Laurence Broers: We need to challenge deep sense of animosity that exists around Nagorno-Karabakh, create space for different kind of political conversation
British political scientist Lawrence Broers, who studies of conflicts in the Caucasus, presented his book "Armenia-Azerbaijan: Anatomy of Confrontation" yesterday in Baku. After the presentation, author answered several questions of Vestnik Kavkaza.
What is your conclusion: what was the origin of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and who did organize it?
The book comes out of 5 years of research. We’ve done interviews and field work across the conflict. I spent a number of months in Azerbaijan, one month in Nagorno-Karabakh and two months in Armenia. But the book also draws on previous years, more than a decade of experience as a practitioner of peace building in this context. So it also draws on my field notes from that time. When it comes to the question of origins of the conflict first of all I reject the idea that there’s any single factor or explanation. And I bring a number of different levels of explanation. First of all, the structural vulnerabilities in the institutions that existed in the 1980s. Systemic collapse during the Perestroika period. Emergency of new forms of political mobilization and leadership. And deeply imbedded and incompatible cultural narratives between the parties.
What prevented execution of the four resolutions of the UN Security Council on Karabakh in the 90s and what prevents it now?
In the 1990s, the world was destructed with many different conflicts. There was not enough leverage coming from outside for this conflict as we discussed now. Western powers I think were destructed with this conflict in the Balkans which was more of the priority. And as to why they haven’t been implemented to this day, as we discussed this idea of liberal peace and a single hegemonic approach to a complete resolution not longer exists in the same way as it did. And what striking about this conflict is the balance of power that preserves among downside actors which reduces the leverage from outside to force outcomes.
What are the conditions within the occupied territories of Azerbaijan now?
There hasn’t been a dramatic demographic growth in those territories as far as I’m aware. And as you know there’s a de facto jurisdiction that is developing. I’m reluctant to comment on how things are because I haven’t been there for some time.
What impact did the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict have on economy and demography of Armenia?
The conflict of course had a very important impact. It initially had the impact of determining leadership struggles within Armenia. The Karabakh conflict already in the late 1990s established an alternative leadership in the Karabakh Committee that fragmented the Armenian elite. And as you know in 1998 it was Robert Kocharyan who came in power. In that sense, the Karabakh conflict became quite important in determining leadership outcomes. But that’s not to support the idea of a Karabakh clan. I think this is a misunderstanding.
There are a lot of people who are not from Karabakh in the Karabakh clan. So in terms of the economy, I think it’s difficult to distinguish because all post-Soviet states went through an economic crash. Armenia was perhaps particularly dramatic but not necessarily because of the conflict. Perhaps more because of the nature of its Soviet economy which was very dependent on industries elsewhere in the Soviet Union. So the conflict generated a war economy. It contributed considerably to the informalization of power. It created certain networks that became powerful players in Armenian politics. And over the long term, it necessitated a form policy of complementarity between Russia and other powers. So in this sense it had an extremely important effect.
What do you think about a position of modern Armenia under Nikol Pashinian on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?
I think there hasn’t been a lot of clarity yet on what the position is. He’s made a number of public statements around, for instance, the need for a solution to be acceptable to Azerbaijan, to Karabakh and to Armenia. He has discussed the Madrid Principles. But what we don’t see yet is a road map for his vision. So it’s kinda difficult to comment. I think there’s been a lot of waiting and preparation but no formal policy map. As you know he said that this process should be widened to include the leadership in Nagorno-Karabakh. So a lot of ambiguity I would say. We don’t know yet what the offer is.
What can reverse the momentum in negotiations and take them to a constructive track?
I think there are a number of small steps. One of them has been improving the security contact which is happened. So I think maintaining a low number of ceasefire violations that keeps the political space open for discussion. But there are a number of symbolic steps that could be taken to start to facilitate much more contact across the conflict. You yourself were in a journalist exchange. We need to have these kinds of visits ongoing as a something normal, something that happens regularly and to challenge this very deep sense of animosity that exists to break that down, to create space for different kind of political conversation.
What are your plans? You mentioned a film.
Our organization Conciliation Resources has supported a team of Armenian and Azerbaijani filmmakers to make a series of films – the four films all together and the fourth film’s like a summary of the first three. And we are presenting that in London on the 18th of February. And we hope after that to make it public. These films combine two perspectives on the conflict. And in the sense, they are an invitation to viewers to make up their minds about what they think happened and to encourage a more realistic debate about the impact of the past and how we think about it in terms of obstacles to progress in the present and the future.