Conflicts in the Caucasus and Moldova – largely frozen since the early 1990s (apart from Georgia in August 2008) – remain unresolved. On the other hand, relative to the shadow of the ferocious violence and unabated bloodshed in Ukraine, the intensity of these frozen conflicts has been largely contained, with the minor exception of an uptick in casualties in Nagorno-Karabakh starting in August 2014.
Armenia and Azerbaijan The frozen conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh sparked into renewed violence in August 2014, with 60 casualties during the year. This marked the worst bloodshed since large-scale fighting stopped with a ceasefire in 1994. Nagorno-Karabakh, translated as “mountainous black garden,” is a region within Azerbaijan that is populated by an ethnically Armenian majority. Its calls for secession in 1988 led to several years of war between Azerbaijan and Read More...
The frozen conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh sparked into renewed violence in August 2014, with 60 casualties during the year. This marked the worst bloodshed since large-scale fighting stopped with a ceasefire in 1994.
Nagorno-Karabakh, translated as “mountainous black garden,” is a region within Azerbaijan that is populated by an ethnically Armenian majority. Its calls for secession in 1988 led to several years of war between Azerbaijan and Armenia, with approximately 30,000 casualties and one million refugees. In 1991, the region unilaterally declared independence.
Since 1992, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has led international efforts to reach a political solution between the parties through the so-called Minsk Group Process, jointly co-chaired by France, Russia, and the United States. A ceasefire was reached in 1994 with Azerbaijan losing 14% of its territory.
In 1995, Russia signed a treaty with Armenia to enable Russian military troops in the west of the country, authorized to protect Russia’s interests. In 2010, this treaty was extended from 2020 to 2044 and amended to provide security guarantees should fighting break out within Armenia. Russia also sells billions of dollars in arms to Azerbaijan. There are about 4,000-5,000 Russian troops stationed in Armenia. But since Nagorno-Karabakh is still legally part of Azerbaijan, the treaty’s guarantees would not extend to the region.
Currently, the Minsk Group co-chairs are Ambassadors Pierre Andrieu of France, Igor Popov of Russia, and James Warlick of the U.S. They travel to Baku and Yerevan periodically to meet with the Azeri and Armenian presidents. The meetings serve as a forum to identify basic principles for a comprehensive peace settlement. Minsk Group meetings have also discussed mechanisms to investigate ceasefire violations along the front line and the development of both military and civilian confidence-building measures.
Since 1996, Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk has served as the focal point for negotiations as the Personal Representative of the Chairman-in-Office on the Conflict Dealt with by the OSCE Minsk Conference (OSCE Special Envoy). Based in Georgia, Kasprzyk is supported by field office staff in Tbilisi, Baku, Yerevan, and Stepanakert. He participates in all of the activities of the Minsk Group and maintains regular contact with de facto Nagorno-Karabakh authorities to discuss developments at the line of contact between Karabakhi and Azerbaijani armed forces. In keeping with his mandated tasks and the consent, support and involvement of all relevant authorities, the OSCE Special Envoy further schedules bimonthly monitoring exercises at the line of contact.
In 2012, significant military buildup occurred along the line of contact, with both sides investing in sophisticated defense systems. Armed clashes increased markedly that year, with the number of conflict-related casualties reaching their highest level since 1994.
In August 2014, violence escalated even further with around 40 casualties in that month alone. The Minsk Group called for a cessation of conflict and expressed deep concern that an International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) vehicle was attacked while assisting the local population on a humanitarian mission. The Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders met with President Putin in Moscow in September and with President Holland in October to discuss a potential settlement. In France, they agreed to exchange information on persons who disappeared during the six-year conflict that ended in 1994, a process overseen by the ICRC. They also agreed to new continue talks on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in September 2015.
The OSCE has in turn remained highly engaged, with monthly meetings of the Minsk Group co-chairs and frequent visits of the Special Envoy, Ambassador Kasprzyk. But fighting resumed in November 2014, with an Armenian helicopter shot down over Nagorno-Karabakh by Azeri forces. Periodic low-scale fighting continued simmering as 2014 drew to a close.
The frozen conflict in Georgia – in the Russian-controlled breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia – remained unresolved in 2014.
Secessionist claims in South Ossetia and Abkhazia in the early 1990s led to sporadic violence until ceasefires were reached in 1992 and 1994, respectively. However, tensions escalated in August 2008 with a Russian blitzkrieg military intervention forcing Georgian troops out of both provinces and reaching close to Georgia’s capital, Tblisi, within days. A peace accord was brokered by the French President Nicolas Sarkozy. But after the fighting ended, Russia unilaterally recognized both provinces’ claims of independence, a decision accepted subsequently by Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru, but emphatically rejected by the rest of the international community. Russia currently maintains military bases in both provinces with approximately 7,000 troops.
At the request of the Georgian government, the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) was established in September 2008. Currently, it has around 200 unarmed civilian monitors from across the EU and a budget of €18.3 million. Its mandate has been extended until the end of 2016. The EUMM is based in Tblisi, and has field offices in Gori, Mtskheta and Zubdidi. Since completing its initial task of monitoring the withdrawal of Russian forces after the war within the first months of its deployment, the mission has focused on monitoring, stabilization, normalization and building confidence between the parties. EUMM conducts day and night patrols along the administrative boundary lines (ABL) with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Despite EUMM’s mandate being valid throughout all of sovereign Georgia, it has been denied access to both of the disputed territories by the Russian-backed de facto authorities.
Differences between Russia and Western powers on the breakaway regions’ sovereignty status led to the closure in Georgia of the OSCE in 2008 and the UN mission in 2009, leaving the EUMM as sole peacekeeping presence on the ground. However, despite closing their missions, both the UN and the OSCE remain involved in political efforts to resolve the Georgian conflict.
To foster confidence-building among parties to the conflict, EUMM co-facilitates monthly Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) meetings with the OSCE in South Ossetia and the UN in Abkhazia. These meetings provide a venue for discussing critical issues, including border incidents and questions of boundary demarcation. The IPRM’s “hotline” system, administered by EUMM, has served as a critical mechanism for defusing tensions and developing shared understanding of events along the administrative boundary lines.
For instance, in May 2013, EUMM activated the hotline to facilitate the release of five minors who crossed the ABL. It also monitored and facilitated discussions regarding the installation of fences and surveillance equipment by the South Ossetian de facto authorities along the ABL, and emphasized the importance of freedom of movement for the livelihood and well-being of local communities. The IPRM also enables dialogue among the parties on areas of common interest, such as water and electricity supply in several villages on both sides of the ABL.
In April 2012, Abkhazia’s de facto foreign minister declared the head of EUMM, Andrzej Tyszkiewicz, persona non grata, citing alleged disrespect toward Abkhazia. As a result, Abkhaz representatives have refused to join subsequent IPRM meetings. Ambassador Tyszkiewicz was replaced by Toivo Klaar of Estonia (September 2013-December 2014) and then by Ambassador Kęstutis Jankauskas of Lithuania.
Another focal point for mediation between the parties is the EU Special Envoy for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia. Philippe Lefort served in this role between September 2011 and January 2014, and Herbert Salber has served since July 2014. The EUSR is responsible for developing and maintaining contacts with key political actors in the crisis surrounding Georgia, and co-chairs the Geneva discussions with the UN and OSCE. Launched in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 war, the Geneva discussions bring together representatives from Georgia, Russia, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, the UN, the OSCE and the EU about four times a year to address key political, security and humanitarian dimensions of the conflict.
In May 2014, the Russian-backed Abkhaz government faced public protests, forcing the de facto president Alexander Ankvab to resign over allegations of corruption and misrule. The local parliament voted for early presidential elections, which the opposition leader Raul Khadzhimba won. In November, Russia tightened its links with Abkhazia through a treaty that called for the development of a joint Russia-Abkhazian military force and recognized Russia’s power in setting Abkhazia’s foreign policy. It also called for Abkhazia to conform its trade laws to the requirements of the Eurasian Economic Union. Russia subsequently called for a similar “strategic partnership” agreement with South Ossetia and signed a border agreement with the breakaway region.
In Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili replaced Mikheil Saakashvili as President after elections in October 2013. And in light of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea, Georgia took additional steps to align with the West, most prominently by signing an Association Agreement with the European Union on June 27, 2014 – along with Ukraine and Moldova – to facilitate political and economic integration with the EU.
The frozen conflict in Moldova in the Russian-controlled breakaway province of Transdniestria has remained unresolved. In light of the ongoing fighting in neighboring Ukraine, the conflict risks sparking into renewed violence. Like Ukraine and Georgia, Moldova has oriented its foreign policy toward the EU, signing the Association Agreement in June 2014 and subsequently approving another pro-Western government after parliamentary elections in December. On the other hand, the head of the de facto parliament in Transdniestria called in March 2014 for Russia’s annexation of the separatist province on the model of Crimea.
Transdniestria, covering merely 3,500 square kilometers and encompassing 400,000 people, declared independence from Moldova in 1990. After two years of clashes, it reached a ceasefire with Moldova in 1992 and has maintained de facto independence since then. The agreement created the Joint Control Commission Peacekeeping Force (JCC), comprising Russian, Moldovan, and Transdniestrian troops, to supervise the ceasefire in the security zone. Russia has approximately 1,500 soldiers in the breakaway province.
The OSCE and, since 2005, the EU Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM) have facilitated dialogue between the parties and assisted in preventing renewed outbreak of violence between Moldova and Transdniestria.
In particular, the OSCE chairs diplomatic discussions on the frozen conflict in the “5+2” format, involving Moldova, Transdniestria, Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE, plus the European Union and United States as observers. The talks, initiated in 2005 but suspended for nearly six years until 2011, have been resumed. The “5+2” meetings are held every two months and chaired by the Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office for the Transdniestrian Settlement Process. Over the past two years the parties have discussed a range of issues of common interest, such as: freedom of movement; education; law enforcement; dismantling an industrial cable car crossing; environmental issues and sustainable use of natural resources; pensions and social assistance for people who changed their place of residence; and reconstruction of waste processing facilities. However, several meetings were cancelled between June and October 2014, pending elections in Moldova. And in December, the OSCE Ministerial Council called on the parties to increase the frequency of dialogue in 2015.
EUBAM monitors trade between Ukraine and Moldova through Transdniestria. It does not intervene in political discussions between the parties, but seeks to provide confidence-building measures at the technical and advisory level. For instance, it provides assistance to Moldovan and Ukrainian border guard and customs services to be able to detect cases of smuggling, fraud and trafficking in human beings. It also conducts Joint Border Control Operations with its partners. EUBAM has about 100 staff seconded and contracted from EU member states, as well as 120 local staff from Moldova and Ukraine.Less...
Kosovo Kosovo declared independence unilaterally in 2008. Serbia’s refusal to recognize Kosovo’s independence created a political quagmire in the north where Kosovo Serbs reject Pristina’s authority and remain largely under Serbian control. An EU initiated and UN approved dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo aimed at promoting cooperation began in March 2011. Initial talks produced various agreements, but a rift over border control threatened to unravel the process in the summer of 2011. Wit Read More...
Kosovo declared independence unilaterally in 2008. Serbia’s refusal to recognize Kosovo’s independence created a political quagmire in the north where Kosovo Serbs reject Pristina’s authority and remain largely under Serbian control. An EU initiated and UN approved dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo aimed at promoting cooperation began in March 2011.
Initial talks produced various agreements, but a rift over border control threatened to unravel the process in the summer of 2011. With EU mediation, the parties managed to attain an Integrated Border Management Agreement in December 2011, but confrontations on the ground over the construction of roadblocks by Kosovo Serbs continued and the EU-sponsored dialogue remained at an impasse for most of 2012. EULEX struggled to implement its mandate in the north during this period, undermining its credibility vis-à-vis the government in Pristina.
A new round of EU-mediated talks were launched in October 2012 with the direct involvement of High Representative of the EU Catherine Ashton, the Prime Minister of Kosovo Hashim Thaçi and Serbia’s Prime Minister Ivica Dačić. The involvement of high-level officials, coupled with a more pragmatic approach by the Serbian Government, paved the way for the implementation of the Integrated Border Management agreement in December 2012. This agreement allowed for the joint management of four crossing points in northern Kosovo and envisioned the exchange of liaison officers as an initial step in establishing official channels of communication.
EU-mediated negotiations took a distinctive political turn in early 2013, and discussions centered on the status of northern Kosovo. Serbia and Kosovo reached a momentous agreement in April following intense pressure from Germany (tied to Serbia’s EU accession process), and critical behind-the-scenes pressure from the U.S. The fifteen-point settlement envisioned the establishment of an association of municipalities in northern Kosovo with a certain level of autonomy in education, health, economic development, and urban and rural planning. A regional commander within the Kosovo Police structure (a Kosovo Serb) was tasked with the provision of security in the north, and the Appellate Court in Pristina was mandated to rule on all north-related matters through a panel composed of a majority of Kosovo Serb judges. While not explicitly recognizing Kosovo as an independent country, Serbia effectively conceded Pristina’s authority over northern Kosovo.
The OSCE has played a critical role in supporting the EU-brokered agreement through the facilitation of local elections in the north on November 3, 2013, as envisioned in point eleven of the agreement.The organization deployed 240 facilitators to 94 polling stations and organized the voting of Kosovo Serbs living in Serbia.Despite the deployment of KFOR, three polling stations in North Mitrovica were attacked, leading the OSCE to withdraw from these stations.
Another election was conducted on November 17 with enhanced security provided by KFOR, as well as EULEX and Kosovo police for the three previously attacked centers. There were no major incidents. Voter turnout in the north was low at 10-20 percent, the result of a boycott by a majority of Kosovo Serbs, but the EU validated the elections as “a significant step forward for the development of democracy in Kosovo.”
Since the start of the EU-sponsored dialogue, EULEX has increased its freedom of movement in the north. However, tensions have continued. A EULEX police officer was shot dead in September 2013 while returning from a border crossing in northern Kosovo. Following the arrest of Kosovo Serbs accused of various crimes, including the murder of an Albanian police officer in 2011, the newly formed authorities in the Serb-majority municipalities stated in April 2014 that EULEX was no longer welcome in the north. Following the statements, two EULEX cars were attacked on their way to a border post.
Notwithstanding ongoing tensions and rule of law challenges, EULEX was restructured and downsized in June 2014 following a decision from the Council of the EU. This took place presumably under strong pressure from Pristina and the then Prime Minister Thaçi, eager to assume further responsibilities from international authorities and, in turn, support his candidacy for the 2014 parliamentary elections.
EULEX no longer has the authority to open new cases on war crimes, terrorism, corruption and property issues. Kosovar authorities now lead rule of law institutions (within the Prosecutor’s Office, for example), and EULEX judges are in the minority when sitting in mixed panels with Kosovo judges. The EU extended the mandate of the mission until June 2016 with a total of around 2000 international and local staff but a corruption scandal involving bribes to EULEX senior officials has further undermined the mission’s credibility. The EU has started an investigation, but it is still unclear how these events will impact the future of the mission.
NATO’s capabilities have largely remained unchanged during 2013 and 2014, except for the departure of the Operational Reserve Force battalion in January 2013 (deployed in the summer of 2011 during the border crisis). In November 2013, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen stated that he had no plans to reduce the KFOR presence (which numbered at circa 5,000 troops) so that NATO can support the implementation of the EU-brokered agreement. KFOR has played an important role in defusing inter-ethnic violence: New episodes of violence over roadblocks built by Kosovo Serbs broke out in June 2014, with 20 people injured (including local police officers and civilians). KFOR troops and Kosovo Police helped to de-escalate the tensions. Following new border violence in the summer of 2014 involving the killing of a member of the Serbian gendarmerie, the KFOR Commander announced an increase of KFOR patrols in the area.
Security conditions in BiH were fairly stable in 2013. Large-scale demonstrations in early 2014 against corruption and unemployment, however, raised social and political tensions. Episodes of street violence with public buildings set on fire and clashes between riot police and protestors reawakened memories of wartime BiH. Protests started in Tuzla and rapidly spread to more than 30 cities in the country. International response was lukewarm: a simple acknowledgement of the right of citizens to protest through peaceful means. The protests led to the resignation of some local politicians, and to the organization of various citizens’ assemblies that demanded more jobs, less corruption and the formation of technocratic governments.
Reforms necessary for EU integration have stalled in BiH, which has one of the most unstable post-conflict government coalitions. Efforts in 2014 by the then EU commissioner for enlargement Stefan Fule (and the EUSR to BiH Peter Sorensen) to push constitutional reform, one of the critical remaining criteria for BiH to gain EU candidate status, failed as a result of irreconcilable positions of politicians who remain deeply divided over the form of the state. Despite progress made in defense reform with the assistance of NATO’s headquarters in Sarajevo, activation of NATO’s Membership Action Plan (MAP) also stalled due to disagreements over the registration of state and defense property (immovable properties need to be registered as state property for use by the defense ministry as a condition to join the MAP).
Increased nationalist rhetoric related to the general elections in October 2014 also stirred further inter-ethnic tensions and instability, with Serb leader Milorad Dodik supporting the dissolution of BiH, and Croat leaders hinting at the creation of a third entity for Croats, which is fervently opposed by Bosniaks (BiH is currently divided into two ethnic-based entities, namely the Muslim-Croat Federation of BiH and the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska). In light of these events, the UK sent 95 additional troops in August (for up to 6 months) to assist EUFOR Althea in maintaining stability during the election period.
In spite of the EUSR and OSCE’s efforts to push the reform process forward, little progress has been made in implementing both the EU accession criteria and the 5+2 agenda, the framework that lays out requirements for the fulfillment of civilian aspects of the Dayton Agreement (including the closure of the OHR). Most EU countries are in favor of closing down the OHR before conditions are fulfilled, but the U.S. and some European countries such as the UK are inclined to keep it as an instrument of last resort. As a result of international divisions concerning the status of the OHR, the international envoy has lost critical legitimacy and become a marginal actor in BiH.
Heavy rains that lasted for days caused a significant natural disaster in both BiH and Serbia in May 2014, with more than 3,000 landslides killing at least 44 people in the region. Entire villages were destroyed, causing around half a million people in BiH and circa 25,000 in Serbia to evacuate their homes. The EU sent a civil protection team through the European Commission Emergency Response Coordination Center to facilitate coordination of EU assistance and make assessments on the ground. EUFOR Althea sent the Intermediate Reserve Companies from Austria, UK and Slovakia − totaling around 350 troops − to conduct disaster relief operations together with the BiH army. The troops left a month later, but EUFOR Althea continued to assist Bosnian authorities with disaster relief.
OSCE efforts to assist BiH with Euro-Atlantic integration have continued in the areas of rule of law, human rights, security cooperation, governance and institution building. There remain, however, important challenges: the fight against corruption and organized crime, freedom of the media, rule of law and minority rights. During the floods, the OSCE Mission to BiH worked closely with EUFOR Althea and the Ministry of Security. The mission used its regional offices and opened five new local premises in flood-affected areas to provide critical support on the ground. Some of the OSCE’s programmatic activities were also adjusted to focus on relief-related work, and a €30,000 donation was granted for immediate relief from the Organization’s Charity Fund to both Serbia and BiH.
Inter-ethnic relations in FYROM continue to be volatile. In March 2013, public demonstrations against the appointment of former Albanian rebel commander Talat Xhaferi as defence minister turned violent and resulted in 15 people being injured. There were further episodes of ethnic violence in the summer of 2014 when a number of ethnic Albanians were found guilty of the killing of five ethnic Macedonians in 2012.
FYROM’s political instability remains a concern. Controversial adoption in 2013 of a budget, which was approved following the discharge of MPs from the opposition, led to public demonstrations that turned violent in front of the parliament. The opposition called for acts of civil disobedience and a boycott of parliament until early elections were called. Following weeks of political gridlock, the heads of the delegation of the EU to FYROM, the OSCE Mission to Skopje, and the U.S. embassy in Skopje jointly urged political leaders “without further delay [to] find a definitive solution to the current political crisis.”[Joint statement by the Heads of Mission of the European Union, the OSCE, EU, and the United States in Skopje, European Commission Memo, Brussels, 26 February 2013] An agreement that allowed for the opposition to return to parliament was brokered with EU mediation; but a new political crisis broke out again following allegedly fraudulent elections in April 2014.
Public discontent and unrest continued until the EU eventually brokered an agreement in June 2015 on a new set of elections, to be held in late 2105 or early 2016. The situation was further complicated by a shoot-out between ethnic Albanian militants and the police in northern FYROM in mid-May, which left 22 dead. While the government claimed the militants were terrorists, some observers believe they were primarily concerned with illicit cross-border trade with Kosovo.
The role of the OSCE in FYROM during this period was most prominent during the elections in April 2014, with a monitoring mission that involved 20 long-term and 300 short-term observers. The OSCE’s preliminary report concluded that while elections were “efficiently administered”, there were nevertheless irregularities associated with the governing party not making a clear distinction between party and state activities. There were also allegations of voter intimidation and a lack of independent reporting.
The OSCE also worked on the preparation and monitoring of general elections in Albania in June 2013, and on the promotion of a dialogue between the parties to resolve a dispute over the composition of the Central Electoral Commission. With a past record of instability tied to the conduct of elections, the poll became a watershed moment. While recognizing some procedural irregularities and violent episodes in the region of Lezha, including the assassination of an opposition supporter, the OSCE described the elections as free and competitive. Importantly, in June 2014, Albania gained candidate status for EU membership. But concerns regarding Albania’s efforts to fight corruption and organized crime continue to worry EU officials.
In Serbia and in Montenegro, the OSCE maintains offices that focus on democratic institution-building, rule of law and good governance, minority rights, security sector reform and freedom of the press. The OSCE’s work in these countries has also involved two limited monitoring missions for Montenegro’s presidential elections in April 2013 and Serbia’s 2014 parliamentary elections.
The organization deemed the elections in Montenegro to have been competitive, but the OSCE’s final report noted blurred lines between the state and the ruling party. Accusations of electoral fraud resulted in temporary political instability when the opposition party called supporters onto the streets. Montenegro’s progress in rule of law is still slow, but the country has approved important reforms in the areas of intelligence and defense.
Elections in Serbia were considered transparent and democratic with some minor procedural issues and cases of voter intimidation. Serbia is making significant headway toward EU accession but further progress will be dependent on Serbia’s engagement in the EU-sponsored dialogue with Pristina over the status of northern Kosovo.Less...
The ongoing violence in Ukraine has cast a specter over the frozen conflicts in the Caucasus and Moldova. On the one hand, the over-two-decade duration of the status quo in Nagorno-Karabakh, and over six years in Georgia, suggests that the conflicts will remain bloodless into the future. On the other hand, the uptick in violence in Nagorno-Karabakh, annexation claims in Transdniestria, and the integration of Georgia and Moldova with the EU suggest that there is a serious risk of renewed violence Read More...
The ongoing violence in Ukraine has cast a specter over the frozen conflicts in the Caucasus and Moldova. On the one hand, the over-two-decade duration of the status quo in Nagorno-Karabakh, and over six years in Georgia, suggests that the conflicts will remain bloodless into the future. On the other hand, the uptick in violence in Nagorno-Karabakh, annexation claims in Transdniestria, and the integration of Georgia and Moldova with the EU suggest that there is a serious risk of renewed violence. In particular, Russia has over 10,000 troops throughout the frozen conflict zones, which it could activate. Consequently, the need for the international community’s engagement – and in particular, the EU’s and OSCE’s active role – is crucial, at the very least, to containing the conflicts and potentially, in the longer term, to achieving a political settlement.Less...
At the close of the Cold War, Armenia and Azerbaijan were drawn into a war over Nagorno- Karabakh. Populated by an ethnically Armenian majority, this region within Azerbaijan unilaterally declared independence in 1991. Fighting stopped by and large with a cease-fire agreement in 1994, but the territorial dispute has yet to be settled. Since 1992, international engagement to settle the conflict has been coordinated primarily by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The o Read More...
At the close of the Cold War, Armenia and Azerbaijan were drawn into a war over Nagorno- Karabakh. Populated by an ethnically Armenian majority, this region within Azerbaijan unilaterally declared independence in 1991. Fighting stopped by and large with a cease-fire agreement in 1994, but the territorial dispute has yet to be settled. Since 1992, international engagement to settle the conflict has been coordinated primarily by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The organization’s efforts to solve the frozen conflict are guided by the Minsk Process, jointly co-chaired by France, Russia, and the United States. Settlement of the conflict is also guided by a Special Envoy based in Georgia— the Personal Representative of the Chairmanin-Office on the Conflict Dealt with by the OSCE Minsk Conference (CiO Personal Representative)—a position held by Ambassador Andrzej Kaspryzk since 1996. He is supported by field office staff in Tbilisi, Baku, Yerevan, and Stepanakert. The OSCE’s offices in Armenia and Azerbaijan are not involved in settling the conflict, focusing instead on issues of press freedom and justice.
As clashes broke out over NagornoKara bakh in the early 1990s, the former Soviet republics of Moldova and Georgia succumbed to secessionist wars. Despite various cease-fire agreements, the conflicts remain unresolved.
Despite their inability to politically solve the conflict, the Russian-led Joint Control Commission Peacekeeping Force (JCC), the OSCE mission, and, since 2005, the EU Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM) assisted in preventing renewed outbreak of violence between Moldova and the Transdniestria region after a cease-fire was reached in 1992.
In Georgia, the UN deployed military observers to the secessionist region of Abkhazia, while the OSCE had a presence in Tbilisi that engaged with both South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Violent conflict was curtailed until 2004, when Russia began to strengthen its ties with Ab khazia and South Ossetia. Russo-Georgian tensions culminated in a 2008 war that ended decisively in Russia’s favor. After the war, Russia recognized the sovereignty of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, amid harsh critiques of the international community. Differences between Russia and Western powers on the breakaway regions’ sovereignty status led to the closure of the OSCE and UN missions in Georgia, leaving the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM), established shortly after the war ended in 2008, as the sole peacekeeping presence on the ground. However, despite closing their missions, both the UN and the OSCE remain involved in political efforts to resolve the Georgian conflict.Less...
Armenia and Azerbaijan Since 1994, Armenian troops have held Nagorno-Karabakh and a significant part of southwest Azerbaijan. Though the front line has always been highly militarized, significant military buildup occurred in 2012, with both sides investing in sophisticated defense systems. Armed clashes increased markedly and the number of conflict-related casualties in 2012 was the highest since 1994. These developments notwithstanding, the French, Russian, and US co-chairs of the Minsk Group t Read More...
Since 1994, Armenian troops have held Nagorno-Karabakh and a significant part of southwest Azerbaijan. Though the front line has always been highly militarized, significant military buildup occurred in 2012, with both sides investing in sophisticated defense systems. Armed clashes increased markedly and the number of conflict-related casualties in 2012 was the highest since 1994.
These developments notwithstanding, the French, Russian, and US co-chairs of the Minsk Group travel to Baku and Yerevan every two months to meet with the Azeri and Armenian presidents. The meetings serve as a forum to identify basic principles for a comprehensive peace settlement. Minsk Group meetings have also discussed mechanisms to investigate cease-fire violations along the front line and the development of both military and civilian confidence-building measures. In May and July 2012 the co-chairs combined meetings in Baku and Yerevan with travels to Nagorno-Karabakh to discuss matters on the ground with de facto leaders of the breakaway region.
The Minsk Group’s efforts in mediating between Azerbaijan and Armenia were strongly supported by CiO Personal Representative Kaspryzk, who took part in all the group’s activities. He also maintained regular contact with de facto Nagorno-Karabakh authorities to discuss developments at the line of contact between Karabakhi and Azerbaijani armed forces. In keeping with his mandated tasks and the consent, support, and involvement of all relevant authorities, the CiO Personal Representative further scheduled bimonthly monitoring exercises at the line of contact.
Increased remilitarization, violent incidents at the front line, and hostile rhetoric undermined the Minsk Group’s mediation efforts to defuse Azeri-Armenian tensions throughout 2012. Both countries are scheduled to hold presidential elections in 2013 and the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh is very likely to be politicized throughout the electoral period.1;
At the request of the Georgian government, EUMM was established in September 2008, with the immediate task of monitoring the withdrawal of Russian forces after the RussoGeorgian war. Since completing this initial task within the first months of its deployment, the mission has focused on monitoring, stabili zation, normalization, and building confidence between the parties. EUMM conducts patrols along the administrative boundary lines with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. However, since its deployment it has been denied access to both of the disputed territories.
To foster confidence building among parties to the conflict, EUMM co-facilitates monthly Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) meetings, with the OSCE in South Ossetia and the UN in Abkhazia. These meetings provide a venue for discuss ing critical issues, including border incidents and questions of boundary demarcation. The IPRM’s “hotline” system, administered by EUMM, has served as a critical mechanism for defusing tensions and developing shared understanding of events along the administrative boundary lines. In April 2012, Abkhazia’s de facto foreign minister declared the head of EUMM, Andrzej Tyszkiewicz, persona non grata, citing alleged disrespect toward Abkhazia.2 As a result, Abkhaz representatives have refused to join subsequent IPRM meetings to date.
EUMM’s claim that it has the right to access the breakaway regions was further bolstered by an OSCE resolution adopted on 9 July 2012 that calls on parties “to allow the European Union Monitoring Mission unimpeded access to the occupied territories of Abkhazia, Georgia and South Ossetia, Georgia.”3 Calling the breakaway regions “occupied territories” provoked harsh reactions from Russia, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia, but reflects the EU’s position that the regions are part of Georgia’s territory.
To support mediation between the parties, the EU has also appointed a Special En voy to the region. Since June 2011, Philippe Lefort has been double-hatted as EU Special Representative (EUSR) for the South Caucasus and the Crisis in Georgia. The EUSR is responsible for developing and maintaining contacts with key political actors in the crisis surrounding Georgia, and co-chairs the Geneva discussions with the UN and OSCE. Launched in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 war, the Geneva discussions bring together representatives from Georgia, Russia, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, the UN, the OSCE, and the EU about four times a year to address keypolitical, security, and humanitarian dimensions of the conflict.
In light of the suspended IPRM meetings on the Abkhazian side, the Geneva talks gained importance as the only remaining platform for institutionalized dialogue between interlocutors on both sides as well as the international community. The restoration of IPRM meetings with Abkhazia was made the central issue of the twenty-first round of the Geneva talks in June 2012, but the discussion made no progress in this regard. The Geneva meetings generally made limited progress in 2012. They were overshadowed by an increasing level of apprehension between Russia and Georgia in advance of Georgian elections in October. In January 2012, Georgia’s foreign minister accused Russian authorities of trying “to kill” the Geneva talks by refusing to discuss security arrangements and humanitarian core issues.4As in previous years, the key issue of tensions was Russia’s refusal to commit to a nonuse-of-force pledge, which Georgia made in 2010.
In September 1990, Transdniestria, a thin strip of land on Moldova’s eastern border with Ukraine, declared independence. Since clashes and a subsequent truce in 1992, Trans dniestria has maintained de facto independence in this frozen conflict. The cease-fire agreement created the Joint Control Commission Peacekeeping Force, comprising Russian, Moldovan, and Transdniestrian troops, to supervise the ceasefire in the security zone.
Although the JCC has successfully prevented a renewed outbreak of armed conflict since 1992, tensions related to the free movement of people and goods have challenged the mission from the outset. In January 2012 a Moldovan died after being shot by a Russian JCC soldier at a checkpoint while driving to a gas station. In response, Moldova reiterated a demand it has made for years—to transform the peacekeeping mission into a civilian operation with an international mandate, a proposal supported by the OSCE and EU. As in previous years, Russia and de facto Transdniestrian authorities continue to reject this proposition.
Since 1993 the OSCE mission’s major task has been to assist in negotiating a lasting political settlement of the Transdniestrian conflict. In June 2012 the OSCE mission facilitated a three-day conference in Germany, bringing together Moldova’s prime minister and Transdniestria’s de facto president. The meeting was considered a success, as the two parties agreed to accelerate the elimination of barriers in communication, transportation, and banking, and to restore transport corridors between Moldova and Transdniestria.
A major breakthrough in restoring transport corridors was reached with the resumption of freight rail traffic through the Trans dniestrian region in April 2012. EUBAM played a key role in supporting this agreement. Deployed in 2005 to monitor trade between Ukraine and Moldova through Transdniestrian territory, in 2012 EUBAM facilitated technical expertise and conducted seminars to train customs experts from Chisinau and Tiraspol in aiding implementation of the rail cargo agreement.
Diplomatic discussions on the frozen conflict are intended to take place in the “5+2” format, involving Moldova, Transdniestria, Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE, plus the European Union and United States as observers. However, the talks, initiated in 2005, were suspended only a year later until November 2011, when they were eventually resumed. Since then, 5+2 meetings have been held every two months. Since their resumption, these meetings—chaired by the Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-inOffice for the Transdniestrian Settlement Process—have been an important forum for communication. A milestone was reached in the April 2012 meeting when Moldovan and Transdniestrian officials agreed on common principles and mechanisms for negotiation. Subsequent meetings developed an agenda for the negotiation process, including social and economic questions, humanitarian issues and human rights, and security issues and the political settlement of the conflict. In the September 5+2 meeting, the Moldovan prime minister and the Trans dniestrian leader agreed to an intensified meeting schedule to work toward an agreement on outstanding issues. While this is a positive development and discussions have generated progress on a number of small steps to minimize obstacles in the area of eco nomics, transportation, and communications,to date the 5+2 meetings have generally avoided addressing more critical issues.Less...
While new openings for a settlement of the long-standing frozen conflict in Moldova have begun to appear, the risk of continued violence between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh is high. Scheduled elections for 2013 in Armenia and Azerbaijan have fostered reluctance of political leaders to undertake diplomatic solutions that have a high likelihood to politicize the NagornoKarabakh conflict in the lead-up to the voting. Parliamentary elections in Georgia in October 2012, meanwhile, he Read More...
While new openings for a settlement of the long-standing frozen conflict in Moldova have begun to appear, the risk of continued violence between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh is high. Scheduled elections for 2013 in Armenia and Azerbaijan have fostered reluctance of political leaders to undertake diplomatic solutions that have a high likelihood to politicize the NagornoKarabakh conflict in the lead-up to the voting. Parliamentary elections in Georgia in October 2012, meanwhile, heralded the country’s first peaceful, democratic transition, in which current president Mikhail Saakashvili conceded defeat to the opposition Georgian Dream coalition. However, Saakashvili will remain in power for another year, with extensive executive oversight, before stepping down as president, after which phased-in changes to the constitution will assign executive powers to the prime minister. The impact that this election will have on the conflict thus remains to be seen, although some observers have voiced cautious optimism that coalition leader Bizdina Ivanishvili’s promise to improve relations with Russia may help to break the conflict’s stalemate.
Given the circumstances on the ground, the international community’s presence in the region, particularly through the OSCE and EU missions, remains vital to addressing the outstanding issues and to further building confidence between the various conflict parties.
1. “Caucasus Business Forecast Report,” Business Monitor International, 13 July 2012.
2. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Abkhazia, “Statement of the MFA of Abkhazia,” 25 April 2012, http://mfaapsny.org/en/information/index.php?ID=78&sphrase_id=466.
3. OSCE, “Resolution on the Situation in Georgia,” 9 July 2012, http://www.oscepa.org/publications/ declarations/doc_download/1266-monaco-declaration-english.
4. “Georgian FM: Geneva Talks Stalled,” Civil Georgia, 25 January 2012, http://www.civil.ge/eng/ article.php?id=24380.Less...