Insisting on maximalist positions makes it hard to achieve settlement – analyst

Fri 16 April 2010 | 13:00 GMT

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

Is the post-soviet area still a priority for US and the West or it is became less meaning after the Russian invasion in Georgia in 2008?
I think following the financial crisis, foreign policy is less of a priority in the United States and the European Union. The US is trying to resolve a series of internal challenges, most recently healthcare reform. In Europe, Britain is facing a major election, the French president needs to deal with unpopularity at home, Germany is preoccupied with Afghanistan, and the EU as a whole with the issue of Greece, and the potential bailout. So there's just generally less attention on foreign policy for now. As for the post-Soviet area, it's hard to generalize. Different countries have different priorities, and in some places indeed there is a sense that there is little the West can do to contribute to a constructive development.

Can the current approaching between US and Russia show up in the South Caucasus and its security?
There is a broader rapprochement, but this will not immediately impact the South Caucasus, and not resolve all the challenges there, because they are so entrenched.

What are the main threats for security in the South Caucasus in your opinion?

Ultimately, the main threats for security are internal, in terms of poor governance. This keeps places unstable, with insufficient economic development (especially sustainable development), and a shortage of employment. In the medium term, this creates the main threats for instability, as well as incentives for governments to take a hard line to deflect from policy problems.

Do you believe that cooperation of US and Russia as the main mediators in the Karabagh settlement between Azerbaijan and Armenia can bring positive results?

Any successful peace settlement requires much patience, and the building of consensus. The more cooperation we have, the better. Ultimately the main challenge is up to all the governments themselves: insisting on maximalist positions makes it hard to achieve a settlement, and considerable work needs to be done to convince the populations on both sides that insisting on the maximalist position ultimately is detrimental to long-term stability.
Do you believe in soon settlement of Karabagh conflict and what is the main obstacle for this?
In terms of obstacles, as mentioned above, it would be desirable that governments prepare their populations for reaching some sort of settlement. A good peace often requires some sort of internal transformation, and a lot of work would need to be done for that become possible. The Caucasus would be a much better place if this peace was achieved, so it's worth investing the effort into that.

Lala B.

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