How Kerry could be key to Karabakh conflict

“The only way for Washington to wash its hands of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict is to achieve conflict settlement,” Alexandros Petersen writes an article published in the Washington Post.

Late last month, Secretary of State John F. Kerry stated as much when he wrote to the president of Armenia that “we cannot be satisfied with the status quo” in the conflict. Mr. Kerry is well-versed in the intricacies of Nagorno-Karabakh, because as a senator, he represented a particularly active cohort of Armenian-Americans. Their lobbying in Congress has led some Azerbaijanis to intimate that the new secretary of state might be biased toward the other side in the conflict, but it seems that Mr. Kerry has left his constituency’s concerns behind him to focus on U.S. national interests.

According to the author, it is very much in the American interest to solve a conflict that could at any moment boil over to destabilize an already uncertain region.

Petersen reminds that the United States, France and Russia head the Minsk Group, a negotiating framework sponsored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, to find a solution to the conflict.

“Russia is Armenia’s closest ally and has a deep strategic interest in maintaining its military power in the Caucasus. Russia maintains its 102nd Military Base on Armenian territory, with more than 3,000 combat troops, hundreds of tanks and armored vehicles, as well as MiG aircraft and anti-aircraft defenses. A defense treaty with Moscow obligates Russia to defend Armenia in case of war, including an escalation in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Moscow has no such relationships with Azerbaijan. In fact, at the moment, Russian technicians are leaving Azerbaijan’s largest radar facility as part of a deal agreed to late last year to sever the last vestiges of Soviet-era ties,” the article reads.

Alexandros Petersen believes that U.S. mediation is more impartial than Russia’s.  according to him, Secretary of State John Kerry’s familiarity with the conflict provides an opportunity for the United States to craft a better strategy for settlement in Karabakh. “In this case, the deep involvement of a U.S. secretary of state would go further in getting results than the ongoing disingenuous efforts of a Russian president. Mr. Kerry has his work cut out for him, but he may well be the best man for the job,” the author concludes.

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