Russian expert: Karabakh conflict to go back to frozen state

Map of Azerbaijan and South Caucasus Environs Including Portions of Armenia, Georgia, Russia, Iran, Caspian Sea

(Interfax – April 5, 2016)

The ongoing outbreak of tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh will not spark a full-scale armed conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and complex and problem-ridden negotiations in which Moscow traditionally plays a mediating role are likely to resume, Fyodor Lukyanov, Chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, has said.

“The transformation of current tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh into a real war is much less probable than the eventual return to the former state of affairs. Alas, a return to the status quo will be achieved by human and material losses on both sides. The situation will not change strategically,” Lukyanov told Interfax on April 4.

The expert said there were a number of factors proving that a full-scale military conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan would not happen.

“To my mind, it is hard to imagine a full-scale war waged by Azerbaijan on Armenia because this conflict would be much bigger than the hostilities between two states, considering relations between Ankara and Baku and between Moscow and Yerevan,” he said.

Another important factor which can prevent a war, is “the practically ‘zero’ chance of Azerbaijan winning a military victory,” the expert said. “I believe Baku is perfectly aware of that,” Lukyanov added.

As to the opinion that Turkey may mediate the Karabakh conflict, it does not stand up to criticism, the expert said.

“Ankara cannot be an intermediary by definition. Turkey does not have even formal relations with Armenia, but it is an open ally and sponsor of Azerbaijan. An intermediary needs to be neutral, at least seemingly. Russia, which is a military ally of Armenia on the one hand, does not have a problem with mediation. There is a certain tradition of Russian mediation, which has long been recognized by other global actors,” he said.

The military confrontation will eventually end, he said.

However, stability will be rather shaky, especially under the impact of conflicts and crises in nearby regions, he said.

“The state of affairs we had been witnessing until now was fraught with aggravations. The driver of the Karabakh conflict would be destabilization on the external perimeter rather than factors directly related to Nagorno-Karabakh and the protracted conflict. The events in the Middle East, which is practically adjacent to the South Caucasus, will play their role. This is where destabilizing impulses are coming from,” Lukyanov said.