by Ashot Safaryan
US Co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group James Warlick made a speech on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on Wednesday. He said that the sides have come to a point where their positions on the way forward are not that far apart. "They have almost reached agreement on several occasions – most recently in 2011. And when they inevitably returned to the negotiating table after each failed round, the building blocks of the next "big idea" were similar to the last time," Warlick said.
He said that tThere is a body of principles, understandings, and documents already on the table that lay out a deal, and no one has suggested we abandon them. "The challenge is to find a way to help the sides take that last, bold step forward to bridge their remaining differences and deliver the peace and stability that their populations deserve. For two decades, however, peace has been elusive. All parties distrust each other and a generation of young people has grown up in Armenia and Azerbaijan with no first-hand experience of each other. As many have noted, older generations remember a time when Armenians and Azerbaijanis lived side-by-side and differences did not need to be resolved through the barrel of a gun. The key to any successful negotiation is for all parties to conclude that they have won something, and in the case of the Armenians and Azerbaijanis there is no question that a deal will unlock a new era of prosperity across the region. The benefits of peace far outweigh the costs of continued stalemate, and avoid the catastrophic consequences of renewed hostilities.
Armenia would immediately benefit from open borders, greater security, and new opportunities to trade, travel, and engage with all its neighbors. Azerbaijan would eliminate a key impediment to its growth as a player on the world stage, regional trade hub, and strong security partner, while giving hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons a prospect for reconciliation and return. The thousands of people living in Nagorno-Karabakh would be freed from the prison of isolation and dependence. A peace agreement, properly designed and implemented, would also eliminate the tragic, steady stream of casualties – both military and civilian – along the border and the Line of Contact. Numbers are hard to pin down, but there have already been at least a dozen killed and even more injured on the front lines this year so far. This is unacceptable. Perpetual negotiations, periodic outbreaks of violence, the isolation of Armenia and the people living in Nagorno-Karabakh, frustration in Azerbaijan and anger among its populations of IDPs – this is not a recipe for peace or stability and it is certainly not the path to prosperity. The people of the region deserve better." Warlick said.
While presenting the key settlement principles, Warlick said that at the heart of a deal are the UN Charter and relevant documents and the core principles of the Helsinki Final Act. "In particular, we focus on those principles and commitments that pertain to the non-use or threat of force, territorial integrity, and equal rights and self- determination of peoples. Building on that foundation, there are six elements that will have to be part of any peace agreement if it is to endure. These elements are:
First, in light of Nagorno-Karabakh's complex history, the sides should commit to determining its final legal status through a mutually agreed and legally binding expression of will in the future. This is not optional. Interim status will be temporary.
Second, the area within the boundaries of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region that is not controlled by Baku should be granted an interim status that, at a minimum, provides guarantees for security and self-governance.
Third, the occupied territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh should be returned to Azerbaijani control. There can be no settlement without respect for Azerbaijan's sovereignty, and the recognition that its sovereignty over these territories must be restored.
Fourth, there should be a corridor linking Armenia to Nagorno- Karabakh. It must be wide enough to provide secure passage, but it cannot encompass the whole of Lachin district.
Fifth, an enduring settlement will have to recognize the right of all IDPs and refugees to return to their former places of residence.
Sixth and finally, a settlement must include international security guarantees that would include a peacekeeping operation. There is no scenario in which peace can be assured without a well-designed peacekeeping operation that enjoys the confidence of all sides," Warlick said.
In conclusion he said that the co-chairs of the Minsk Group share a common interest in helping the sides reach a peaceful resolution. "We intend to continue working through the Minsk Group as the primary channel for resolving this conflict. Together with France, the United States and Russia share a common commitment to peace and security in Nagorno-Karabakh. The United States stands ready to help in any way we can. I would also call on the diaspora communities in the United States and around the world to speak out for peace and to help bring an end to this conflict. Of course, it is up to the governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan to take the first step. They should consider measures, even unilateral ones, that will demonstrate their stated commitment to making progress, reducing tensions, and improving the atmosphere for negotiations. They should reduce the hostile rhetoric, and prepare their populations for peace, not war," Warlick said.