Staunton, May 12 – Twenty years ago today, the Bishkek Protocol went into effect and established a ceasefire between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces and led to the formation of the OSCE Minsk Group that has monitored the ceasefire and sought to promote a resolution of the conflict.
On this occasion, the co-chairs of the Minsk Group issued a joint declaration noting the continuing importance of the ceasefire and the importance of continuing negotiations toward a settlement (vestikavkaza.ru/news/Minskaya-gruppa-podvela-itogi-20-godam-mirnogo-uregulirovaniya-nagorno-karabakhskogo-konflikta.html).
And “Vestnik Kavkaza” interviewed Azerbaijani, Armenian and Russian experts on where things stand now and where they may be heading in the coming months. (vestikavkaza.ru/news/Dvadtsat-let-prekrashcheniya-ognya-itogi-i-perspektivy.html).
Fikret Sadykhov of Baku’s Western University said that when the ceasefire was agreed to, the situation in Azerbaijan was one of “internal chaos and intra-political struggle. A breathing space was of course necessary and it became possible thanks to the coming to power of Heydar Aliyev.”
But 20 years later, we of course cannot be satisfied by the fact that many hopes for further resolution [of the conflict] have not been justified either by the work of the Minsk Group, by moves toward a constructive position by Armenia or by the fulfillment of the resolutions of the UN Security Council,” he said.
“In essence,” Sadykhov continued, “we have been witnesses of the most varied declarations about the recognition of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and about the need for conducting peace talks and a peaceful resolution of the problem, but all the same they have not promoted the resolution of the conflict at all.”
It is better for everyone to make such statements than not to do so, the Baku professor said, “but practical steps and concrete results ought to follow them.” That has not been the case but would be if “the leading states exerted the necessary influence on that side which is not fulfilling the norms of international law and thus resolve on the basis of these norms the drawn out conflict.”
Sergey Minasyan, the deputy director of the Caucasus Institute, said that what has occurred during the last 20 years has been important because it has preserved a ceasefire which might otherwise have broken down and promoted conversations even though those had not led to a breakthrough. He suggested that more of the same is likely.
Asim Mollazade, a member of Azerbaijan’s parliament, said that in his view, there had only been “an imitation” of peacemaking. The ceasefire and the resulting end of bloodshed were “positive” steps, but the preservation of the status quo since that time has left Armenia in possession of a large part of Azerbaijani territory.
“Today,” the Milli Mejlis deputy said, “both the European Union and the United States are imposing various sanctions on Russia in connection with the situation in Ukraine. However, before Ukraine and even before Georgia and Moldova was the case of Karabakh and Azerbaijani territories.”
“Why has the aggressor country in this case not experienced any sanctions, any threats, or any serious international condemnation,” Mollazade asked rhetorically, and why is it “thus able to continue the status quo of 1994?”
Aleksandr Makarov, the director of the Armenian branch of the Institute of the CIS Countries, said that a ceasefire is better than no ceasefiire but that “daily we hear about violations of this regime,” a situation that means that “after 20 years,” the countries involved are still in a state of “’neither war nor peace’” and of “stable instability.”
And he held out little hope for those like some of the Minsk Group co-chairs who believe that forward progress will be possible if the issue of Karabakh is separated from the issue of the other parts of occupied Azerbaijan. That is unacceptable “at a minimum for the Karabakh side,” Makarov said.
What is needed, Makarov suggested is “political will” from both Azerbaijan and Armenia.