Could There Be an International Peace Enforcement Operation?


Elkhan Nuriyev, D.Sc. (Political Science), Co-Chairperson of the Southern Caucasus Crisis Management Study Group of the Partnership for Peace Consortium of Defense Academies and Security Studies Institutes (Germany)

Kamil Salimov, D.Sc. (Law), head, Criminology and Judicial Experts Examination Department, Baku State University (Baku, Azerbaijan)

The international community, concerned by the possibility of a new turn in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, still has its attention focused on overcoming the crisis in this region. And there is sufficient justification for this concern. The OSCE Minsk Group was formed ten years ago, but negotiations on settling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict continue to languish in the doldrums. Armenia and Azerbaijan are both becoming increasingly discouraged by the lack of any real progress in resolving this question. Whereby strangely enough, the OSCE and particularly the main regional players, Russia and the U.S., which are doing all they can to push the two heads of state toward reaching a consensus, have been putting increasing pressure on the latter recently. And although after each meeting, the presidents maintain they are in favor of a peaceful settlement to the conflict, the Armenian side has yet to demonstrate any real inclination toward reaching a coordinated understanding of the problem or toward achieving its joint resolution.

In so doing, the negotiation process is stagnating because Armenia is clearly opposed to every peacekeeping initiative put forward by international organizations, which in turn are convinced of Azerbaijans constructive standpoint in support of only a peaceful settlement to the conflict. So it comes as no surprise that the mass media are justifiably casting aspersions on Armenias aggressive standpoint and comparing it unfavorably with the peaceful nature of the political statements and appeals from official Baku.

In the context of the current events, it would be naive to assume that the world community, advocating the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Azerbaijan will succeed with its calls for peace in pacifying the potential aggressor. Perhaps the only achievement in the Armenian-Azerbaijani settlement process can be considered the ceasefire agreement signed on 12 May, 1994. But this agreement, which has been in effect for almost nine years now, has several significant drawbacks, which since the very beginning of the negotiations have served to augment the differences and contradictions between the conflicting sides.1 The mutual mistrust ensuing from the historical controversies between Azerbaijan and Armenia and aroused by Armenias territorial claims on Azerbaijan has been so aggravated by the desperation and scope of the hostilities in 1991-1994 that it is extremely difficult to overcome the spirit of confrontation. The most important thing is that Azerbaijan has lost control over 20% of its territory, as a result of which approximately 1 million refugees and forced migrants have found themselves living in atrocious conditions.2

The paradox is that the tragic events in Nagorny Karabakh took place against the background of the mediating activity of the OSCE Minsk Group, to which the U.N. Security Council granted the authority to take measures aimed at restoring peace, stability, and order in the region. However, it seems to us that the co-chairs of the Minsk Group tried from the very outset to halt the conflict, but did not take realistic and efficient steps toward its ultimate settlement.

The reason for this approach was the desire of the mediating states to resolve their vital geopolitical tasks in the Southern Caucasus. Of course, the currently flaccid pace of the Armenian-Azerbaijani settlement process is entering an active phase once more, thus creating a certain stir around a new turn in the diplomatic activity of the three co-chairing states in the Minsk Group: the United States, Russia, and France. Evidence of this, according to the conflicting sides, is the conviction that the upcoming visit by the Minsk Group co-chairpersons and PACE speaker will not yield anything new. The meeting between the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents in Sadarak serves as a graphic example of this. At this meeting, official Erevan reiterated its tough stance in the Karabakh conflict, which only goes to show that a specific result cannot be achieved in the near future.3 Admittedly, at present Armenia has shifted its attention from the peacekeeping problem to preparations for the parliamentary and presidential elections in the country. It is worth noting that in this republic, crisis management has always been of immense domestic political significance and the fate of each politician, particularly the head of state, depends on the approaches to it.4 Under these conditions, an analysis of the activity of the Minsk Group does not inspire any great hope for achieving a fundamental solution to the set tasks.

But all the same, why has the Minsk Group failed to settle the conflict for more than ten years now? In order to find an answer to this question, we need to take a closer look at the situation that has developed around the negotiation process. There are many reasons for the current quagmire, but we will try to focus on the main aspects, which are particularly pertinent from the standpoint of international law. One of the main reasons is that resolution of the Karabakh conflict within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group, including the diplomatic efforts of major states, implies actions aimed at achieving negative peace: preventing, stopping, or not permitting war or hostilities in the conflict zone. But negative peace in Nagorny Karabakh is not enough. It is only an important part of a larger political process, which traditional diplomacy, including the Minsk Group, rarely promotes, which makes it difficult to achieve success. But we must not forget that there is also positive peace. Unfortunately, however, the Minsk Group is doing nothing to achieve this kind of peace.

Positive peace implies eliminating the internal and structural reasons and conditions arousing a violent conflict, toward the curtailment of which negative peace processes are aimed. In this respect, it should be stated that the Minsk Group is not an independent institution, that is, the actions of the intermediaries are sanctioned and, of course, carried out by the co-chairing states. Essentially since the day it was formed, the Minsk Group became a platform on which political games are performed which do not have any direct relation to Nagorny Karabakh, but are related more to analyzing the current geopolitical situation in the Southern Caucasus.

By participating in these negotiations, the U.S. hoped to expand the sphere of its political, economic, and, perhaps, military influence in the region, and Russia, as always, wanted to retain and strengthen its hegemony as one of the main regional players. France, on the other hand, supported by the European Union, tried to say, by its presence in the Minsk Group, that some kind of European intercession was required to resolve the Southern Caucasus main economic problems. Of course, each of these states has its own conception of the system of national priorities and interests. Consequently, it is the co-chairing states, by directly forming the Minsk Group and trying to implement their own geopolitical tasks and goals, which determine the specific political solutions to a particular question. And so the clash of strategic interests among Russia, the U.S., the European Union, and NATO (we will also add the regional confrontation between Iran and Turkey) has led to the formation of such a complicated and multifaceted situation that the negotiation process surrounding Nagorny Karabakh found itself in one great geopolitical impasse.

But it is advantageous for these states to use international organizations and European structures, in this case the Minsk Group, since such joint measures lead to a distribution of overall responsibility, and do not make one state responsible for intercession, even if this state happens to be undertaking positive and effective measures.

And once again the legitimate question arises of why traditional diplomacy in the form of the Minsk Group does not engage in positive peacekeeping activity in Nagorny Karabakh? The thing is that diplomats most frequently use negative methods of crisis management in order to reach agreements as quickly as possible and thus establish negative peace. As a result of this kind of peace strategy, negotiations on stopping wars and entering agreements are only attempts to halt or, at least, control violence already happening, which has been caused by deep-rooted problems and circumstances.

It is thought that the mediators should direct their efforts in a different vein, giving more serious attention to the internal problems causing the disputes, which ought to be settled at the initial stage. What is more, exerting timely influence on a conflict situation in different ways and using diplomatic methods prevents the development of a large-scale crisis. The Minsk Group has such tactics as creating safety valves and exposing the conflict at the early stage at its disposal, including making more efficient decisions to prevent an escalation in the military-political situation, but for some reason did not use them. In addition, the mediators, acting in the name of their states, at first strove for negative peace, thus going for a standoff, which presumes there should be a winner and a loser. And instead of trying to eliminate the contradictions between the conflicting sides, the mediating states are more frequently engaged in sorting out their own relations in the geopolitical competition for influence in the region.5

In this way, if positive peace is not reached in this complicated geopolitical situation, negative peace could easily collapse, which one way or another will lead to a renewal in the hostilities it was aimed against. This process could go on forever, which is confirmed by the current impasse around Nagorny Karabakh, where fragile negative peace has been kept up for almost nine years now. It is obvious that if the conflicting sides, which are cooperating with the international community, are unable to reach positive peace as soon as possible, the negative peace is doomed to failure.

An analysis of the activity of the OSCE Minsk Group shows that it was defined by the above approach. Frankly speaking, we have no intention of belittling the role of the mediators and reducing their efforts to naught. No one denies the fact that these states have made rather persistent attempts to resolve the conflict, but, unfortunately, the Minsk Group made a serious mistake by taking an incorrect approach to the settlement of the problem from the very beginning and trying to balance between the aggressor and the victim.

As we know from international practice, the results of crisis management largely depend on the efforts and standpoint of the mediators, on their own interests, and on the methods they use to prevent an escalation in the conflict and its extremely negative consequences. There are at least two important circumstances that the Minsk Group should have taken into account in the current situation. First, the reaction which could be aroused by unsuccessful mediation efforts both in the direct participants in the conflict, and in the main external forces showing a particular geopolitical interest in the development of the entire region. Second, the tenacious morals, mentality, and culture motivating the conduct of the people in the conflict situation, not to mention the expediency of reckoning with the realistic possibilities, the specific situation, and public opinion.

The inconsistency of the mediation mission in settling the Karabakh conflict is primarily due to the absence of a systemic approach toward crisis management and definition of the basic norms of international law, with the help of which answers could be found to several main aspects of the problem. Until now, the diplomats of the Minsk Group, who prefer to concentrate mainly on the political principles of settlement, have only occasionally hinted that the conflict also has a certain legal aspect.

In this respect, it is worth noting the opinion of Vladimir Kazimirov, who long represented Russia as a co-chairperson of the Minsk Group: For years the sides have been arguing about which of the OSCEs two principles is the most importantterritorial integrity or the right of the nation to self-determination? I think that pragmatic solutions would be more productive than fruitless framework discussions about principles. For resolution of the conflict in Karabakh will unlikely be purely juridical, rather it will be political, but with the legal aspects taken into account.6

It is obvious that while Boris Yeltsin was Russian president, official Moscow gave preference to the political, and not the legal aspects of the problem. Of course, by focusing attention on the main, political, aspect, the mediators can construe it in any way they please. In so doing, we should not forget the important fact that Armenia is Russias strategic ally in the Southern Caucasus, and allies are usually defended, even if they are absolutely wrong.7 It is thought that if the participants in the OSCE Minsk Group, particularly its co-chairs, continue to approach this problem from the standpoint reviewed above, it will be at least another ten years before an ultimate solution is reached.

We should not forget that today a fragile ceasefire agreement, but not a truce, is in effect between the sides. In other words, it is merely an agreement on observing ceasefire conditions in the conflict zone. And if we keep in mind that these conditions are frequently violated, this should be a serious warning that the OSCE Minsk Group needs to make some major adjustments in its approach to the problem. Not only the authors of this article agree with this opinion, but also Vladimir Kazimirov, who, however, has his own vision of a solution to the problem. Noting Armenias certain involvement in the conflict, he proposed balancing the concessions made by both sides, that is, moving ahead a bit at a time.8 Such are the realities, which, in all likelihood, express the official standpoint of Russia and the other co-chairs in the Minsk Group with respect to their attitude toward Azerbaijan. It is possible that the standpoint of the Minsk Group, which qualifies the conflict as the degree of equal responsibility of the conflicting sides, is aimed at deliberately removing all responsibility from Armeniaas the direct initiator of the conflictand reducing its role to one of an interested party. This is the main reason why preference was initially given to the political and not the legal aspects of the problem. Paradoxically, Armenia itself is interested in retaining this stance. Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliev also talked about this. Speaking at a meeting with journalists, he noted in particular that it is impossible to define Armenias role in the conflict. For example, when it considers it necessary, it states that the Armenians of Nagorny Karabakh are Azerbaijani citizens, who are engaged in a national liberation struggle against Azerbaijan, and it (that is, Armenia) does not have anything to do with the conflict. Then at other times, particularly in domestic political issues, Armenia acknowledges its direct participation in the conflict.9 This is a very important problem that requires special analysis, and, what is more, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry should relate to it in all seriousness, since the legal mechanism for its resolution depends in no small measure on whether the conflict is qualified as domestic or interstate.

All of this indicates that Azerbaijan itself should primarily give a political and legal qualification of the confrontation, and then, after defining its standpoint, present it on the international arena.10 The events in Nagorny Karabakh developed according to a scenario of legal chaos deliberately created by the initiators of the conflict, including the adoption of declarations and resolutions, which do not supplement, but contradict each other from the standpoint of international law.

It is extremely unfortunate that the Azerbaijani parliament has still not adopted a political decision on the conflict and, consequently, has not figured out the legal aspects of its resolution; in particular, which forces oppose the government in Nagorny Karabakh and beyond.

Here we can also talk about the problem of Nagorny Karabakh status. During the past few years, Azerbaijan has made statements on more than one occasion about granting Nagorny Karabakh a broad status. But corresponding documents have still not been drawn up or submitted for discussion. But it is high time the government got down to not only developing a concept draft on granting Nagorny Karabakh a status within the constituency of Azerbaijan, but also preparing a special national program on returning refugees and beginning economic restoration of the entire conflict zone. In so doing, we must first analyze the initial viewpoint on the legal definition of Armenias actions in Nagorny Karabakh. Throughout the entire conflict, official Baku has based its considerations on the fact that Armenia occupied part of Azerbaijani territory, and the ongoing aggression indisputably poses a serious challenge to Azerbaijans national security.

In turn, Erevan has stated unequivocally more than once its interest in the conflict, denying the fact of aggression. But it is unclear why international organizations, including the U.N. and the OSCE, as well as most states, have still not qualified Armenias actions against Azerbaijan as an act of aggression. At the same time, they recognize the territory of Nagorny Karabakh as an integral part of Azerbaijan. There is even some empathy on the part of individual states and certain circles of the international community for Armenias grief and a desire to render all kinds of support to its ideas.

Confirmation of this is the decision adopted by the French parliament (2001) on recognizing the conflict as Armenian genocide and the attempt by the Armenian lobby to submit a similar question to the U.S. and Russian legislative structures for review. In this sense, it is particularly distressing that these three states are co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. The policy of double standards in this question is one of the main reasons why official Baku cannot convince the U.N. and the international community to recognize Armenia as the aggressor. Why is this happening?

The thing is that Baku cannot prove any act of aggression on the part of official Erevan, since it is unable to present sufficient evidence on the presence of Armenias regular troops in Nagorny Karabakh and in other parts of Azerbaijan. The main reasons for this are the following: the absence of documental data on the entry of Armenias regular troops into Nagorny Karabakh between 1992 and 1993, the impossibility of organizing control, and, perhaps most significant, the denial by Armenia itself of occupation of our territory. What is more, representatives of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic officially state the absence of regular Armenian troops in this or any other part of Azerbaijan, maintaining that the army of Nagorny Karabakh is participating in the conflict.

On the other hand, our diplomats frequently mention that an act of aggression by Armenia is confirmed in four resolutions by the U.N. Security Council. However, if we take a careful look at these documents, we can see that not one of them contains such a statement. For example, in resolution No. 882 of 11 April, 1993, the U.N. expressed concern regarding the deterioration in relations between the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan and stated the intrusion of local Armenian forces into the Kelbajar District, but not of the regular troops of the Republic of Armenia. Resolution No. 853, adopted by the U.N. Security Council on 29 July 1993, again points out the need to withdraw Armenias occupation forces from the Agdam District, but does not say anything about Armenias regular troop formations. And resolution No. 874 of 14 October, 1993 once more confirms the need to liberate the occupied territory. With respect to occupation of the Zangelan District and Horadiz, including attacks on civilians, resolution No. 884 of 11 November of the same year talks about the Armenians of Nagorny Karabakh and about the need to liberate the territory.

In this way, the U.N. is maintaining that Nagorny Karabakh and other regions of our republic are occupied not by regular Armenian troops, but by armed formations of the Armenians of Karabakh, which carries significant weight in defining the mechanism of legal settlement of the conflict. By using this interpretation at all diplomatic forums and top-level summits, as well as in the mass media, Armenia is officially denying the fact of direct aggression toward sovereign Azerbaijan. Even Armenian President Robert Kocharian, when Azerbaijan and Armenia were in the process of joining the Council of Europe, repeated the words of his predecessor, ex-president L. Ter-Petrossian, stating that there were no regular Armenian troops in Azerbaijan, and again stressed that Nagorny Karabakh is Azerbaijans internal problem.

To our great distress, this standpoint finds understanding in the international community. Official Erevan does not deny the fact that Armenia has its interest in the conflict (this is also noted in the four U.N. resolutions), since the matter here concerns the ethnic minorities in Nagorny Karabakh, that is, Armenians who are Azerbaijani citizens. The international community even considers this viewpoint of the Armenian side to be objective.

Such are the current realities in the settlement of the Karabakh conflict. By distorting historical facts, and most important, using the tragic past as a basis for building present policy, Armenia, as mentioned above, has achieved recognition of Armenian genocide in several western states, and in so doing is continuing to receive psychological support and carry out its historical ambitions under the political cover of saving the Armenians of Nagorny Karabakh.

But what should Azerbaijan do? How can it resolve this situation? Just because an unwieldy number of problems has accumulated, this does not mean we should evade finding a realistic solution to them; on the contrary, we are obligated to look for a way out and make a geopolitical breakthrough in the global sense with respect to the situation that has developed in Nagorny Karabakh.11

Of course, one solution is to use force to liberate the occupied territory, and, in particular, launch a military campaign in the conflict zone. In this context, the use of force can essentially not be excluded from the arsenal of permissible methods for resolving the conflict. Its use may be justified provided that this force, including armed, is used within the framework of the law and only if peaceful methods have proven ineffective. What is more, we will note that there are different ways to use force. It could be used to restrain the leaders of separatist and terrorist groups or to establish peace corridors, or it could involve the intercession of peacekeeping forces, thus having an impact on the circumstances supporting the conflict.

It is not difficult to start a war, particularly if it is liberating in nature (after all the matter concerns restoring territorial integrity). But we need to be ready for it, as well as be ready for the peace that the two neighboring countries will sooner or later reach. The main thing, having launched a military campaign, is to be certain that we will achieve success with the minimum human losses. In this respect, not one of us should have any doubts about the combat readiness of the Azerbaijani army, since the matter concerns a significant psychological factor, the national-patriotic spirit of our nation, and, what is more, the republic has recently made certain achievements in military construction.

But this is not enough to achieve victory. A graphic example in point is an analysis of the military campaign by the Russian army in Chechnia, the administrative borders of which in the Russian Federation are controlled by the government. The launching of a military campaign in Nagorny Karabakh does not exclude the possibility of it turning into long-term warfare of position, since in all likelihood several states, including Russia, will render Armenia material-technical and other aid. Iran may also play an important role in this, which supports Armenia in every way, has a common border with it, and an uncontrolled border with the occupied territory of Nagorny Karabakh. What is more, taking Erevans word for it, the international community will define Azerbaijans actions as genocide of the Armenian minority, this time the Azerbaijani citizens in Nagorny Karabakh.

It is not difficult to surmise how major western countries, international and European structures, and primarily our northern neighbor will behave in this development of events. Russia may repeat the scenario that Boris Yeltsin used in 1992. At that time, the Russian government blocked Azerbaijans rail, road, and water routes, which played an important part in our republic losing its territory. On the other hand, in view of the current extremely complicated situation in Georgia, we are unlikely to have interrupted use of its sea and road transportation arteries with access to the main routes of the West.

According to the authors of this article, the most important thing is that implementation of the tasks reviewed by Azerbaijan requires political support and international-legal sanctions. Primarily, the republic must gain recognition of what has already happened in Nagorny Karabakh, whereby the basic legal standpoint should qualify these actions not as a violation of international law, but as an international crime. The matter essentially concerns the need to analyze the decisions of Armenias legislative and executive structures, which provide sufficient proof of this countrys direct aggression against Azerbaijan and violations of its territorial integrity and sovereignty.

It is also necessary to present a legal qualification of the actions of the illegal armed formations of the marionette Nagorno-Karabakh army as a terrorist organization with national-separatist inclinations. In this way, an analysis of Armenias legislative and normative acts, as well as qualification of the activity of the Nagorno-Karabakh army, makes it possible to maintain that there is every legal reason for international structures to recognize not only aggression on the part of Armenia, but also the expediency of taking political and economic sanctions against it.12 This will naturally give us the opportunity to use force in Nagorny Karabakh. We are essentially talking here about a forceful humanitarian campaign.

An in-depth study of the problem of legal qualification is beyond the scope of this article. But we will note one important factor that occupies a special place in analyzing all the possible scenarios of the development in events. If the sides cannot regulate the conflict by peaceful means, resolve the question of returning refugees and forced migrants to their place of permanent residence, and ensure the security of Azerbaijani and Armenian citizens, the topic of bringing international peacekeeping forces into the conflict zone will become of prime importance. International practice uses the method of separating the conflicting sides and establishing a security corridor. Azerbaijan should be ready today for events to develop along these lines and, consequently, look at the possibility of adopting efficient collective measures to liberate the occupied territory. In addition, the international practice of crisis management should be carefully analyzed at all the stages of conflict development, which constitutes an integral part of every countrys foreign policy.

In this respect, the OSCE Minsk Group must choose an entirely different strategy for resolving the Karabakh conflict. Contemporary international law envisages the following alternatives: prevention, management, resolution, transformationwhich are related to the different ways in which conflicts arise and their stages of development.

Taking into account the destructive tools of Armenias policy toward Azerbaijan, including the aggressive actions of the separatist regime in Nagorny Karabakh in the form of the Nagorno-Karabakh army, which are qualified as an international crime, we must submit a petition to the U.N. on the choice of some intermediate position. In contemporary international practice, this is called peace building or peace enforcement. These measures are carried out without the consent of the conflict initiator, whereby the use of elements of force is presumed within the framework of the U.N. peacekeeping contingent.

For example, a coalition of U.N. member states led by the U.S. was used to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi occupation during the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Enforcing peace in particular implies deploying military contingents in order to facilitate the settlement process. As for the Karabakh conflict, the U.N. Security Council has adopted four corresponding resolutions (mentioned above), which compel the Armenian armed formations to liberate the occupied territory. This also implies not only Azerbaijans activity, but also that of the world community, which within the framework of international law should be oriented toward adopting a decision to apply economic and political sanctions against Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh army.

There is no doubt that all of this presumes diverse tactical measures and techniques, from forceful action to diplomatic measures, from economic pressure to social and cultural programs. At present, the U.N. is conducting 16 such peace enforcement operations in different parts of the world, under which special blue helmet missions are usually put into action. But there is no need to think that the blue helmets will take active part in military action in the Southern Caucasus. The strategy and tactics consist of the fact that, under any conditions, the occupied territory will be liberated by the army and interior troops of Azerbaijan, and the blue helmet missions will exercise control over retaining military-political stability in the region.

We believe that the above proposals are a realistic approach to the problem and could help to liberate the occupied territory, restore the rule of law and Azerbaijans territorial integrity, and ensure peace and order for all of its citizens, regardless of their nationality.

Beyond the shadow of a doubt, this strategy will give Azerbaijan another chance to reach a fair settlement of the Karabakh conflict with the participation of international peacekeeping forces, thus guaranteeing the implementation and security of transnational projects which are of special importance for the entire region and the world community as a whole.

1 See: V. Kazimirov, Karabakhskiy konflikt: reshenie zadachi sushchestvuet, Nezavisimaia gazeta, 19 August, 2002.
2 See: Azerbaijan Human Development Report 1996, Publication of the United Nations Development Programme/UNDP, 1996, Baku Office of the United Nations. See also: Displacement in the Former Soviet Region, in: The State of the Worlds Refugees 2000Fifty Years of Humanitarian Action, UNHCR, ed. by Mark Cutts, Sean Loughna, and Frances Nicholson, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2000, pp. 192-193.
3 See: Ekho (Baku), 20 August, 2002.
4 See: Nezavisimaia gazeta, 20 August, 2002.
5 See: E. Nuriev, Tenevye storony kavkazskoi zagadki: noviy etap amerikano-rossiiskogo sopernichestva v kontekste voiny protiv terrorizma, Zerkalo (Baku), 12 November, 2001.
6 Nezavisimaia gazeta, 27 May, 2002.
7 It would be nice to think that the situation in this respect and Russias standpoint on the whole, as one of the main mediators in this question, will change under the current president, Vladimir Putin.
8 Nezavisimaia gazeta, 27 May, 2002.
9 See: Ekho, 2 August, 2002.
10 See: K. Salimov, Politika gosudarstvennogo terrorizma, Bakinskiy rabochii, 4 April, 1994.
11 See: Zerkalo, 14 September, 2002.
12 See: Zerkalo, 17 March, 2001. See also: Bakinskiy rabochii, 4 April, 1994.

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