During a visit last weekend to the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, commonly known as Artsakh to Armenians, some thoughts came to mind about the current state of affairs, the “no war, no peace” situation as it is sometimes referred to.
Initiatives have been undertaken to bring youth from both sides together, on neutral ground like Georgia, to discuss issues related to the conflict in the hopes that some understanding of the “enemy” can be reached. These efforts should be applauded, as non-governmental representatives of the two opposing sides naturally need to talk one another to exchange ideas and try to work out differences in thought and opinion on the public level. But no matter how much discussion takes place, no matter the friendships forged in such workshops between Armenians and Azerbaijanis, both sides are always likely going to walk away saying the same thing: “Karabakh is ours.”
It’s been 18 years since the cease fire, and Azerbaijanis have still to come to grips with the reality that Nagorno-Karabakh will most certainly never be part of the Republic of Azerbaijan. That the people of Artsakh will agree to hold a referendum as part of a peace deal to decide upon their status — when they had already determined it in 1991 by declaring independence — is an absurd expectation. The bonds between Armenia and Artsakh are tightly wound together; there is no separating the two without another senseless, brutal war. And despite Baku’s biweekly threats of renewed hostilities, that’s certainly something no one wants.
In my view, it is not the OSCE’s Minsk Group that will force the two sides to sign a peace agreement. Indeed, if the three group member states really wanted to settle this matter once and for all an agreement would surely have been found in the last 15 years. These meetings being held, the discussions behind closed doors, and the subsequent statements issued are all part of an elaborate charade, a long-running theatrical production that is becoming more tiresome with every season.
Ultimately, it is Russia that is going to decide when the deal has to be made and under what conditions, something that not too many people following the issue want to believe. A recent “extremely frank” meeting held between Russian President Dimitry Medvedev and Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliyev may lead the two sides closer to agreeing upon the principles of a peace deal, although given Baku’s stubborn, backtracking track record that seems unlikely. We have to keep waiting for an agreement in the meantime.
The Armenians of Artsakh, on the other hand, made their decision in 1991. For them, there’s nothing, not one inch of land, to give. And they’re not even being asked to.