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Review & Outlook - 03/01/2006

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Foreign Peacekeepers in Nagorno Karabakh:
	another source for stability or cause for concern?
Armenian News Network / Groong
March 1, 2006

By Grigor Hakobyan


As the negotiations for the resolution of the Armenian-Azeri conflict
over Nagorno Karabakh continue, a series of public statements were
recently made by the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan,
Chairman of OSCE Minsk Group Karel De Gucht and Project Director of
International Crisis Group Sabine Frezier[1] that indicated that the
possibility of deploying foreign peace keepers in the conflict zone is
currently being discussed. Although the details of such a plan are not
very well known, an approximate idea about which countries may
comprise the peacekeeping contingent has become known. U.S. Ambassador
to Armenia John Evans has recently mentioned that would be peace
keepers should not be comprised of neighboring states or co-chairs of
the OSCE Minsk Group.[2]

Representatives of Ukraine and Turkey were among the first to announce
their willingness to participate in a potential peace keeping mission
in Nagorno Karabakh, however, the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
has quickly rejected the Turkish offer and indicated that Turkey is
not an impartial party to be considered for involvement in such a
regional endeavor.[3] Although Ukraine was not publicly rejected by
either the Armenian or Azerbaijani sides yet, a recent statement made
by Ukrainian officials about their support for the concept of
territorial integrity[4] doesn't inspire much confidence in Ukraine's
impartiality toward the conflict and most likely will be rejected by
the Armenian side, if not by the representatives of Armenian Republic,
then by the authorities of Nagorno Karabakh.


Based on current discussions taking place both openly and behind the
scene regarding the composition of a would-be peace keeping contingent
and other details, it would be wrong to anticipate that Russia somehow
will agree to abstain from taking part in it. If such a mission were
to takes place, it is most likely that military personnel from the
United States and Russia would inevitably become part of the peace
keeping contingent. Deployment of US peace keepers in the conflict
zone will certainly raise eyebrows in Tehran and cause further
complications in the Armenian-Iranian and Azeri-Iranian relations. The
participation of European peace keepers in such a mission, although
very likely, is hardly impartial to the situation prevailing in that
region, due to the presence of large European investments in various
oil and gas projects of Azerbaijan.

However, one should ask whether the deployment of peacekeepers in this
conflict zone is really necessary. For the past 12 years since the
cease-fire was signed no major military actions have taken place in
the region. Mostly due to the balance of power that resulted after the
cease-fire and the construction of Baku-Jeyan oil pipeline that
followed. Any skirmishes that took place on the contact line between
the opposing forces were always resolved between the conflicting
parties across the front line without foreign intervention.

The competence of would be peace keepers to carry out such mission is
also a matter of question. As the fratricide in Yugoslavian civil war
of the 1990s have shown, a well armed and well equipped contingent of
armed peace keepers were not able to guarantee the safety of the
civilians that they were entrusted to protect. Furthermore, the
prolonged presence of foreign peace keepers in Kosovo and Bosnia, with
pockets full of hard currencies, have served as magnets for human
traffickers and drug dealers throughout the region, who in turn have
swarmed those areas and further exacerbated the criminal situation in
the provinces in question.

Another implication to be considered is the potential impact that may
result directly or indirectly from the presence of the international
peace keepers in the region upon the domestic situations prevailing in
Armenia and Azerbaijan. The presence of international peace keepers in
the region will most likely encourage a stronger showing of opposition
forces in the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in
Armenia and potentially result in the collapse of the Aliyev clan in
Baku. The rise of Islamic fundamentalists in Azerbaijan could be an
outcome of such a collapse.


It is hard to imagine how the deployment of international peace
keepers in the region is going to contribute towards the betterment of
the situation in the region, when Azeri threats of using force against
the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh continue unabated. The uncompromising
position undertaken by the Azeri government in the negotiation
process[5] does not allow any room for optimists around the world that
the resolution of this prolonged conflict will occur any time soon.

While the international community has applied consistent, active
pressure on Armenia to make significant, disproportional concessions
over the Nagorno Karabakh issue, Azerbaijan is acting very emboldened
by the promise of windfall profits from the start of operation of the
Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the upcoming completion of the
Baku-Erzerum gas pipe line currently in constructed. [6] Meanwhile,
the Nagorno Karabakh, which was recognized as a direct party to the
conflict in the 1994 cease-fire agreement, is kept out of the
negotiations process by the OSCE Minsk Group, thus inevitably setting
up the entire negotiation process for failure.


[1] PanArmenian.Net - 02/03/2006
[2] Noyan Tapan     - 02/03/2006
[3] Noyan Tapan     - 01/25/2006
[4] Pan-Armenian    - 02/02/2006
[5] Yerkir          - 02/03/2006
[6] ArmeniaNow      - 10/21/2005

Grigor Hakobyan is an independent political analyst residing in
Scottsdale, AZ.

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