ICG Caucasus Project Director: The international community will not recognize any vote in Nagorno Karabakh

ICG Caucasus Project Director: The international community will not recognize any vote in Nagorno Karabakh
# 11 June 2007 12:55 (UTC +04:00)
- As a new project director, when are you planning to visit Baku? With whom are you planning to meet? Have you been dealing with the regional conflicts, including NK before?
- I am planning to visit Baku on 12-13 June. I would like to meet with governmental officials, the MFA as a priority, and a number of civil society interlocutors. Our Senior Analyst Claire Delessard was in Baku in late May and has held various meetings and traveled IDP camps. She will be accompanying me on my 12-13 June trip, too. I have been dealing with the regional conflicts now for over 8 years - most of my working experience focused on the Georgian-Abkhaz and Georgian-Ossetian conflicts. Most recently I worked with the OSCE where my portfolio focused on conflict and minority issues. I have had a brief chance to deal with issues related to Nagorno Karabakh (NK) when employed with a British NGO involved in the Consortium Initiative. I have also covered Nagorno Karabakh related issues as a journalist.
- Which reports are you planning as Caucasus project for the year of 2007? Who are your general interlocutors for the report?
- We have recently publicized a report on South Ossetia. At present, we are in the process of data collection, research and holding interviews for the next report on Nagorno Karabakh (NK). The report on NK will focus on the political process and will try to detail what has changed since our last report nearly two years ago. It will also cover evolving realities in both Azerbaijan and Armenia. In the case of Azerbaijan, we would specifically like to assess the impact of oil revenues on political processes in the country. Crisis Group’s energy consultant is involved in the report and has already visited Baku. We will be grateful to discuss these issues with governmental interlocutors, mainly from the MFA and other ministries dealing with topical issues relevant for the peace process. We will be also seeking to meet with analysts, experts on related issues, civil society activists and of course representatives of the internally displaced community of Karabakh.
- You have been working on Georgia’s conflicts, do you see any resemblances and differences among them? How safe do you think the Caucasus is considering these existing conflicts in the region?
- The existence of the three unresolved protracted conflicts in the South Caucasus does have a strong impact on the region’s overall stability. Many say the conflicts have not been frozen, it is the peace processes that are frozen -- but their existence adversely affects the overall climate in the South Caucasus, introduces elements of instability and unpredictability.
The security situation in the zones of conflict has for the most part been stable, if often tense and volatile. Larger scale violence, like the regrettable summer 2004 confrontation in South Ossetia, have fortunately been rare. But incidents frequently occur in all three zones of conflict, including cases that result in casualties, and this is worrying. As long as these conflicts remain unresolved, the risk of their flaring up is there, especially given the high levels of militarization in the three countries and the three conflict regions. The conflicts also negatively affect the general climate for investment opportunities, restrict trade and transport links, and provide opportunities for uncontrolled businesses operating outside governmental jurisdiction thereby undermining the rule of law and providing a fertile terrain for corruption and criminality. Last but by no means least, aside from discussing the right to return, population movements and internal displacement caused by the conflicts continue to tax the countries’ budgets in the social sphere, and integration policies present a huge set of challenges. The conflicts do have many similarities in the way in which they damage the prospects for the region and the consequences for ordinary people. However it is important to recognize that the conflicts evolved in different ways and all will require solutions that address their specific contexts.
- Do you think the NK presidential elections due 19 July will hamper the peace talks? Will international community recognize that vote?
- The international community has been consistent in not recognizing any vote in any of the three conflict regions in the South Caucasus. Obviously, NK remains an internationally unrecognized area and the vote there will be treated accordingly. Given that the de facto leadership of NK does not participate in the negotiation process the election will not have a direct impact.
I also think that the peace process could benefit from the Azerbaijani side directly dealing with Armenian Karabakhis, including the de facto leadership. Direct contacts between Azeri and Armenian Karabakhis could help foster confidence between the societies. Of course, it is crucial to find a sensitive and mutually acceptable framework that would allow this to happen. It seems also that it would be useful for the Azeri side to further the involvement of Azeri Karabakhis in decision making processes and public and political participation in Azerbaijan. /APA/
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