OSCE chair: Conflict resolution requires 'genuine will' on all sides

Thu 23 Feb 2012 07:29 GMT | 11:29 Local Time

Text size: bigger smaller

News.Az reprints from Mediamax an interview with the OSCE chairman-in-office, Irish Foreign Minister and Deputy PM Eamon Gilmore.

Ireland, like every country that has taken on the OSCE chairmanship, has declared that helping to resolve protracted conflicts will be one of its main priorities. Do you have any clear visions or ideas what form the assistance and support will take in resolution of the Karabakh conflict?

Ireland comes to its OSCE chairmanship and to the efforts to resolve this long-standing conflict as an honest broker. Our sole interest is a peaceful resolution of the conflict that will allow the people of this region to get on with their lives. As a first order of business I have appointed a dedicated special representative for the South Caucasus, Ambassador Pádraig Murphy, as well as a personal representative for this conflict, Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk. This demonstrates the importance we attach to this process, as we in Ireland know all too well the devastating cost of conflict. And we know how hard it is to resolve such situations. Nevertheless, I do not see the status quo as a viable long-term solution. We will do all we can as OSCE chair to support a peaceful settlement within existing formats.

Everybody is unanimous that the withdrawal of snipers from the contact line, as recommended by the OSCE, would be a good example of enhancing trust between the conflicting countries. Do you intend to take any steps to make the Azerbaijani leadership withdraw snipers?

The situation on the line of contact remains a serious concern, and I fully support the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs to work with the sides on strengthening the ceasefire. We should also look at how to implement the agreement by the presidents in Sochi to develop contacts between the sides of the conflict. People-to-people contacts are crucial to reach a lasting settlement, and the promotion of dialogue between intellectuals, scientific and social circles, as the presidents specified, can be a start.

Completing his chairmanship at the OSCE Ministerial Council in December, the minister of foreign affairs of Lithuania, Audronius Ažubalis, again urged the introduction of a mechanism for the investigation of incidents in the Karabakh conflict zone, proposed at the Sochi summit of the presidents of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia on 5 March 2011. Does Ireland have any mechanisms and potential to put this project into practice?

I am in favour of a mechanism to investigate incidents, as agreed by the presidents at Sochi in 2011. However, neither the Irish chairmanship nor the Minsk Group co-chairs will be able to assist in its establishment unless the sides put their full efforts into it. I hope the sides will follow through on their joint commitment as soon as possible.

Ultimately, it is not a question of mechanisms to put this commitment into practice, nor is it for Ireland to make it happen. No conflict can be resolved unless there is genuine will on the part of those directly involved, and a readiness to accept the sacrifices and compromises resolution inevitably entails. What Ireland and the international community can do is provide a forum and support the sides to uphold their pledge to seek a lasting peace.

What do you think of Baku’s constant attempts to bring the Karabakh talks into other international instances - the UN and Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in particular? How appropriate do you think these attempts are?

I encourage constructive dialogue wherever and whenever the opportunity presents itself, for example through the Sochi talks between the presidents. I fully support working through the established frameworks such as the Minsk Process to achieve a negotiated settlement to the conflict, and I believe that more openness in the process could only help it at this stage. I commend the continuing efforts of the Minsk Group co-chairs, and I look forward to working closely with the co-chairs and the other members of the Minsk Group during the year.

You appointed Pádraig Murphy, former Irish ambassador to Moscow, your special representative for the South Caucasus. What are his main functions and role in the region? What do you expect from this appointment?

Ambassador Murphy is an Irish diplomat with a long and distinguished career, included service as ambassador to the Soviet Union, Germany, Spain and Japan. He visited the region as special representative in January. He and the Minsk Group co-chairs will be working closely together with the sides to seek progress in the settlement process, and I rely on the full cooperation of the governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan in our shared endeavour.

You said that “we will draw on our own experience of conflict resolution in the context of the Northern Ireland peace process to advance these processes and facilitate engagement by all parties”. The religious factor is one of the key aspects of the Northern Ireland conflict – a long-lasting confrontation between Catholics and Protestants. However, the religious factor doesn’t play a tangible role in any post-Soviet conflicts, including the Karabakh conflict. In this regard, how can the Irish model of settlement be used?

The first thing I would say is that we are not proposing any model or blueprint for action. Each conflict situation is different, has its own set of issues and its own dynamics. I do believe, however, that by sharing the experience of achieving – and sustaining – peace in Northern Ireland we can offer insights to those engaged in seeking a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

I like to recall that the conflict in Northern Ireland was also once described by some as "intractable", but we have been able to build a lasting peace. That achievement was made possible through negotiation and compromise, through the dedication and imagination of the Irish and British Governments and the leaders on both sides of the divide. I believe by sharing this experience we can support and encourage those engaged in efforts to resolve outstanding conflicts like Nagorno-Karabakh, using the tools of peaceful negotiation and agreed formats, in full respect of the principles of international law.

With this in mind, I will host a conference in Dublin on 27 April for all OSCE countries which will present aspects of the Northern Ireland example as a case study. I will be joined at the conference by the first and deputy first ministers of Northern Ireland, who have firsthand experience of making peace work for the benefit of the whole community. I am especially pleased that US Senator George Mitchell, who played a key role in the Northern Ireland peace process, will also share his experience with us.

To continue the previous question: can we really speak of using the conflict settlement experience of Northern Ireland, taking into account the periodic outbursts of violence, for example in July 2011?

I would say that we are continuously engaged in the process of securing peace. That doesn’t end even after a settlement has been achieved, as is the case in Northern Ireland. This in itself may be an experience worth sharing – that the work of establishing lasting peace does not stop when the agreement is signed, but requires a long-term commitment on the part of all involved. The main point is that the vast majority of people on our island, North and South, are fully committed to making peace work and to enjoying the benefits it has brought. That commitment remains strong and will not be swayed by the actions of a small minority.

When do you intend to visit the South Caucasus region?

I am looking forward to visiting the region as soon as my schedule allows. I hope this will happen in April.

And the last question. As minister of foreign affairs of Ireland, how would you assess the current level of Armenian-Irish relations?

Ireland and Armenia enjoy excellent bilateral relations and I had a very productive meeting with Foreign Minister Nalbandian when he visited Dublin last summer. We welcome the opening of the negotiations for an Association Agreement with the EU and we look forward to agreement, in due course, of a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) with Armenia.  We are working closely with Armenia during our OSCE chairmanship year, as both countries share the vision of a strong and effective OSCE.

This interview was published in Mediamax



Most read articles

More from Armenia

In The Region

Editor's Picks

Azerbaijan Cuisine

Explore the food of Azerbaijan - from sherbet to succulent kebab, from baklava to fragrant pilaff

Follow us

Find us on Facebook

Real estate

Virtual karabakh