Peaceful resolution of the Karabakh conflict would be transformative for the South Caucasus: UK Minister

Speaking at the Baku ADA University, UK Minister of State for Europe David Lidington stressed the need to “end the terrible tragedy that is Nagorno Karabakh.”

“It is a matter of deep regret that on the twentieth anniversary of the 1994 ceasefire we still seem to be a long way from an agreed sustainable and agreed political settlement. In fact, there have been more deaths this year than in any other since 1994. This is a conflict that has caused 20 years of lost opportunity. 20 years of continued hostility, hatred and suffering,” Mr. Lidington said.

“Every year both Azerbaijanis and Armenians die on the line of contact as a result of this ongoing conflict,” he said.

“Every year the divisions and differences between the two countries and two peoples seem grow; and the opportunities for contact, for the exchange of views, for building of links across national lines seems to diminish further. Every year the possibilities to build a brighter future for the region seem to become more distant,” the Minister added.

According to him, a peaceful resolution would be transformative for the South Caucasus as a whole, enabling the region to develop its full economic potential as a bridge between Europe and Asia. “At a simple, practical level that fact that you cannot have direct flights between Baku and Yerevan is an obstacle to the normal business of international trade and commercial contact.”

“Only diplomacy can bring about peace; and diplomacy can only succeed if those who disagree meet to resolve their differences,” David Lidington said. He welcomed the recent meetings of President Aliyev and President Sargsyan: in Sochi; at the NATO Summit in Newport; and in Paris. “Regular high level meetings are one vital step towards building peace,” he said.

“I personally, and the UK government, strongly support the work of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs in trying to achieve a lasting peace. The “Madrid Principles” set out in 2007 provide the basis for a deal but they involve difficult decisions and compromises for both sides. So it is important that these principles are discussed more openly, both in Azerbaijan and Armenia,” he said.

“Peace will only be possible if both Armenia and Azerbaijan are prepared to show the political will needed to reach agreement,” he stressed and added: “I am concerned that neither the government of Azerbaijan nor the government of Armenia is at the moment creating a situation in which a peace agreement would be acceptable to their populations.”

“I know that compromise is not easy and I recognize that finding a solution to this conflict will require courage from all sides. But some of the keys to future stability and prosperity involve difficult decisions right now. I believe that now is the time to invest in peace,” Mr. Lidington concluded.

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