Unresolved conflicts and breakaway territories divide five out of six of the European Union’s Eastern Partnership countries, most of them directly backed by the Russian Federation. But a policy of isolating the people living in these conflict regions narrows the road to peace.
European Council President Donald Tusk 27 Feb announced conclusion of negotiations on EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement. President Sargsyan 27 Feb visited EU and NATO institutions in Brussels. Central Elections Commission 17 Feb registered five political parties and three blocks for Parliamentary elections 2 April. OSCE/ODIHR 21 Feb started election observation mission in Armenia.
Stronger international engagement is needed to help prevent the deadly conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan from escalating gravely at a time of internal political tensions in both.
Unless Armenia’s next presidential election is fair and gives its winner a strong political mandate, the government will lack the legitimacy needed to implement comprehensive reforms, tackle corruption and negotiate a peaceful end to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Escalating front-line clashes, a spiralling arms race, vitriolic rhetoric and a virtual breakdown in peace talks increase the chance Armenia and Azerbaijan will go back to war over Nagorno-Karabakh, with devastating regional consequences.
Turkey and Armenia are close to settling a dispute that has long roiled Caucasus politics, isolated Armenia and cast a shadow over Turkey’s European Union (EU) ambition.
Armenia’s flawed presidential election, the subsequent lethal crackdown against a peaceful protest rally, the introduction of a state of emergency and extensive arrests of opposition supporters have brought the country to its deepest crisis since the war against Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh ended in 1994.
Armenia, which regained its independence in 1991 and won its 1992-1994 war with Azerbaijan, is at peace and rebuilding its economy but its stability is fragile. Nagorno-Karabakh remains an unsettled problem that easily could reignite, and the regional economic isolation that the war over it produced could become permanent if there is no resolution soon.
Originally published in Council on Foreign Relations
Originally published in The International Herald Tribune
Lawrence Sheets, Crisis Group's South Caucasus Project Director, discusses the risks of renewed war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.