Matthew Bryza: "It is not surprising that Germany recognizes Russia's leading role in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement"

Matthew Bryza: "It is not surprising that Germany recognizes Russia's leading role in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement"

On June 7th, a meeting of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and German Chancellor Angela Merkel was held in Berlin. The heads of state discussed various aspects of bilateral relations, the issue of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement, as well as the situation throughout the world. A joint press conference was held after the meeting. The former US Ambassador to Azerbaijan and the former assistant of Secretary of State on the South Caucasus, Matthew Bryza, commented on the individual statements of the heads of Azerbaijan and Germany in an interview to Vestnik Kavkaza.

- At a joint press conference, Ilham Aliyev and Angela Merkel emphasized Russia's role in the settlement of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. What is the reason for this?

- It should be no surprise that President Aliyev and Chancellor Merkel stress the leading role that Russia is playing in the Nagorno-Karabakh mediation process. First, Germany is eager to restore normal diplomatic and business relations with Russia and with Russia failing to implement its commitments in the Minsk 2 agreement  to deescalate its war in Ukraine, Berlin is probably eager to find other areas in which Russia may be seen as playing a helpful role in conflict mediation. 

Second, Azerbaijan will forever be Russia’s neighbor, and Russia will always play a major role in developments Azerbaijan, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.  The key for Azerbaijan is to use its other friends and partners, especially the United States and France, to ensure a balanced approach to mediating the NK conflict. 

And, that gets to the third reason:  immediately following the unprecedented flareup in fighting along the Line of Contact in early April of this year, Russia filled a diplomatic vacuum left by the United States.  Hopefully, the meeting in Vienna a few weeks ago in which Secretary of State Kerry joined Foreign Minister Lavrov with Presidents Aliyev and Sargsian, marks Washington’s recognition that it must play a more active role at the highest political level if there is to be a settlement of the NK conflict.

- Why did Angela Merkel state that the settlement of the Karabakh conflict will help to reduce the tension in Turkish-Armenian relations?

- Chancellor Merkel is looking for a way to deescalate tension with Turkish President Erdogan after the German Bundestag recognized the “Armenian Genocide.”  She is thus looking for a constructive way to link Turkey and Armenia to German diplomacy, but without alienating Azerbaijan.  As President Obama learned in 2009, it is dangerous to press too hard for improved Turkey-Armenia relations without simultaneously pursuing a breakthrough in the NK mediation process, as this will lead to a breakdown in the NK mediation process.  But, pressing for improvement in both diplomatic processes in a way that progress in one reinforces progress in the other is a potential fruitful approach.  It sounds as if Chancellor Merkel may be pursuing precisely this line of action.

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