Armenia and Azerbaijan: Preventing War

Tue 08 Feb 2011 09:40 GMT | 13:40 Local Time

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Non-governmental organization the International Crisis Group (ICG) has warned of the dangers of a resumption of war between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

"An arms race, escalating front-line clashes, vitriolic war rhetoric and a virtual breakdown in peace talks are increasing the chance Armenia and Azerbaijan will go back to war over Nagorno-Karabakh. Preventing this is urgent," the ICG says in the Overview to its latest policy briefing Armenia and Azerbaijan: Preventing War.

The report highlights the deteriorating situation in 2010.

"Increased military capabilities on both sides would make a new armed conflict in the South Caucasus far more deadly than the 1992-1994 one that ended with a shaky truce. Neither side would be likely to win easily or quickly. Even if neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan is planning an immediate all-out offensive, skirmishes could easily spiral out of control," the ICG says in a press release to accompany publication of the report.

“Ambiguity and lack of transparency about operations along the line of contact, arms deals and other military expenditures and even the state of the peace talks all contribute to a precarious situation”, Lawrence Sheets, Crisis Group’s Caucasus Project Director, said in the press release.

The briefing notes that the past 12 months have seen more ceasefire violations across wider areas along the contact line separating Armenian and Azerbaijani forces. At least 25 people were killed in 2010 and three soldiers have already been shot dead in 2011.

"More has to be done to change a status quo that is deeply damaging to Azerbaijan, whose territory remains occupied and which accommodates large numbers of displaced persons," the ICG press release says.


To reduce the dangers of a new war and improve the environment for conflict resolution, the ICG recommends that both Armenia and Azerbaijan formally endorse the basic principles for a conflict settlement, put forward by the OSCE Minsk Group mediators.

The basic principles for a settlement include Armenia's return of the territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijani control, an interim status for Karabakh providing guarantees of security and self-governance, and the future determination of the final legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh through a legally binding expression of will.

The ICG recommends that both countries promote public discussion on the value of an agreement, reduce belligerent rhetoric and not demand at this stage a fixed timeframe for the referendum to determine Nagorno-Karabakh’s final status.

The Overview to the 21-page ICG report sums up the other recommendations:

"The parties should undertake confidence-building measures along the front lines, including withdrawal of snipers from the line of contact (in accordance with OSCE recommendations), suspension of large-scale military exercises near the line of contact, the pullback and cessation of use of any artillery and a halt to trench advancements towards each other’s positions. Armenia should stop sending regular army conscripts to serve in Nagorno-Karabakh.

"Armenia and the de facto Nagorno-Karabakh authorities should cease supporting activities that make the status quo more intolerable for Azerbaijan and thus use of force seem a more attractive option for its leaders and public, such as settling Armenians in occupied Azerbaijani territories, renaming previously Azerbaijani majority towns and undertaking unilateral archaeological excavations.

"Both Armenia and Azerbaijan should accede to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

"The international community should step up its efforts to discourage the dangerous arms race in the region. In particular Russia, as an OSCE Minsk Group co-chair, but also others, should uphold the non-binding UN and OSCE arms embargoes on Armenia and Azerbaijan.

"The OSCE, with full support of the Minsk co-chair countries, should encourage the parties to broaden its observer mission’s mandate to authorize investigation of claimed violations and spontaneous monitoring, including with remote surveillance capabilities, and to agree to a significant increase in the number of monitors, as an interim measure until a peacekeeping force is deployed as part of the implementation of a peace agreement."




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