Despite relative unity, the EU has achieved little progress towards resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute.
Tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh continue to rise and there remains the risk of an accidental war between them. Compared to the conflicts in Transnistria or Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the EU has even less leverage in discussions over the future settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. All member states support peaceful resolution of the conflict, yet both they and the EU’s institutions invest less time in this issue compared to the other two protracted conflicts. The EU as such is not present in the negotiating framework and is represented by France in the OSCE’s Minsk Group, the key framework for discussions about the conflict. France, which co-chairs the group along with Russia and the US, is not willing to give up its seat for a formal EU representative. As a result, while EU member states agree in their assesments of the conflict, they remain largely absent from the negotiations.
In 2011, the Minsk Group met no less than six times. But it was Russia that continued to play the principal role in negotiations about the conflict settlement. The EU restricted itself to supporting Moscow’s initiative to reach a breakthrough in negotiations via a separate track outside the group. However, although Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan in February, March and June, the meetings yielded no progress. The agreement on the basic framework of the future political settlement of the conflict – the so-called Madrid Principles – remains on paper only. Both the EU and member states in general seem determined the isolate the Nagorno-Karabakh issue from their relations with both Armenia and Azerbaijan. For example, they did not make discussion with the two countries on issues such as energy or trade conditional on progress on Nagorno-Karabakh. The EU has also failed to engage meaningfully with the other two key players, Turkey and Russia.