Matthew Bryza: "Putin and Trump are needed for a breakthrough in Nagorno Karabakh’’
The last year’s brief outbreak of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan revealed the danger that these conflicts represent for the regional security and US interests, so the settlement of the conflict around Nagorno-Karabakh should be the top priority in the list of the US diplomacy’s agenda in the region, the Carnegie Center’s report published yesterday reads. The former US Ambassador to Azerbaijan and former US assistant secretary of state for South Caucasus, Matthew Bryza, spoke with a correspondent of Vestnik Kavkaza about the prospects for the Karabakh settlement.
- How much is today's US administration interested in working with Azerbaijan? What trend will prevail in the US-Azerbaijani relations in the near future?
- No one knows that. Apparently, Donald Trump does not have a strategic concept of the foreign policy. I'm not trying to show disrespect for the US president this way, however, I think he does not have a political course. His idea number one - we must work with as many countries as possible in the fight against terrorism. The idea number two - in any of our interactions, whether with ally and friend or with a country that considers itself as our enemy, we must use a business approach - I’ll give you something, if you give me something. This concept differs from the concepts of all the previous presidents. Every American president understood that we must protect and strengthen our allies. It was so during the republican and democratic administrations.
We are talking about energy cooperation, pipelines, as well as Nagorno-Karabakh. And I do not see any interest from President Trump in the South Caucasus. No employees are appointed to deal with these issues. I am concerned that this sphere does not receive the necessary attention. I hope, that if Trump looks for a problem on which he could interact with Russia, he will choose Karabakh. The presidents of Russia and America must participate in the process to achieve a breakthrough.
-What is your opinion on the current situation in Karabakh? How did the situation change after the last year's four-day war?
- President Putin played a very constructive role at that time. He put forward a proposal, which could help to find a way out of an impasse. After he hosted two meetings with the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia following the April developments, I felt that the Azerbaijani side welcomed these initiatives, and the Armenian side did not. In July, there was a hostage crisis in Armenia at the police station, and the hostage-takers criticized Sargsyan, perhaps, for agreeing with Putin's proposal.
That is, the change is that Russia put forward a good proposal, which was rejected by one side, so everything stalled. Now the situation is in an impasse. I do not know how the situation will develop further, but I hope that the American president will propose something.
- What can be an incentive for moving from the diplomatic meetings to taking the concrete steps?
- There are two ways to implement the concrete steps. The first way is the development of the confidence-building measures. Those steps that are related to the politics or security are more symbolic, but they could lay the foundation for cooperation between the two sides.
The second way is a breakthrough. Perhaps, Presidents Trump and Putin will be involved in the process and will be able to convince Presidents Aliyev and Sargsyan that it's time to do something. In fact, a significant process was achieved in the settlement. People continue to say that nothing has happened during all these years of negotiations. But this is not true. There is already a framework agreement on the table - the Madrid document - which is agreed by the presidents. They accepted it, but have not yet completed it, and I think that with the help of presidents Trump and Putin they would be able to complete the process.
The confidence-building measures are necessary. I think that Azerbaijan considers Armenia as a thief, who does not want to participate in the intensive negotiations. A significant political breakthrough is needed.
- In your opinion, how dangerous is the postponement of the negotiations? Is there a danger of resumption of the active hostilities and further changing of the status quo?
- I'm not one of those who believe that the parties can be involved in a serious war. I think for the serious clashes, one of the sides must decide to start a war. We saw all this during the April events: the clashes were intense, but in the end the war did not begin. I do not think that there was a danger of a full-scale war then.
But it's bad, that with every passing day the problems are not being solved. This means less economic opportunities for Armenians, this means more time during which Azerbaijan is separated from its lands. There is also psychological influence. If you, for example, a farmer from Agdam and your farm is there, and you are somewhere else as a displaced person, it is very difficult to create an emotional connection with your new land in your profession, when you hope to return home some day. That is, the impact of the ongoing conflict on Azerbaijani society is negative. The sooner everything is decided, the faster prosperity will come.
I'm not one of those who believe that a war may start due to some accident, but I'm worried that people continue to die.
- Yesterday Azerbaijan reported that 27 children are being held captive in the occupied territories...
- I have not heard about it. There were many stories based on rumors that need to be checked. I think it is outrageous, if Azerbaijani children are held against their will on the occupied territories. It is illegal. This is a violation of the international law and human rights. It is necessary to put an end to this.