New Approaches to Settling the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict

The mountains of Nagorno-Karabakh (Flickr)

On May 26th, the IPI Vienna office organized an off-the-record meeting close to Bern, Switzerland, to discuss new approaches to resolving the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

The region of Nagorno-Karabakh was the scene of heavy fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan between 1992 and 1994. While a cease-fire was signed in 1994, over the past twenty years, tensions have persisted between the parties, particularly along the Line of Contact.

International negotiations are led by Russia, the United States, and France in their capacities as chairing countries of the Minsk Group (established in 1992) of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Basic principles for a settlement to the conflict were identified in Madrid in November 2007. They call, inter alia, for:

• return of the territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijani control;
• an interim status for Nagorno-Karabakh providing guarantees for security and self-governance;
• a corridor linking Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh;
• future determination of the final legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh through a legally binding expression of will;
• the right of all internally displaced persons and refugees to return to their former places of residence; and
• international security guarantees that would include a peacekeeping operation. Thus far, there is no agreement on these principles.

Switzerland, in its capacity as chairman of the OSCE in 2014, is supporting the co-chairs of the Minsk Group in order to give a new impetus to the settlement process. As part of its support to the Swiss chairmanship, IPI brought together civil society representatives from the region, security analysts on the Caucasus, NGOs involved in Track II diplomacy in the region, as well as members of the OSCE Secretariat and Swiss OSCE chairmanship to look at the current situation, and to discuss ways of reducing tensions. Ambassador John Maresca, former US co-chair of the Minsk Group and one of the pioneers of the Minsk process, also took part.

The main focus was on how Track II initiatives could more effectively complement the negotiation process. To that end, the co-chairmen of the Minsk process—Ambassador Igor Popov of the Russian Federation, Ambassador Jacques Faure of France, and Ambassador James Warlick of the United States of America—as well as the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office for the conflict dealt with by the Minsk Group, Andrezj Kasprzyk, took part in the latter part of the meeting, in order to be briefed on Track II initiatives and to share ideas with civil society representatives.

This was the second meeting on the South Caucasus facilitated by IPI in cooperation with the Swiss OSCE chairmanship. “This unique format enables us to bring together practitioners who do complimentary work, but seldom have the opportunity to meet,” said Ambassador Angelo Gnädinger, Special Representative of the Swiss OSCE Chairperson-in-Office for the South Caucasus.