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Foreign Peacekeepers in Nagorno Karabakh: another source for stability or cause for concern? Armenian News Network / Groong March 1, 2006 By Grigor Hakobyan BACKGROUND As the negotiations for the resolution of the Armenian-Azeri conflict over Nagorno Karabakh continue, a series of public statements were recently made by the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan, Chairman of OSCE Minsk Group Karel De Gucht and Project Director of International Crisis Group Sabine Frezier that indicated that the possibility of deploying foreign peace keepers in the conflict zone is currently being discussed. Although the details of such a plan are not very well known, an approximate idea about which countries may comprise the peacekeeping contingent has become known. U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Evans has recently mentioned that would be peace keepers should not be comprised of neighboring states or co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. Representatives of Ukraine and Turkey were among the first to announce their willingness to participate in a potential peace keeping mission in Nagorno Karabakh, however, the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has quickly rejected the Turkish offer and indicated that Turkey is not an impartial party to be considered for involvement in such a regional endeavor. Although Ukraine was not publicly rejected by either the Armenian or Azerbaijani sides yet, a recent statement made by Ukrainian officials about their support for the concept of territorial integrity doesn't inspire much confidence in Ukraine's impartiality toward the conflict and most likely will be rejected by the Armenian side, if not by the representatives of Armenian Republic, then by the authorities of Nagorno Karabakh. ANALYSIS Based on current discussions taking place both openly and behind the scene regarding the composition of a would-be peace keeping contingent and other details, it would be wrong to anticipate that Russia somehow will agree to abstain from taking part in it. If such a mission were to takes place, it is most likely that military personnel from the United States and Russia would inevitably become part of the peace keeping contingent. Deployment of US peace keepers in the conflict zone will certainly raise eyebrows in Tehran and cause further complications in the Armenian-Iranian and Azeri-Iranian relations. The participation of European peace keepers in such a mission, although very likely, is hardly impartial to the situation prevailing in that region, due to the presence of large European investments in various oil and gas projects of Azerbaijan. However, one should ask whether the deployment of peacekeepers in this conflict zone is really necessary. For the past 12 years since the cease-fire was signed no major military actions have taken place in the region. Mostly due to the balance of power that resulted after the cease-fire and the construction of Baku-Jeyan oil pipeline that followed. Any skirmishes that took place on the contact line between the opposing forces were always resolved between the conflicting parties across the front line without foreign intervention. The competence of would be peace keepers to carry out such mission is also a matter of question. As the fratricide in Yugoslavian civil war of the 1990s have shown, a well armed and well equipped contingent of armed peace keepers were not able to guarantee the safety of the civilians that they were entrusted to protect. Furthermore, the prolonged presence of foreign peace keepers in Kosovo and Bosnia, with pockets full of hard currencies, have served as magnets for human traffickers and drug dealers throughout the region, who in turn have swarmed those areas and further exacerbated the criminal situation in the provinces in question. Another implication to be considered is the potential impact that may result directly or indirectly from the presence of the international peace keepers in the region upon the domestic situations prevailing in Armenia and Azerbaijan. The presence of international peace keepers in the region will most likely encourage a stronger showing of opposition forces in the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in Armenia and potentially result in the collapse of the Aliyev clan in Baku. The rise of Islamic fundamentalists in Azerbaijan could be an outcome of such a collapse. CONCLUSION It is hard to imagine how the deployment of international peace keepers in the region is going to contribute towards the betterment of the situation in the region, when Azeri threats of using force against the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh continue unabated. The uncompromising position undertaken by the Azeri government in the negotiation process does not allow any room for optimists around the world that the resolution of this prolonged conflict will occur any time soon. While the international community has applied consistent, active pressure on Armenia to make significant, disproportional concessions over the Nagorno Karabakh issue, Azerbaijan is acting very emboldened by the promise of windfall profits from the start of operation of the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the upcoming completion of the Baku-Erzerum gas pipe line currently in constructed.  Meanwhile, the Nagorno Karabakh, which was recognized as a direct party to the conflict in the 1994 cease-fire agreement, is kept out of the negotiations process by the OSCE Minsk Group, thus inevitably setting up the entire negotiation process for failure. SOURCES  PanArmenian.Net - 02/03/2006  Noyan Tapan - 02/03/2006  Noyan Tapan - 01/25/2006  Pan-Armenian - 02/02/2006  Yerkir - 02/03/2006  ArmeniaNow - 10/21/2005 -- Grigor Hakobyan is an independent political analyst residing in Scottsdale, AZ.