Event Summary: A Year after the Second Karabakh War: The Future of Peace in South Caucasus
On Tuesday, November 9, 2021, The SETA Foundation at Washington, DC hosted a virtual panel of experts to discuss ‘A Year after the Second Karabakh War: The Future of Peace in South Caucasus.’ The discussion featured Luke Coffey, Director of the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy at the Heritage Foundation, and Amanda Paul, Senior Policy Analyst at the European Policy Centre. The panel was moderated by Kadir Ustun, Executive Director at SETA DC.
To begin, Coffey offered a brief overview of how the region arrived at the place it is today. He believes that the Second Karabakh War started for two reasons. First, for over 30 years, the international community failed to find a diplomatic solution to this crisis and the Azerbaijanis became impatient. Second, there was a geopolitical vacuum that the US and others let happen. There was an absence of US leadership because Washington was distracted by the pandemic and presidential election. He believes that certain provocative actions taken over the years on top of the international community’s failure to bring both sides to the negotiating table led to where we are today. The US and Europe need to lead meaningful, confidence-building measures. This can include finding ways for Armenia and Azerbaijan to cooperate on regional transit and energy projects. He called on the US and Europe to step up to the plate. Further, Coffey is skeptical about regional formats contributing to peace and does not think its a viable format for the region considering existing animosities between states. At a time of increasing Turkish influence, why would Ankara want to share a platform in a formal and rigid way? In terms of Iran, the new geopolitical reality on its border makes those in Tehran uncomfortable.
Paul offered further insight on the European perspective toward this situation. Though a ceasefire has been established and the fighting has stopped, arriving at real peace and reconciliation will not be easy. The key weakness in this ceasefire agreement is the fact that there is no political settlement attached to it. This will be crucial going forward for the region to have lasting peace. The Russians are taking the lead on implementing the ceasefire agreement through a so-called trilateral commission. Despite this, there are developments that are more promising, such as the reduced number of skirmishes and clashes between the two sides. She encouraged the regional platforms, such as the 3+3 format, to complement each other. She said it is unrealistic to exclude states like Russia or Turkey from these frameworks because they will not allow themselves to be left out. Despite the important steps that Europe has taken to reduce energy dependence on Russia, more needs to be done. Among other steps, there should be an outreach to Azerbaijan because there are other resources that can be explored. Finally, she noted that Turkey has been able to significantly increase its influence in the South Caucasus, and engaging in normalization with Armenia is good for the region.