Russia brokers Armenia-Azerbaijan commitment to “a political settlement,” more talks
Declaration is first major development in peace process since 1994 cease-fire
Short on substance
Published: Sunday November 02, 2008
Early international mediation efforts in the Karabakh conflict were marked by competition between Russia and the West over who was best suited to help reach an agreement and, by extension, lead a peacekeeping mission in Karabakh.
By 1994 a compromise solution was found, where Russia would co-chair the CSCE (later OSCE) Minsk Group, with European countries rotating as the other co-chair every year.
In early 1997, Russia agreed to a further compromise, establishing a permanent troika of France, Russia, and the United States. A June 23, 1997, declaration by Presidents Jacques Chirac, Boris Yeltsin, and Bill Clinton in Denver (during a G8 Economic Summit) gave high-level political support to the format that continues to this day.
After the failure of the three troika proposals in 1997-98 to achieve a breakthrough, the United States took the initiative in the mediation process, brokering a direct meeting between Presidents Heydar Aliyev and Robert Kocharian in April 1999 during the NATO Summit in Washington. That effort culminated in the near-agreement at Key West, Florida, in April 2001.
Following the U.S. attempts, it was Mr. Chirac's turn to hold Armenia-Azerbaijan summits. But a high-level meeting between Presidents Kocharian and Ilham Aliyev at Rambouillet in February 2006 and other France-led efforts also failed to produce a breakthrough.
Significantly, neither U.S. nor French efforts produced any joint declarations, even of the watered-down kind made at the Russian president's Meiendorf castle.
At this time, the Karabakh stand-off offers no attractive solutions to either Armenia or Azerbaijan. The most recent effort by Russia is unlikely to contribute to an actual settlement, since such settlement presents both the sides and mediators with more problems than the current status quo.
The peace process serves as a kind of a pressure release valve in the uneasy and dangerous stand-off over Karabakh. The Moscow declaration can provide this process with a fresh lease on life, making the existing relative peace just a little more durable.