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20 Years of Conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh: A Fresh Impetus for a Peaceful Resolution

Position Paper of the Foreign Policy Working Group of the CDU/CSU Parliamentary Group in

Following repeated outbreaks of ethnic violence between Armenians and Azeris during the breakup of the Soviet Union which triggered waves of refugees of both nationalities, the 1992 conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh led to bloody battles between Azerbaijanians and Armenians with tens of thousands of deaths. The Armenian forces eventually succeeded in capturing the western land corridor to the Republic of Armenia in 1993. The Azerbaijani districts bordering the east and south of the former autonomous region of Nagorno-Karabakh also fell under the control of Armenian troops.

This war is estimated to have caused the deaths of 25,000 people and made refugees of a further million who were driven out of their homelands. In the course of the war, Armenian troops not only occupied Nagorno-Karabakh itself, which makes up about 5 percent of Azerbaijan′s national territory, but also seven surrounding Azerbaijani districts. The military occupation of parts of the national territory of Azerbaijan was condemned by the UN Security Council in 1993. Today around 20 percent of Azerbaijan′s territory is under Armenian control.

The international community continues to regard Nagorno-Karabakh as an integral part of the Republic of Azerbaijan under international law. It is the position of both Germany and the European Union that a permanent solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict can only come about by peaceful means. Neither Germany nor the EU recognised the parliamentary elections held in 2010 in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The “Minsk Group” within the OSCE has been trying to find a solution to this now frozen conflict since the outbreak of the war in 1992. Despite its attempts at mediation which have been ongoing for 20 years, all efforts to overcome the status quo have been without success so far. There have been repeated armed incidents resulting in the deaths of innocent people at the ceasefire line which has been in existence since May 1994. For example, in early October 2011 two Azerbaijani soldiers were killed during an exchange of fire near the ceasefire line. At the start of March 2011, Armenian snipers killed a nine-year-old Azerbaijani child with shots aimed across the ceasefire line. During another incident in June 2010, four Armenian soldiers and one Azerbaijani soldier died.

Such events as well as the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh violate obligations laid down under international law. Paragraphs 3 and 4 of Article 2 of the Charter of the United Nations state the following: "All members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered. All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations."

The conflict has become so serious that Germany′s foreign ministry warns against travelling to Nagorno-Karabakh. The Federal Foreign Office is unable to provide consular assistance or protection through any German mission abroad to those who go to Nagorno-Karabakh.

The whole region is in the grip of an arms buildup, which is prompting fears of further escalation. The expenditure on arms of both Armenia and Azerbaijan has continued to rise in the last few years. Azerbaijan′s spending on defence now represents 20 percent of its entire national budget. In August 2010, Armenia signed an agreement to increase military cooperation with Russia which operates its own military bases in that country.

The region is playing an increasingly important role in Europe′s energy supply. It is one of the European Union′s key energy policy goals to diversify and permanently secure Europe′s supply of gas by way of agreements with countries such as Azerbaijan on gas supplies and pipeline projects.

The 20th anniversary of the outbreak of the war should provide a new impetus to re-examine the approaches to dealing with the conflict employed so far and to restart the process of resolving the conflict. A peaceful resolution and a normalisation of relations would have an immediate and galvanising effect on the economy and society in the whole region. The members of the Foreign Affairs Working Group of the CDU/CSU Parliamentary Group in the German Bundestag therefore call upon the Federal Government to:

  1. Devote greater attention again to the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh together with our friends in the OSCE, NATO, and the United Nations, and, for that purpose, to emphasise in all talks and bilateral meetings with the parties to the conflict the need for political compromise in the interests of a peaceful resolution of the conflict, the need for security guarantees for those living along the ceasefire line, and the development of mutual trust;
  2. Urge a stronger role for the EU in the resolution of the conflict, to work towards the EU as a whole taking over France′s place in the Minsk Group, and to provide the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus with a clear mandate in the mediation process between the parties to the conflict;
  3. Continue to do everything possible within the framework of the Eastern Partnership to bring about political and economic rapprochement between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and to firmly establish regional conflict resolution as an integral component of this;
  4. Encourage our partner Russia, which is a key country in the resolution of the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, to assume a more constructive role that is not based on maintaining the status quo but on ending the regional arms race and on achieving a permanent solution;
  5. Provide the prospect of the immediate widening of the EU-Russia dialogue on security policy in the event of concrete progress in the resolution of the conflict over Nagorno­Karabakh along the lines of the “Meseberg Memorandum” relating to the Transdniestria conflict;
  6. Encourage the EU candidate country Turkey to normalise its relations with Armenia in order to render superfluous in the medium term the Russian army bases considered necessary by Armenia to secure, for example, its border with Turkey, and thus to make a key contribution to ending the arms race in the southern Caucasus;
  7. Support Turkey in playing a constructive role in the resolution of the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh and in fulfilling its responsibility in that region.