EU Peacekeepers for Nagorno-Karabakh?

The Armenian and the Azerbaijani media are full, at present, with speculations about a possible war in the South Caucasus. This is, unfortunately, not excluded, although all logical thoughts lead not to a war – but what means logic in this context. Fact is that many soldiers have already lost their lives and even civilians have been shot or wounded. So creative solutions are requested.

This leads to the possible call for peacekeeping troops. Indeed, they should be deployed rather sooner than later, when there is still a bit of peace existing; otherwise they would have to overcome a lot of difficulties, if those could be overcome at all. As usual, it is better to intervene at an early stage than too late. Of course, there should be a consent who should come. This consent should include Armenia and Azerbaijan.

There is much discussion now about Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh. This would if at all accepted with a grim face of the two mentioned countries, and by Nagorno-Karabakh. Russia has a security agreement with Armenia, and at the same time sold weapons for four billions USD to Azerbaijan – so its credibility can be heavily criticised. No country could have better expressed its interest in having no peaceful settlement.

NATO or US troops would not be accepted by Russia, and everything including US troops even as peacekeepers may be considered as too much of an „intruder“. Although of course possible, it may be perceived as a certain provocation which might need a lot of efforts to explain. OSCE troops as such are not likely; the OSCE has observers only in likewise conflicts. UN troops are theoretically possible, but if one looks to some African missions by the UN I think under efficiency criteria it should be avoided, if possible, that the UN which otherwise is also rather inflexible (UN Security Council) should be switched in in an operative way.

However, the EU – which has not yet been asked but can submit the offer to Armenia and Azerbaijan – could and should be ready for a new role as peacekeeping power. The region is limited, the task as well, the supply ways to it may lead via Turkey which is not only NATO Partner but also associated to the EU. Another way could lead via Georgia. The EU is, from outside and inside, more and more asked to take over a higher responsibility in world politics, above all in its own backyard. It is not suspect to remain too long in comparable missions – just in contrary. Its mandates are repeatedly discussed, also in parliaments and this on EU and Member State level. EU troops would be accepted as nobody can have anything against the EU, and this in Azerbaijan, in Armenia, but also in Nagorno-Karabakh. As long as nobody would start shooting, it can be expected that any EU peacekeeper force would behave as much „gentlemen-like“ as imaginable, including cooperation of the troops in civil reconstruction, and this on both sides of the front line.

There is also one more reason for an EU-led peacekeeping force: the Eastern Partnership. This could be the first real opportunity for the Eastern Partnership to prevent actively any conflicts on its territory. And if Georgian ,Moldovan or even Belarusian troops should be included (the latter do not include the President), why not? Ukraine may be too heavily charged with its troops at present, and Azerbaijani and Armenian inclusion into the peacekeeping forces should normally be excluded.

Of course, this makes only sense if both sides are ready to negotiate at the same time. This could be a task for the summit meeting in Sotchi/Russia on 8th August 2014. Russia should have all interest to return to the table with the EU and prove that its government can also be rational. It may make sense also for the OSCE Minsk Group, and if not possible there, also for a new round, this time under the auspices of the EU.

And it needs a keen but realistic vision for the EU, which here could show it can look beyond its Member States‘ horizons. The Eastern Partnership framework is, of course, the backyard of the EU, even explicitly.

Hans-Jürgen Zahorka

Chief Editor, European Union Foreign Affairs Journal

http://www.eufaj.eu

 

 

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