Conflictologist on nagorno-karabakh: “many are tired of war”.

Georgian expert Paata Zakareishvili sees recent fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia as a new level of escalation

Funeral service for a killed general last Wednesday in Baku Photo: reuters

site: Mr. Zakareishvili, since several days there have been renewed skirmishes between the Azerbaijani and Armenian armies have been have flared up – the the heaviest since 2016. But they are not taking place as usual near in the vicinity the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone, but rather directly on the border between the the two countries. Are we dealing with a newn stage of military confrontation?

Paata ZakareishviliWhat has happened now on the northern border of Armenia’s Tavush region is indeed beyond what we have seen so far. This is because the republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan border on each other here, two sovereign states. Insofar as the escalation happens directly on the border with Armenia and villages in Armenia are shelled, Russia could intervene directly militarily. Both states are members of a military alliance (the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), editor’s note).

Do you think this scenario is real at the moment?

Rather not. Because Russia does not want to lose Azerbaijan as a partner. Moreover, Turkey is increasingly critical of Russia’s position of power in the South Caucasus. In other words, not only Russia but also Turkey is trying to strengthen its position in the region as a result of the escalations.

To what do you attribute this?

Moscow is dominating as a mediator between the conflict parties. But Turkey is trying to interfere more and more. Until now, Ankara’s support has been limited to political declarations of intent to Azerbaijan. But now the Turkish government is showing its willingness to provide military support to Azerbaijan in the war against Armenia. In this way, Ankara is positioning itself not only against Yerevan, but also against Moscow.

Where is there Western policy? For example France and the USA, which acted as mediators in the Minsk OSCE group as mediators in a in a conflict resolution to help resolve the conflict?

The OSCE Minsk Group, which includes the U.S., France, and Russia, has been trying to mediate in the conflict since 1992. In this body, France represents both its interests and those of the EU. But the importance of the European factor has been diminishing. From the European side, it is not the wisest decision to leave the resolution of this conflict to Russia and Turkey. Even more so because Brussels is also committed to the South Caucasus within the framework of the EU’s Neighborhood Policy.

62, works as a conflictologist in the Georgian capital Tbilisi. He mainly deals with conflicts in the post-Soviet space. From 2012 to 2016, he was Georgia’s minister of reconciliation and civil equality.

You are traveling in Armenia as well as in Azerbaijan. Whichn Impressionuck do you have of the mood in the two countries?

In both Azerbaijan and Armenia, the population is tired of war. Propagandistic holdout slogans such as "One people, one army" disappeared in Armenia after the 2018 Velvet Revolution. When Nikol Pashinyan came to power as prime minister, a peaceful solution for Karabakh was also part of his program. After all, the weapons then remained silent for a long time. But a further escalation could call Pashinjan’s policy into question. In Azerbaijan, too, people are fed up with war.

Really? At protests in Baku, thousands thousands have called for military action to conquer Nagorno-Karabakh.

The population in Azerbaijan is easy to mobilize, especially many Azerbaijani refugees (people who had to flee to Azerbaijan because of the 1992 – 1994 Karabakh war, ed.) demand that the government take tougher action against Armenia. They use every opportunity to do so. Although some tried to enter the parliament building, the demonstrations still did not turn into an anti-government protest.

Perhaps because the police brutally intervened the protests with water cannons andd batons atbroken up. President Ilham Alijew by the way accused his foreign minister of irresponsibility and then dismissed him.

Aliyev has to prove to his people that he is working to take back Karabakh. To calm the protesters, he looks for culprits and promises to punish them. This time it’s the diplomats’ turn. Also, personnel changes in the ministry would only address their own society.

In Armenia, the majority thinks the war has already been won. That is why it wants to maintain the status quo. In Azerbaijan, the opposite is true. That is why Baku will now sound the alarm even more, so that the world will not forget the Karabakh conflict.

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