Gaza Strip Model for NKR?: Study group says Karabakh should evacuate “occupied territories”

The International Crisis Group on Conflict Prevention released a report on the Nagorno Karabakh question, with conclusions that aren’t likely to endear the group to officials in Yerevan, where they arrived on Monday.

On September 10, the mission was in Baku, Azerbaijan where it handed over its report to Azeri Foreign Minister Elmar Mamedyarov. Two days later in the Armenian capital, mission head Alain Deletroz said: “The Armenian side should immediately withdraw from the territories of Azerbaijan it controls and suspend ongoing projects in these regions.”

Deletroz’ comments reflect the content of the report (found in full at www.crisisgroup.org) that calls for a pullout of Karabakh from “occupied” territories of Azerbaijan.

At a press conference in Baku, Deletroz said that seven regions near Karabakh, where Armenians (some from Karabakh and some from Armenia) have relocated and established settlements since the 1994 cease-fire “should be freed, refugees be returned and only then will it become possible to negotiate the status of Nagorno Karabakh that can be determined within 10-15 years.” At the same time, he noted that Baku must cease its propaganda against Armenia and stop building “the image of the enemy” in public consciousness.

The International Crisis Group was formed in 1995 and is engaged in studying of conflicts in 44 regions of the world. The group includes retired diplomats as well as ex-foreign ministers and former heads of separate departments of different countries. The goal of the ICG is to study situations in the zones of ethnic conflicts and to develop recommendations to the parties to these conflicts. The group spent nine months, including on-the-ground observations, studying the Karabakh situation.

ICG has its South Caucasus region office in Tbilisi, Georgia.

“The cruel war over Nagorno Karabakh has brought to ruin about 18,000 human lives and the displacement of more than a million people before a fragile truce was established in 1994,” Sabina Fraser, director of the Tbilisi office said in Yerevan. “For the past 11 years life in Nagorno Karabakh has more or less returned to normal: the economy is developing and elective institutions are functioning. However, nothing has been done to reinstate those who suffered from the war in their rights. It is necessary to return refugees to the places of their former residence.”


She also noted that the group “had prepared a recommendation addressed to the leadership of Nagorno Karabakh with a proposal to stop the process of settling Armenians in the occupied Azeri territories.”

“This process, though it is not intensive, still should be suspended and all conditions should be created for the return of Azeri refugees,” Sabina Fraser said.

Yerevan political analyst Alexander Manasyan says the ICG report reflects “a scandalous discrepancy between the character of the conflict and the definitions given to it by the ICG.

“In particular, the term ‘war over Nagorno Karabakh’ fully reflects the official position of Azerbaijan, according to which Nagorno Karabakh is an object of the Armenian-Azeri confrontation. Meanwhile, it is obvious that it is the subject of the conflict, for the people of the NKR has made their choice in full conformity with current legal points. The group does not take into account the fact that war was started by Azerbaijan, and the armistice was established by the Armenian sides.”

During his Yerevan press conference Deletroz did not deny lacking information about the history of the conflict but resisted going into detail about his understanding of its background.

“Each side has its own ‘historical version’ and our group investigates exclusively the current stage of the development of the problem,” he said.

ICG has its South Caucasus region office in Tbilisi, Georgia.

“The cruel war over Nagorno Karabakh has brought to ruin about 18,000 human lives and the displacement of more than a million people before a fragile truce was established in 1994,” Sabrina Fraser, director of the Tbilisi office said in Yerevan. “For the past 11 years life in Nagorno Karabakh has more or less returned to normal: the economy is developing and elective institutions are functioning. However, nothing has been done to reinstate those who suffered from the war in their rights. It is necessary to return refugees to the places of their former residence.”

The Group’s reports will have political consequences, many Armenian newspapers write, pointing out that “similar non-governmental organizations do not do anything without reason.

“The claims that this public initiative hardly deserves a serious attitude in view of its own incompetence to assert any political decisions are erroneous, as it first of all is focused on the formation of international public opinion on this issue,” writes “Golos Armenii” newspaper. “In this case we deal with a report that will by all means become a subject for discussions within international structures and cannot but impact the sentiments of the world community.”

“Azg” daily remembers in this connection the statement of American Cabinet Member Strobe Talbott, who said: “As U.S. Undersecretary of State I used the publications of the ICG. The reports prepared by this group and its analytical researches as a rule comprised information that could not be received from other sources. Therefore, it is no wonder that its recommendations frequently were reflected in our ultimate political decision-making.”

“The group works in 44 disputed zones of the world, and in separate cases we ourselves recommend to the parties of the conflict to initiate military operations, as we don’t simply see any other solution,” Deletroz said. “However, it does not concern the Armenian-Azeri confrontation in which the diplomatic resource has not been exhausted yet. Therefore, we completely support ‘the Prague Process’ of negotiations between the personal representatives of the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan.”

In the ICG’s opinion, following its recommended withdraw of Armenians from Azeri territory “control over them may be yielded to international peace-keeping forces.”

Deletroz did not mention what the Armenian parties can expect in that case, only adding the thought that he had expressed earlier about the possibility of determining the status of Nagorno Karabakh within 10-15 years.

“It is a rather delicate question, but I must say that in the opinion of the group the referendum of 1991 in Nagorno Karabakh can barely have valid force, for it was conducted in a completely different political situation. Meanwhile, we should adapt the present confrontation to the modern political conditions,” Deletroz said.