Moving towards peace should be the easier option

Tue 20 Dec 2011 12:55 GMT | 16:55 Local Time

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News.Az interviews Dr Hans Gutbrod, the Tbilisi-based regional director of the Caucasus Research and Resource Centre.

What can you say about the discussions held on 14 December on the EU role in the South Caucasus? And what was the main line in your speech?

As typically happens in these conferences, there was a diversity of viewpoints. I argued that one of the main things was to listen to the citizens, and to what they have to say. This points the way towards better governance, and thus towards some of the positive values that many people attach to the European Union. There has been some progress, but fundamental problems remain. Far too many people in Azerbaijan, and in Armenia, still report paying bribes. And too many people in all three countries state that they can't say openly what they think. Progress should primarily be made in making the lives of ordinary people better.

Head of the EU Delegation, Ambassador Roland Kobia said that  the EU is going to enhance its involvement in the Karabakh settlement in 2012. What do you think about it?

I did not actually see that statement, so I cannot comment on that specifically. More broadly, anything that helps to move closer to settlement is a good thing for the region.

Some experts propose to substitute France in OSCE Minsk group with another EU member to achieve more fruitful activity of co-chair states. Would it really help?

Ultimately, progress must come from within the region. What we can say from our perspective is that all sides need to do more to prepare themselves, and their population, for substantive peace. At the conference, there were some encouraging signs. More contacts between the people of Armenia and Azerbaijan would be a good thing, because it's easier to make peace with people you know, rather than people you are afraid of. One of the slides I showed illustrated that many Armenians thought that opening the border with Turkey would be bad for national security. And that illustrates the problem: moving towards peace should be the easier option, not something that you think is risky. 

Can Azerbaijan’s membership to UN Security Council in 2012-2013 promote negotiation process or at least make the Karabakh problem more known in the world?

Azerbaijan's membership in the Security Council will certainly help to make the Karabakh problem more known in the world. At the same time, the conflict is not resolved by a battle of international legitimacy. Beyond any hard-nosed negotiation, it's about reassuring the other side that a compromise is possible. I think if more Armenians visited Baku, and found it a friendly environment, that would inspire some new thinking. I'm not saying that it's as easy as having more friendly contacts, but I think it's worth exploring new approaches on that front, because the alternatives are pretty grim.




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