Conflict in the South Caucasus

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [University of North Texas]On: 30 November 2014, At: 12:18Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number:1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street,London W1T 3JH, UK</p><p>Asian AffairsPublication details, including instructions forauthors and subscription information:</p><p>Conflict in the SouthCaucasusSir Brian FallPublished online: 18 Jul 2006.</p><p>To cite this article: Sir Brian Fall (2006) Conflict in the South Caucasus , AsianAffairs, 37:2, 198-209, DOI: 10.1080/03068370600677520</p><p>To link to this article:</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of allthe information (the Content) contained in the publications on ourplatform. However, Taylor &amp; Francis, our agents, and our licensorsmake no representations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy,completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinionsand views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views ofthe authors, and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor &amp; Francis.The accuracy of the Content should not be relied upon and should beindependently verified with primary sources of information. Taylor andFrancis shall not be liable for any losses, actions, claims, proceedings,demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoeveror howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, inrelation to or arising out of the use of the Content.</p><p></p></li><li><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private studypurposes. Any substantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution,reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in anyform to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms &amp; Conditions of accessand use can be found at</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f N</p><p>orth</p><p> Tex</p><p>as] </p><p>at 1</p><p>2:18</p><p> 30 </p><p>Nov</p><p>embe</p><p>r 20</p><p>14 </p><p></p></li><li><p>CONFLICT IN THE SOUTH CAUCASUS</p><p>SIR BRIAN FALL</p><p>Sir Brian Fall, a former British Ambassador in Moscow, is the SpecialRepresentative of the British Government for the South Caucasus, but theviews expressed here should not be taken as necessarily expressing those of theBritish Government.</p><p>This article is an expanded version of a speech delivered by the author in October2005, at a Rose-Roth seminar in Yerevan under the auspices of the NATOParliamentary Assembly.</p><p>The European Union is currently negotiating Action Plans with thegovernments of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, as part of a EuropeanNeighbourhood Policy which it has rightly extended to include the countriesof the South Caucasus. This may seem a slightly odd background againstwhich to write about these countries in the journal of the Royal Society forAsian Affairs, but neither history nor geography would suggest that the wordneighbourhood in connection with the South Caucasus can sensibly be usedwith only links to Europe in mind.</p><p>The idea of the South Caucasus as a crossroads is probably more indicative,both of the importance of the region and of its problems. Historically, in timesof peace and prosperity, trade routes along the east-west axis linked thecivilisations of the Mediterranean with those of Central Asia and China, withthe caravans of the Great Silk Road providing a stirring and glamorousexample. But the north-south axis was important too, linking the RussianEmpire to the Ottoman and the Persian. In more unsettled times, of whichthere were many, the lands occupied by present-day Armenia, Azerbaijan andGeorgia were buffeted by the empires to their north and south, with both alli-ances and frontiers changing with the fortunes of war and peace. The metaphorof a crossroads was never wholly out of place, but there were certainly timeswhen the roads were distinctly dangerous and alternatives much sought after.</p><p>The crossroads today, and the people living around them, suffer from theimpact of the three unresolved conflicts which form the main subject of thisarticle. Two of them concern territory internationally recognised as formingpart of Georgia, where Abkhazia in the west, and South Ossetia in the north,have established varying degrees of de facto separation, and do not recognisethe legitimacy of rule from Tbilisi. The third conflict, that over Nagorno-Karabakh (NK), is seen internationally as one between Armenia andAzerbaijan, and currently includes the occupation of a substantial part ofAzerbaijan outside NK proper by Armenian and/or NK Armenian forcesdefending what they see as the right to self-determination of the mainly Arme-nian population of the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which has broken away</p><p>ISSN 0306-8374 print/ISSN 1477-1500 online/06/020198-12 # 2006 The Royal Society for Asian Affairs DOI: 10.1080/03068370600677520</p><p>Asian Affairs, vol. XXXVII, no. II, July 2006</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f N</p><p>orth</p><p> Tex</p><p>as] </p><p>at 1</p><p>2:18</p><p> 30 </p><p>Nov</p><p>embe</p><p>r 20</p><p>14 </p></li><li><p>from Azerbaijan. In trade route terms, there is now no free passage from Abkha-zia into the rest of Georgia, or vice versa; traffic north-south through SouthOssetia is subject to severe dislocation; and borders between Armenia and Azer-baijan and, to an only slightly lesser extent, between Armenia and Turkey, areclosed. More importantly in human terms, there are the casualties of war: thedead and injured, the bereaved, the refugees and internally displaced persons(IDPs), and also the much larger groups who suffer actual or potential lossfrom continuing states of near-war or not-quite-peace.</p><p>So what went wrong? The parties to these disputes will have differentanswers to that question, and so may policy-makers in some or all of thethird countries who have become involved in the search for solutions (or, asothers may see it, in giving encouragement and support to one or other of theconflicting parties).</p><p>The decision of the British Government to appoint, albeit on a part-timebasis, a Special Representative for the South Caucasus, with terms of referencefocussed on the conflicts and on efforts to resolve them, was not based on an</p><p>This map of the South Caucasus also shows the disputed areas of the unresolved conflicts,Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh</p><p>CONFLICT IN THE SOUTH CAUCASUS 199</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f N</p><p>orth</p><p> Tex</p><p>as] </p><p>at 1</p><p>2:18</p><p> 30 </p><p>Nov</p><p>embe</p><p>r 20</p><p>14 </p></li><li><p>assessment or assumption that British interests in the area differed at all signifi-cantly from those of our EU partners and NATO allies. The positive wish to seethe three newly-independent countries of the South Caucasus establish them-selves as peaceful, secure, prosperous and democratic members of the inter-national community is shared by all, just as we are all aware of the dangersof renewed conflict and weakened governance in a volatile region. Similarly,the importance of the region to international trade, and to the safe bringing tomarket of significant energy resources, is generally recognised and accepted.Britains interests are thus no different in kind from those of other Westerncountries, but they are arguably different in degree. Our position as a PermanentMember of the UN Security Council gives us special responsibilities for themaintenance of international peace and security; and a British company, BP,is playing a leading role in the development and marketing of Caspianenergy resources. It would be odd if the British government were not to wantto play an active role in seeking to resolve, and meantime to manage peacefully,these outstanding conflicts.</p><p>In the case of Georgia, Britain, together with France, Germany, Russia andthe United States, is one of the Group of Friends of the Secretary-General of theUnited Nations, which seeks to support him in the execution of his SecurityCouncil mandate in respect of Georgia/Abkhazia. We are also, as membersof the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), supportiveof international efforts to resolve the conflict over South Ossetia, and encour-aged to think that there may now be an increasing opportunity for the EU tobecome more actively involved. In the case of Armenia and Azerbaijan,and the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, negotiations are being facilitated bythe three Co-Chairmen (one each from France, Russia and the United States)of the Minsk Group, which acts under the institutional umbrella of theOSCE. Britain is not a member of the Minsk Group, and still less one of itsthree Co-Chairmen. Our relationship to it is rather like that which WinstonChurchill once claimed to have with the Church of England: more a buttressthan a pillar of the Church, as befits one who supports from the outside . . .</p><p>Many other international organisations are already active in the field, andare likely to have a still more significant part to play as further progress ismade in the process of peace-keeping, conflict resolution and economic andsocial development in the region. To list them all would confront the readerwith an indigestible alphabet soup; to say nothing might give the impressionthat the international community is somehow disengaged from the problemsof the region. So let me make the important point in a more general way:major international organisations and their leading members are engaged to-day, and prepared to remain engaged, over a wide spectrum of activity,ranging from the macro-economic contribution of the international financialinstitutions at one end, through major programmes to support changes in gov-ernment policy in other key areas (including customs, military, police, judicialand electoral reform), to support for the work of NGOs and civil society at thegrass-roots. The shared objectives are the ones I summarised above: to helpensure peace, security, prosperity and democracy for the people of the South</p><p>200 CONFLICT IN THE SOUTH CAUCASUS</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f N</p><p>orth</p><p> Tex</p><p>as] </p><p>at 1</p><p>2:18</p><p> 30 </p><p>Nov</p><p>embe</p><p>r 20</p><p>14 </p></li><li><p>Caucasus. They are made much more difficult to attain by the conflicts to whichI now return.</p><p>These are most often described in the West as frozen conflicts, and it iseasy enough to explain why. If we go back just over ten years, these conflictswere marked by large-scale and bitter fighting. Many, and by no means onlycombatants, were killed or severely wounded. Many more had to flee fortheir lives, or were expelled from what had been their homes (nearly one inten of the overall population in the South Caucasus were displaced as a resultof the three conflicts). There are victims to be mourned, and refugees andIDPs left living hand-to-mouth in temporary accommodation. But there arealso cease-fires in place and mechanisms to monitor and help maintain them;and we can hope that the time of major battles is behind us. That is one senseof the word frozen. Another, rather less positive, is that there is something notunglacier-like about the pace at which the diplomatic efforts to resolve the con-flicts seem to be going. And besides, as someone once asked me, you wouldntcall them unfrozen conflicts, would you?</p><p>The answer is not as obvious as the questioner was intending to make itsound. One of the difficulties about the frozen conflicts label is that it can beseen to reflect an outsiders disregard for the underlying history. These pro-blems didnt all start with the break-up of the Soviet Union; and, if you goback only as far as the end of the First World War, you will find that the tran-sition from Russian to Soviet Empire was marked by great turmoil in the SouthCaucasus, with ambitions and perhaps also animosities carried forwardfrom a more distant past pulling this way and that over the frontiers andarrangements for governance that were to emerge.</p><p>When things did finally settle down, under the firm grip of Stalin, theystayed settled down for many decades. It is not unreasonable to ask whetherthis was not more significantly the time when the conflicts were frozen,whether we are talking about conflicts between the peoples of the SouthCaucasus and Moscow, or intra-regional conflicts between the peoples of theSouth Caucasus themselves. Not just frozen, but deep frozen. And it wasthe thaw, when the Communist Party of the Soviet Union no longer had thepower to keep the temperature of the freezer below zero, that reawakened theconflicting ambitions which led on to the heat and tragedy of war. We needto keep in mind that historical perspective, and to remember that the SovietEmpire, and to some extent the Russian Empire before it, brought to theSouth Caucasus stability of a kind which stifled rather than resolved underlyingconflicts, and that our challenge now is to encourage reconciliation from thegrass-roots up, rather than from some distant centre down.</p><p>There is another reason to be cautious about the term frozen conflicts. Itmay be accurate enough in reflecting the absence both of major hostilities and ofsignificant progress towards conflict resolution, but it may serve also to give theimpression that the freeze is so intense as to prevent all movement in theunderlying correlation of forces, whether military, political, economic or demo-graphic. That may be thoroughly misleading; and, if we need to think in terms ofice, the better analogy may be that of a frozen river: the surface ice may be thick</p><p>CONFLICT IN THE SOUTH CAUCASUS 201</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f N</p><p>orth</p><p> Tex</p><p>as] </p><p>at 1</p><p>2:18</p><p> 30 </p><p>Nov</p><p>embe</p><p>r 20</p><p>14 </p></li><li><p>and apparently immobile, but, underneath it, currents continue to run. If they arethought to run in a direction favourable to one or other of the parties, they inevi-tably become relevant to the prospects for conflict resolution, with one partybeing encouraged to play for time, and the other becoming increasinglyanxious to find means to break the deadlock.</p><p>But let me come back to what I referred to as distant centres. We are dealingin the South Caucasus with conflicts that have deep local roots. They would, forthat reason alone, be difficult to resolve, even without the bitterness engenderedby recent fighting and continuing displacements. But there is also anotherdimension, described by the pessimists as a zero-sum game being played outbetween Moscow and Washington. I am not one of the pessimists. I do notbelieve that Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia need to choose betweenhaving good relations with the United States and good relations with Russia;and I do not believe that Russia and the United States are condemned to azero-sum game in the region. But there have on occasion been voices fromWashington that I would think to be unduly dismissive of the need to buildpeace and security in the South Caucasus with, rather than despite or against,Russia. And we hear at lea...</p></li></ul>