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    Unfreezing the frozen conflicts: Is Nagorno-Karabakh next?

    by Irem Koker
    01 Ekim 2008 - 10:36Son Güncelleme : 01 Ekim 2008 - 10:36

    The developments of the summer of 2008 in Caucasus are likely to open the Pandora's box and to have an impact on the frozen conflicts that are the legacy of the Soviet Union.

    Russia's recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two breakaway regions of Georgia, as independent states is sure to have ripple effects on other conflicts -- Moldova's Transdniester and Nagorno-Karabakh, a region within Azerbaijan but invaded by Armenia.

    The disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory differs from the other frozen conflicts.

    Unlike South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Transdniester, the population of Nagorno-Karabakh does not hold Russian passports and does not seek extensive Russian patronage.

    Rather, its goal is outright independence, or barring that, reintegration with Armenia.

    Still the road to resolve this conflict goes through Moscow as well.

    The conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia began in 1988 due to Armenian territorial claims against Azerbaijan.

    Since 1992, Armenian Armed Forces have occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and its seven surrounding districts.

    INTENSIFIED DIPLOMACY
    The efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh problem seem to be intensified after Georgia-Russia conflict as the situation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia increased fears of a renewed violence and escalation of tension.

    Turkey, who does not have any diplomatic ties with Armenia, had proposed the formation of a Caucasian platform, while its president paid a landmark visit Yerevan in early September.

    During the United Nations summit in New York last week a couple of multi-sided meetings held on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

    Turkish foreign minister brought his counterparts from Azerbaijan and Armenia together, while Minsk Group also gathered to work on a meeting of two disputed countries' leaders.

    A breakthrough in solving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict would also contribute to the warmer atmosphere between Turkey and Armenia, as well as help the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between two neighbors.

    MEDIATING EFFORTS
    Some suggest Turkey could act like a mediator between Armenia and Azerbaijan as the relations between the U.S. and Russia, co-chairs the Minsk Group with France, sour after the Georgia issue.

    In 1994, Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a ceasefire agreement at which time the active hostilities ended. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group are currently holding peaceful negotiations.

    Azerbaijan, on the other hand, signaled it want Turkey as the co-chairman of the Minsk Group.

    Both of these suggestions, however, is unlikely given the fact Armenia's unwillingness to give Turkey, who has historic and cultural ties with Azerbaijan, such a role.

    Turkey had cut its diplomatic relations and closed the border with Armenia after it occupied Azerbaijani territory.

    Some 10 percent of the Azeri population was displaced due to a series of bloody clashes both between and within the two neighboring countries.

    RUSSIA FACTOR
    Russia helped Armenian forces in the Nagorno-Karabakh war and has a military base in Armenia.

    Russia's efforts to gain a grip on Azerbaijan's vast energy resources has also served Armenia's interests in Nagorno-Karabakh by blocking a resolution of the conflict in Azerbaijan's favor.

    And now Azerbaijan signals it could take a step towards Moscow while keeping its relations with the West on balance. Azerbaijani leadership said in New York Russia is a key player in the process.

    Meanwhile after Georgia conflict Baku had decided to divert its West energy exports routes to Russia and Iran.

    Although the process to resolve the conflict has sped up, the expectations of a rapid solution are low.

    Moreover Baku still insists the solution must based on the territorial integrity of the region, while Yerevan says the region could and should be recognized as independent state.

    This is more than enough to show that there is still a rocky road ahead.

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