance public expectations that military investment will pay off. Third, LOC activity has important shaping effects on internal politics, and it may be seen also as part of a reaction to wider regional developments in which seemingly secure governments have toppled. Casualties and heightened insecurity shift attention away from political stagnation across the conflict, governance problems and social justice issues, and have a silencing effect on any kind of opposition. 
 
There are also specific motives that may be suggested for each side. For Azerbaijan as the status quo challenger, there are the factors of frustration, change in leadership of the Ministry of Defense, and a sense that LOC incidents and the international coverage of them may alter the balance of power in the negotiations in Azerbaijan's favor. For the Armenian side(s) as the status quo power, there are incentives to project capacity to maintain the status quo and respond to Azerbaijani probes. This drives practices of military display in the LOC area, creating situations where the risk of incidents increases, as it did in November 2013 with the Azerbaijani shoot-down of an Armenian helicopter. All sides are locked into a dynamic of reciprocal actions which is difficult to control.
 
- There is also the factor of Russia, which, according to the claims of some experts, is destabilizing, as supplying weapons to the parties of the conflict Russia directly promotes the use of these weapons in the conflict zone not only for retraining partied within its influence, but also for "punishing" the West. At the same time, Russia is strengthening its positions in Abkhazia and South Ossetia by signing various integration agreements. How, in your opinion, should the West react to these destabilizing steps of Russia in the region? How should the threat be neutralized?
 
Answer - I think there are two questions here. The first is whether a new European security architecture is needed in order to update and replace the Helsinki Final Act. The second is whether the Western powers believe that such a new security framework can be negotiated with President Vladimir Putin’s Russia. It seems to me that within the Western powers there is no consensus on the first question, and more of a consensus on a negative answer to the second one, though not completely. In the absence of consensus there is a revival of Cold War ideologies and stereotypes, and failures to acknowledge the destabilizing actions taken on all sides and the new realities they have created. 
 
With regard to the de facto entities in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria and Nagorno Karabakh, Western powers should remember that many people in these entities do not want to be isolated and cut off from the West. We should keep engaging with and talking to the societies in these entities as much as we can. Similarly, I believe it would be a grave error to “punish” Armenia for its Eurasian Union accession by cutting aid or reducing engagement. 
 
Mariam Grigoryan, www.1in.am 
 
- Azerbaijan has always expressed its dissatisfaction with the current composition of the OSCE Minsk Group and calls its composition pro-Armenian, seeking to change it. I wonder how viable a structure the MG is today, and whether Azerbaijan will manage achieve changes in the composition, for example, replacing France by Germany? 
 
Answer - I think that whatever concerns there might be about pro-Armenian sentiments within co-Chair countries, I believe these are more than outweighed by the fact that the co-Chair countries represent three global powers, three members of the United Nations Security Council and each of them brings something different and vital to the process. However, there is an argument that the Minsk Group process has become so stagnant that it needs to be changed. The question is what to change. The co-Chair countries would surely resist any change in their status – but could there perhaps be a fourth co-Chair, maybe on a rotating basis from the other permanent members of the Minsk Group? In a climate thirsting for change, any kind of change sounds appealing. But the Karabakh peace process is already crowded, and I personally would rather see the change coming from the conflict parties. I'd rather see more Armenian-Azerbaijani interaction, less Minsk Group interaction. Could the range of official interlocutors be extended beyond presidents and foreign ministers, for example? Could a new track be opened between Armenian and Azerbaijani presidential envoys? Between Ministers of Defense? However unlikely such ideas might sound now, I think this kind of direction could be more productive than moving mediators around. 
 
- EU officials often make the statement that "the peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict is a priority issue for the EU." What do such statements actually mean, and what practical steps do they imply? In order to ensure its presence in the South Caucasus region, Russia seems uninterested in resolving the conflict. Why doesn’t the EU take any steps, because even in the Minsk Group it constitutes the majority?
 
Answer – The view that the European Union should do more is often expressed across the conflict. In Azerbaijan I am sometimes asked why the European Union doesn’t use negative conditionality against Armenia, to make it withdraw from occupied territories (as it has done against Russia in Ukraine). In Armenia, I am asked why the European Union does not use negative conditionality against Azerbaijan, to punish it for human rights abuses and ceasefire violations. So there is a view in the region that the EU should do something radical to transform the situation. But I think the view from Brussels is that the NK conflict is geographically distant, more or less stable in its current form and already has considerable diplomatic resources dedicated to it by the OSCE. Particularly in the current context of multiple conflicts in the immediate region that are already demanding EU resources, why should the NK conflict be prioritized? Underlying this view, I am sure, there is a belief that it is up to the conflict parties to take action to change the situation, rather than pressuring for more international intervention. If the parties aren’t willing to improve the situation, how can additional resources be justified? This is especially the case given that neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan has firm commitments to associate more closely with the EU. For these reasons I think the EU maintains its contribution to the NK peace process as supporting France’s role as co-Chair, and supporting societal level initiatives through NGOs working in the EPNK (the European Partnership for the Peaceful Settlement of the Conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh).     
 
Tatevik Ghazaryan, www.news.am
 
- Mr. Broers, don't you think that the cases of periodically breaking the ceasefire regime in the zone of the Karabakh conflict by Azerbaijan can finally lead to a full-scale war?
 
Answer - Yes, I believe this risk is real, but the question is whether escalation to a full-scale war would be deliberate or accidental. I think that we have moved to a new situation today, in which low intensity warfare along the LOC and violations along the de jure Armenia-Azerbaijan border will become a regular feature. At this moment in time I don’t think there is a rationale for a full-scale war to be a deliberate strategy of the conflict parties, but I think there is considerable reason to be concerned about an accidental escalation. The OSCE ceasefire monitoring mandate is extremely limited, consisting only of Ambassador Kasprczyk and five field assistants, who have to forewarn the parties of their movements. Contrast this with 200 ceasefire monitors and three field offices in Georgia managed by the European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM). There are no hotlines between Armenian and Azerbaijani commanders or Ministries of Defense, as there once were, and the situation on the ground is easily open to misperception, over-reaction and unintended escalation. I think it is clear that the level of risk in the LOC has outgrown the infrastructure in place to manage it. 
 
- In your opinion, do the international society, the OSCE Minsk group co-chair states, pay necessary attention and make all the needed efforts not only for the prevention of war, but also for the resolution of the conflict?
 
Answer - I think the prevention of war has become the priority, and here I think there is more that could be done. Much more robust ceasefire monitoring mechanisms and a real sense of accountability for ceasefire violations are needed. The OSCE ceasefire monitoring mandate was devised in an entirely different era, more than 20 years ago, when Armenians and Azerbaijanis were ravaged and exhausted by war, and when a peace settlement was expected to be reached quickly. The situation today is completely different, with two fully-equipped armies facing off in a tense and belligerent atmosphere. The OSCE’s monitoring mandate is in urgent need of updating, but it is difficult to do this without the consent of all conflict parties. 
In terms of attention to the resolution of the conflict, I think the Minsk Group has done everything humanly possible to offer a wide range of approaches and proposals to Presidents Levon Ter-Petrosian, Heydar Aliyev, Robert Kocharian, Ilham Aliyev and Serzh Sargsyan. There have been no less than five peace proposals in 20 years, which is a lot more than we have seen in the case of Georgia's conflicts, for example. Five peace proposals have covered a lot of different ideas and approaches. But it's a limited kind of productivity of course: there are only so many combinations of the same basic elements. Those elements are all there in the Madrid Principles and this is no doubt one reason why they have been on the table for so long. Wider international society has also supported the peaceful resolution of the conflict through supporting dialogue between societies. So I don't think international society can do more. It's up to the conflict parties to change the dynamic. 
 
Tatev Harutyunyan, www.aravot.am 
 
- While the archives of the UK contain a lot of facts that reveal the crimes committed under the veil of the First World War, but the UK did not recognize the Armenian Genocide, and many blame it for being a silent witness. What is the reason for such a policy, and is it possible that after the statements made by the Pope and the decision of the European Council, the UK will review its position on this issue?
 
Answer - Of course I cannot speak for the British government, its policy or its priorities. Genocide recognition has not been a prominent issue domestically in Britain in recent years, although public interest and awareness has grown considerably in the run up to the centennial. It’s clear that British relationships elsewhere in the Caucasus and the wider region generate problems conflicting with a policy of recognition. But I would also ask what is the policy value to Armenia of genocide recognition? The US does not recognize the Armenian Genocide (even if numerous individual US states have done so) but has a good relationship with Armenia and has provided considerable aid, technical support and knowhow to the country. Russia recognizes the Armenian Genocide, but has by all accounts a complicated relationship with Armenia that is a source of concern to many Armenians. Is genocide recognition the ultimate criterion by which Armenia should assess its friends and foes? What matters here is not British recognition, but Turkish recognition. The path to that goal, it seems to me, is through patient and admittedly long-term work with Turkish society. Recognition will become possible when Turkish society demands it. While international encouragement is needed, too much pressure gives Turkish policy makers the excuse that genocide recognition is yet another assault on Turkey by the great powers. Beyond this I would say that there is a tradition of British scholarship documenting the process and politics of the annihilation of the Ottoman Armenians. Professor Donald Bloxham of the University of Edinburgh is one of the world’s leading scholars of genocide and has written extensively on the Armenian Genocide. Dr Joanne Laycock of Sheffield Hallam University is also a pioneer of Armenian Studies in the UK, and the Armenian Genocide is amply covered in her course. At the level of scholarship the Armenian Genocide is widely accepted in Britain as a historical fact.  
 
- The report on Nagorno-Karabakh is being prepared in PACE. Doesn’t this mean that in this self-contradictory manner, PACE intervenes in the OSCE Minsk Group format?
 
Answer - As both Armenia and Azerbaijan are part of the Council of Europe, I don’t see a contradiction here. 

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