Sunday, November 2, 2008

Steps towards peace in Nagorno-Karabakh

While tensions remain high in South Ossetia, another corner of the Caucasus region is slowly moving towards peace.

On Sunday the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan signed an agreement to work towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. The two countries fought over the region (which is a largely Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan) in the early 1990's and there have been clashes between the Azeri and Armenians off and on in the years since. Nagorno-Karabakh is one of the "frozen conflicts" scattered throughout the old Soviet Union - conflicts that flared up as the Soviet Union dissolved where the active fighting has largely stopped, but no lasting peace has been achieved (South Ossetia and Abkhazia were also frozen conflicts at least until this past summer).

It was the conflict in Georgia that helped prompt the two presidents to return to the negotiating table, in talks hosted by Russia. President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia is eager to get a peaceful resolution to the situation as a way of boosting Russia's influence in the region.

Most of the residents of Nagorno-Karabakh voted for independence from Azerbaijan in 2006, though like similar votes in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the international community did not recognize the results. Future talks the status of Nagorno-Karabakh will be coordinated by Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), but a final agreement could be tricky since Bako Sahakyan, president of Nagorno-Karabakh has repeatedly said that he wants full independence, something Azerbaijan isn't likely to go along with.
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