'We must be realistic and not let expectations become too high' - Thomas de Waal | Eurasia Diary - ednews.net

25 March, Monday


'We must be realistic and not let expectations become too high' - Thomas de Waal

British journalist and writer Thomas de Waal comments on the latest situation in Karabakh peace talks.

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Recent days, we are witnessing some activation in Nagorno-Karabakh peace talks. There are both positive and negative stances. Eurasia Diary took an exclusive interview for the estimation of the situation in Karabakh peace process by British journalist and writer Thomas de Waal. We are presenting the content of the interview.

- What kind of progress and changes do you expect in Nagorno Karabakh conflict in 2019?

 

- 2019 has started in a more positive spirit with regard to the Karabakh conflict than for many years. It follows 2018, a year in which there were only 14 reported deaths on the Line of Contact, which is a much better statistic than for many years. But we must be realistic and not let expectations become too high. Armenia and Azerbaijan were at war three years ago in 2016 for four days. The peace process has been more or less dead since the Kazan meeting in 2011. What we are talking about now is a resumption of a peace process on a basic level. Substantial negotiations are still not happening and a breakthrough is still a very long way in the distance.

 

- How do you evaluate Pashinyan's policy over Nagorno Karabakh negotiation?

 

- Nikol Pashinyan is a different kind of Armenian leader for two reasons. First, he is much of a natural democrat than his predecessors. He genuinely wants to talk to society and hear the opinions of ordinary people. Secondly, he is from Yerevan and not from Karabakh, unlike his two predecessors. So he is more hesitant in saying that he can speak on behalf of the Karabakh Armenians. The previous political regime is also still in power in Karabakh and they are not Pashinyan’s natural allies. This explains Pashinyan’s different approach to the negotiations. He is ready to start a different kind of debate but he is not in a hurry.

  

- What is the difference between Pashinyan and previous government's policy on negatiation process?

 

- Pashinyan says publicly that he wants the Karabakh Armenians to take part in the negotiations, as they did in the 1990s. To some extent, I believe he is taking this position to “play for time.” He does not want to rush ahead with an intensive negotiation process and wants to focus on domestic issues in Armenia. But I also believe he is genuine about this position. I am sure that, like every leader of Armenia, he understands the need for compromise on the Karabakh issue, but he wants to have genuine discussions inside society about this and he wants to reassure the Karabakh Armenians that he will not force them to take positions they do not like.

 

- How do you analyze Azerbaijan's current policy over Nagorno Karabakh?

 

Azerbaijan’s fundamental position remains the same, but it has softened its stance on some smaller issues recently, undoubtedly so as to give Pashinyan more of a chance, to “cut him some slack.” The most significant move in my view is that Baku has agreed to the establishing of a “hot line” between military commanders on both sides. This will make the Line of Contact more predictable and undoubtedly save lives of young soldiers. So I see some progresses in de-escalating tensions on the front-line and resolving security problems. However the political positions of the two sides remain unchanged and it is much harder to see how they can make progress on political issues in the near future.

 

- How to make nations to reconcile? Do you see any positive steps by nations and governments?

 

- Reconciliation needs time and societies need to change. When a former adversary expresses sympathy about how the other side in a conflict also suffered, then that is a sign that things are changing. We are still a long way from that situation with regard to this conflict. For example, both Armenians and Azerbaijanis died in different episodes in Baku in January of 1990. Every year each side only remembers its own victims, not the others. When each nation begins to recall the sufferings of the other in January that will be a sign of societal change. A major reason why the Karabakh conflict is so from resolution is that each nation still focuses only on its pain and does not imagine what the other side is suffering. This takes time. Maybe the next generation will be able to make that step.

 

Thomas Patrick Lowndes de Waal (born 1966) is a British journalist and writer on the Caucasus. He is best known for his 2003 book Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War.

He has reported for, amongst others, the BBC World Service, the Moscow Times, and The Times. He was a Caucasus editor at the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) in London until December 2008, and later as a research associate with the peace-building NGO, Conciliation Resources. Currently he is a senior associate in the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, specialising primarily in the South Caucasus region.

He is the co-author of Chechnya: Calamity in the Caucasus (New York, 1998) and author of Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War (New York, 2003).

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