Passivity of the co-chairs of the Minsk Group of the OSCE is not something new. For several years now they have actually failed to achieve real progress in the settlement of the conflict. With geopolitical situation in Ukraine aggravating, this aspect of the issue has gained greater urgency. In this sense, speech of the American co-chair James Warlick, delivered in the Carnegie International Endowment for Peace, on the subject of Nagorno Karabakh conflict resolution has drawn great deal of attention. There are different interpretations. Some claim that various problems of the geopolitical nature are at hand. The outcome of all this is yet unclear.
Co-Chair’s ”Vivacity”: Twitter Versus Reality
If the activity of the co-chairs in recent month were to be scrutinized American representative James Warlick would appear as most energetic. Yet, there is a little oddness. His activity is confined to Twitter. He posts an idea which later wreaks havoc. The reason is a great disparity between his words and the reality. Even those engaged with the resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict fail to understand this.
So, Mr. Warlick captured public spotlight again. This time, he made the headlines while delivering a speech at home, in the Carnegie International Endowment for Peace. Indeed, he said nothing extraordinary. He outlined 6 principles for the settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. These elements have already been highlighted during discussions in L’Aquila, Muskoka, Deville, Los Cabos and elsewhere. They concur with the Helsinki Final Act and the Madrid principles. In one word, they are very well known to those involved with the settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, and it is not a novelty for analysts and experts.
Then, why would Warlick speak of those principles again and almost present them as propositions of his own? This question fascinates the experts. Admittedly, State Department did issue a statement confirming that Warlick had laid out official Washington’s position. The co-chair had also mentioned this aspect in his remarks. However, it is clear that he has highlighted number of aspects.
It was for the first time that the U.S. co-chair clearly presented the condition of withdrawal of troops from the Armenia-occupied territories beyond the administrative borders of the Nagorno Karabakh as a must. He stated that it was only in the aftermath of that process that the interim status of Nagorno Karabakh could be determined.
We must say that the Armenians had a negative reaction to these two conditions. One Armenian media outlet even used such a radical term like ”Armenia was issued an ultimatum” (see: Акоп Бадалян. Ультиматум Арцаху / ”Lragir.am”, 12 May 2014). Some experts voiced preposterous allegations that the Americans ”divided Karabakh in two” (see: Хефферн разделил Карабах / ”Lragir.am”, 8 May 2014).
U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Heffern explicitly said status of the territories within the administrative borders of the Nagorno Karabakh and that of the occupied territories beyond it cannot be the same. Actually, Mr. Ambassador spoke half the truth because Nagorno Karabakh itself is occupied and those are the Azerbaijani lands as well. So, Armenians are not willing to accept even ”half the truth”.
It is evident in the statement by the Armenian Foreign Ministry. It bluntly accuses Azerbaijan for the lack of the settlement to the conflict. Allegedly, it was Baku that bore responsibility for the non-implementation of the decisions reached by the co-chair nations, and the reason was former’s claims against Nagorno Karabakh (see: МИД Армении прокомментировал заявление Дж.Уорлика и указал на причины, тормозящие успех в урегулировании карабахского конфликта / ”Panorama.am”, 10 May 2014).
Official Baku on the other hand, had stated that principles announced by Warlick were reflected in the Madrid principles and said it was ready to work on those (see: Глава МИД АР: Шесть элементов Уорлика лежат в основе Мадридских принципов и Азербайджан готов над ними работать / ”1news.az”, 8 May 2014). That is to say, that unlike Armenia, Azerbaijan is trying to settle the conflict within the framework of the international law and indicates that it is ready to evaluate the proposals of the American co-chair from this very aspect. In the meantime, it has to be stressed that experts are critical of Warlick’s remarks. They point to inconsistency of Mr. Warlick’s position, especially due to his previous posts on Twitter.
Regional Geopolitics: New Undertones Are Emerging?
These comparisons reveal existence of intriguing aspects. The abovementioned speech of Warlick is aimed at somewhat justifying himself. Meanwhile, by expressing position of the official Washington he once again laid out America’s approach to the problem. Apparently, America is concerned about the lack of resolution to the conflicts in the South Caucasus.
Armenians are trying to capitalize on this aspect and put U.S. and Russia face to face in the region. According to some experts the U.S. wishes to dominate the South Caucasus (see: Заявление Дж. Уорлика говорит о стремлении США к гегемонии на Южном Кавказе / Panorama.am, 10 May 2014). Others allege that Washington aims to engage Iran in this process. However, there is only one underlying reason: Armenia does not want to see a fair resolution to this conflict. It is doing its best to evade any positive propositions, accuses Azerbaijan and reprimands the big nations.
One of the most recent and telling examples was the attitude of the Armenians toward the co-chairs’ visit to the occupied Azerbaijani territories. The formers were confronted with a demonstration staged by the separatists in Lachin and Kalbajar districts. A small group mainly comprised of the youth, demanded Warlick to clarify the use of the term “occupied territories” mentioned in his speech in the Carnegie (see: Уорлик: Это стало для меня сюрпризом / ”Lragir.am”, 19 May 2014).
Armenians were not fully satisfied and therefore, the co-chair faced the same question in Yerevan. Warlick once again was compelled to elucidate that if you have occupied someone else’s territories, you need to abandon them. Was it a lesson learned? Hardly!
There is no doubt that this caprice of the Armenians is a result of the policy of double standards and one-sided and ambivalent position of patrons and mediators. Mr. Warlick himself seems to be changing his position. He demonstrates utter loyalty to Armenians on Twitter and is not necessarily fair with respect to the conflict resolution. Such factors provide room for the Armenian leadership’s logic-defying actions.
That being said, one reality has to be acknowledged. Urgency of the resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict is growing. Significance of this issue needs to be reckoned with, particularity against the backdrop of aggravating geopolitical struggle between the big powers in the region. It is also thought-provoking that co-chairs from France and Russia are not that active.
On the contrary, President of France promised his country would be represented at the highest level during the centenary of the ”genocide” to be commemorated in Yerevan. This provokes certain doubts. Apparently, for Paris, claims of ostensible genocide based on imaginary estimates outweigh the Khojali genocide that happened in front of our eyes, and the massacre of the Azerbaijani population. Therefore, to what extent can we speak of the just settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict?
Moreover, Warlick’s remarks seemingly expose divergence of positions among the co-chairs. It is not clear what Russia and France have on their minds. This situation causes certain uneasiness.
One may presume that some foreign powers are not interested in the resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict and may utilize it for antagonizing the situation in the region. So, it is quite dangerous to present the situation as a U.S.-Russia standoff. If nothing, it is quite difficult to predict the course of development of the geopolitical processes in the South Caucasus.
Judging by Warlick’s speech, America is unlikely to endeavor additional efforts. In the meantime, if concrete mechanisms for liberation of the Azerbaijani lands are yet to be elaborated, it signifies gravity of the situation. Yerevan will always attempt to prolong the problem and provoke uncertainty by capitalizing on the contradictions between the big powers.
All in all, remarks by Mr. Warlick were a repetition of something everyone already knew and it is likely to remain on paper. The questions is what the motive of this speech was?