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Karabakh aggravation would lead to broader destabilization

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, June 12
The frozen conflict in the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh is showing signs of re-awakening. From time to time there are shootings and casualties on both the Armenian and Azeri sides, but lately some analysts believe that things could spiral out of control and a large-scale military conflict could resume.

Recent aggravation of the situation began on June 4, during the South Caucasus visit of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Both sides blamed each other for provoking the shooting, although it is practically impossible to determine the truth.

There are some suggestions that a resumption of war could benefit Azerbaijan, while the Azeri government blames Russia for provoking the violence. The Russians dismiss this idea as a clumsy attempt to discredit Russian foreign policy. What the accusations are likely intended to, however, is to indicate to Washington that it is still Moscow who has the power in the region.

Russian and Armenian sources, meanwhile, suggest that behind Azerbaijan stands Turkey. In addition, Azerbaijan recently purchases arms from an Israeli company. Already the conflict involves an international network.

Baku has spent millions of dollars on re-equipping and re-training its military forces. Under the current circumstances, a stronger Azerbaijan may plan to take back Karabakh and "finish" the conflict. Or perhaps Armenian has pre-emptive plans, as some analysts believe. Regardless of either country's intention, what they need to do is not consider the strengths and weaknesses of their enemy, but the consequences of a conflict for their neighbours. Beyond Georgia, Iran, and Turkey, other players are active in the South Caucasus. The US has a dedicated interest in Georgia, and increasingly in the region as a whole, as Iran alegedly seeks to build nuclear weapons. Russia is losing patience with its former republics, and their role as Armenia's supporter could become complicated if Georgia refuses to let them transport weapons or supplies over its territory. This might even drag Russia and Georgia into a war. Then there is the issue of refugees, the effects on oil and gas supplies, and undoing all the progress that has been made towards democracy and stability in the region in the past 15 years.

We can only hope that neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan are arrogant or short-sighted enough to think that they could quickly "finish" the Nagorno-Karabakh issue with military means, and without dragging the larger neighbourhood into their fool's game.