Spring 1998 (6.1)
for the Caucasus
The following excerpt relates to the involvement of the United States in resolving the Karabakh Conflict.
Let me concentrate on the enterprise
to which we have devoted the most energy: Nagorno-Karabakh. This
is not just a dangerous, potentially contagious conflict in its
own right-it is also emblematic of one of the most vexing challenges
of the post-Cold War world: from Slovenia on the border of Italy
to Kyrgyzstan on the border of China, the 90s have seen the eruption
of ethnic and religious animosities that had been mostly dormant
during the Ice Age of Communist rule. Another manifestation of
this threat to international peace requires the presence of approximately
8,000 American troops to help keep the peace in Bosnia today,
and another still imperils Europe anew in Kosovo.
We have been involved in the quest for a negotiated settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict since 1992, when the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (then known as the CSCE) called for a peace conference to take place in Minsk. The conference never took place, but the Minsk Group has become a standing body, including the U.S., seeking a negotiated peace in the conflict.
In early 1997, we strengthened our direct involvement by becoming a co-chair of the OSCE process, along with Russia and France. I serve as the American co-chair of the Minsk Conference, and Ambassador Pascoe is co-chair of the Minsk Group, which works full-time on this immensely thorny and important problem. He and his Russian and French partners worked especially hard last summer and fall to develop a sound and promising approach that concentrated on the security aspects of ending the armed conflict in the first phase, with talks on status issues to follow.
The rationale was this: At present, there is no status for Nagorno-Karabakh that would be acceptable to all sides. Short of imposing a solution on one side or another-something we have vowed not to do-discussion of status could take many years. During that time, the life of the region would be disrupted and the threat of war ever-present. The stunted economic development, especially of Armenia, would continue to deprive the people of the Caucasus of the well-being and stability we seek and they deserve. President Aliyev of Azerbaijan and then-President Ter-Petrossian of Armenia had hoped to sign a first-phase agreement that would have done the following:
This security would allow Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh to discuss status, without preconditions, free of any military, political or economic pressure to sign a deal until both sides found a settlement on which they could agree.
Unfortunately, the Nagorno-Karabakh authorities refused to participate in negotiations on this proposal. They insist on discussing status from the beginning. Our concern is that concentrating on status first would return the talks to the endless exchanges of maximalist positions that characterized the negotiations before we became co-chairs. Meanwhile, the vast numbers of displaced persons would remain in camps, miserable and increasingly radicalized. Neither Russia, France nor the United States is willing to sponsor such negotiations. This is not out of impatience-we are prepared to be patient. But we are only prepared to sponsor negotiations seriously aimed at achieving a settlement, not an exercise in futility.
As I said, Presidents Aliyev and Ter-Petrossian were prepared to proceed on what we regarded as a constructive and promising basis. The Nagorno-Karabakh authorities were not.
The resignation of President Ter-Petrossian on February 3, 1998, and the Armenian presidential elections-the second round was held yesterday-have forced a pause in the peace process.
But a pause does not mean a
halt. We are not giving up. We owe it to ourselves and to the
parties to persist. The co-chairs plan to return to the region
in April. We have made clear that we hope and expect the new
Armenian government to take a serious approach to negotiations
aimed at achieving real progress toward a lasting, fair settlement.