ArmInfo’s interview with AFPC (American Foreign Policy Council) Senior Advisor E. Wayne Merry
by David Stepanyan
As a man who is well informed of the Karabakh peace process, could you assess its perspective given the latest processes and global changes?
It seems to me that over the last decades the South Caucasus has generally lost many opportunities. This happens as Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan wrongly think that time works for them. Actually, the latest developments in Ukraine have once again demonstrated it. Meanwhile, the actual refusal of the conflicting parties to support the efforts of the mediators to find a solution to the
Karabakh conflict has affected them, first of all. I have to reiterate that it is the parties to the conflict that are able to achieve a real agreement on the peaceful resolution of the Karabakh conflict. In your region they think for some unknown reason that the Caucasus is the hub of the universe and nearly all the interests of superpowers collide just there. South Caucasus is not even the periphery of the global policy; it is the periphery where the interests of global actors collide.
Generally, looking at the South Caucasus from my point of view, I see rather a sad picture amid USA's falling expectations from the region. The South Caucasus, has not become a single whole despite common regional programs. The South Caucasus countries do not develop economically and democratically. All this rests upon the regional conflicts that are not subject to settlement by the efforts of foreign mediators and are not being settled.
USA has traditionally exerted genuine efforts to resolve the Nagorno Karabakh conflict on the basis of a mutually acceptable concession. Everything is in vain. This is the reason of our disappointment, concern and even discontent. The arms race between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the frequent cross fires on the border is what arouses utmost concern and discontent.
What is today’s imperative for the parties to the conflict?
I think, the first thing one must and can do now is not to allow the conflict to spiral into armed confrontation. It must be avoided at any price. Otherwise, the price will be too high for all the parties to the conflict. In this light, it is very important for the governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan to support the efforts of international mediators by all means possible. I am sure that the failed efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group mediation mission are not personal failures of the mediators. The peace process is hopeless, as the conflicting parties are unable to conduct normal negotiations. Any mediation will be a success if the conflicting parties are ready to negotiate.
The stance of the West, Washington and your personal stance come down to the need to lift the blockade of the Armenian-Turkish border that was closed by Ankara in 1993. What makes it so much important for the West and the U.S.?
Speaking of Armenian-Turkish normalization, we mean establishment of diplomatic and economic relations, first of all, and not specifically opening of the border. Being strongly convinced that normalization of relations meets the interests of both the countries, I cannot but say that normalization is within Armenia's interests, first of all. Turkey, as you know, can do without Armenia. Meanwhile, Armenia due to its political geography, cannot overcome many restrictions without having normal relations with Turkey. Naturally, normalization of the Armenian-Turkish relations is the best vector of developments for the United States.
In Washington they are sure that the relations of Armenia and Turkey should have been normalized long ago. Yerevan made a mistake failing to take advantage of the opportunity to normalize relations with Ankara and missing the huge foreign policy advantages possible normalization would give. In this light, the initiative must come from Yerevan rather than Ankara.
Well, but actual failure of Turkish minister Davutoglu’s policy of “zero problem with neighbors” and putting the Armenian-Turkish protocols off the agenda of the Turkish parliament speaks of opposite trends…
For Turkey it is of vital importance today to have permanent and strong ties with Iran and Russia. Naturally, Turkey should have normal diplomatic and economic relations, I repeat, with
all the three countries in the South Caucasus. I think, involvement of the Caucasus countries in NATO PfP is the best instrument that helps increase the Alliance's role in the South Caucasus. Therefore,
Ankara should maintain and establish diplomatic relations with all the three countries in the region.
Are the processes in Ukraine also part of the everlasting confrontation of the West and Russia or it is a domestic political process?
I think the crisis in Ukraine is both domestic and international problem. In that country, the old domestic disputes have transformed into an international antagonism that was mainly provoked by the EU Eastern Partnership Project. I think there was no need in such global rivalry and confrontation.
All the latest processes in Ukraine have obviously demonstrated how much restricted is the political flexibility of the South Caucasus countries and their opportunities to maneuver, as well as how much the region depends on the processes in other regions. The situation in Ukraine is a serious alarm that there is need to seriously revise the political nucleus of all the South Caucasus countries.
Russia has recognized Crimea’s independence on the basis of the international principle of the peoples’ right to self-determination. Will that principle - leaving aside Crimea’s joining Russia - work against Russia in future like it happened in mid-90s given its federal structure?
Many of the huge number of the principles of the international relations stipulated by the UN documents contradict to each other. In this light, every time when the principle of the peoples’ right to self-determination is applied, it is necessary to study the given principle depending on the peculiarities of every particular case. I think it is impossible to compare Crimea with the Balkans or Bosnia. Neither it can be compared with the Kurile Islands, Kaliningrad region. I am sure that every case needs a special approach.