The EU would like to play a more central role in Nagorno- Karabakh but is constrained as its leverage over the main players is limited.
The EU would like to facilitate a negotiated settlement of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia by assuming a more prominent role in the OSCE Minsk Group that mediates on the issue. Although all member states support the goal, the EU has less leverage in Nagorno-Karabakh than any of the other protracted conflicts in the post-Soviet space, and has largely limited its involvement to issuing statements on the tense situation on the ground. The EU is one of the co-chairs of the Minsk Group (along with Russia and the US) but is permanently represented by France.
Russia remains the principal mediator in the conflict due to its military power and political capital. Still, its writ does not go far: in the latest meeting between Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents in October, the Russian hosts brokered an agreement to exchange prisoners of war as a confidence-building measure, but there is, at present, no basic agreement on the principles of the talks. Armenia is heavily dependent on Russia while Azerbaijan perceives Moscow as favouring Yerevan. That perception was reinforced by the recent military co-operation agreement concluded between Armenia and Russia.
The EU, meanwhile, is asymmetrically dependent on co-operation with Azerbaijan with respect to energy supplies. Member states have been reluctant to push Baku on issues related to democracy and human rights, even those, such as Poland, that have spoken out on Belarus. The same applies to Armenia, which is largely ignored by top policymakers. In 2010, the EU started negotiations over an Association Agreement with both Azerbaijan and Armenia without making progress on Nagorno-Karabakh a condition. The EU has also failed to meaningfully engage Turkey, another key player. To have a bigger impact, the EU could deploy a monitoring mission along the lines of the one in Georgia and engage both Russia and Turkey.