Georgian parliamentary elections, Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire in the spotlight during NATO PA webinar on the South Caucasus

30 November 2020

Video of the webinar can be found at the bottom of the press release

Over 30 lawmakers from 16 Allied and partner nations discussed recent political and security developments in the South Caucasus during the NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s second Rose-Roth webinar in 2020. The meeting was organized with the support of the Swiss government and also featured Ambassador Philippe Brandt, Head of the Swiss Mission to NATO.

At the centre of discussions were the recent parliamentary elections in Georgia, which have led to a serious political crisis, as well as the Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire agreement signed between Armenia and Azerbaijan on 10 November.

Addressing the political situation in Georgia, Gerry Connolly (United States), President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA), argued that “overcoming this political impasse is crucial for Georgia’s democratic future and for its Euro-Atlantic integration. And this can only be achieved by creating the conditions for dialogue and trust between majority and opposition.”

President Connolly also tackled the situation in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone, where a ceasefire agreement brokered by Russian President Vladimir Putin on 10 November put an end to violence but left many questions unanswered.

He stressed that “The ceasefire agreement […] enables the deployment of so-called Russian peacekeepers, which will give Russia additional leverage in its relations with both countries. Even if neither NATO nor the Assembly have a direct role in the resolution of the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, these recent developments are on our radar. The fighting has stopped. Now must come a time of de-escalation and responsible behavior and rhetoric. Ultimately, the region needs a long-term solution under the auspices of the Minsk Group to finally bring lasting peace and stability for all its people.”

Members heard from and discussed these issues and the regional COVID-19 situation with three eminent experts on the region: Amanda Paul, Senior Policy Analyst at the European Policy Centre, Dennis Sammut, Director of LINKS Europe, and Neil Melvin, Director of International Security Studies at RUSI in London. 

“2020 has been the most challenging year since the early 1990s” for the South Caucasus, Mr Sammut stressed when opening discussions. 
The ceasefire agreement in and around Nagorno-Karabakh was the focus of much of the discussions between the experts and members of parliament. 
Mr Sammut argued that “peace is better than war, but it comes at a high price”. Russian forces were now deployed to allegedly guarantee the ceasefire. However, he argued that the “agreement needs to be put into an international framework”, ideally under the United Nations or the OSCE. Mr Melvin agreed, arguing that the Minsk Group process was still needed, but was no longer enough.

Dynamics had shifted, Mr Melvin said: “The conflict has highlighted that the post-Soviet space has entered a new era.” To bring stability to the South Caucasus, “a broader geopolitical effort is needed”. Much higher level of engagement was needed from the United States, the European Union, and even NATO, Mr Sammut and Mr Melvin stressed. Mr Melvin also underlined the imperative that Russia, which had to completely recalibrate its approach to the South Caucasus during the recent hostilities, needed to come up with proposals for long-term solutions for Nagorno-Karabakh, rather than just bide its time.

Mr Sammut saw some silver linings, however: prospects for peace, reconciliation, and long-term solutions could open if all sides took the necessary steps. New transport corridors and communication channels were opening and could play a useful role. Moreover, in his mind, it was clear that “the stability of Armenia is now in the interest of everybody, including Azerbaijan”, he argued. He also called for new steps in normalising relations between Armenia and Turkey.

Ambassador Brandt also addressed the members of parliament. The Swiss government is a long-running backer of NATO PA partnership programmes and generously supports Rose-Roth seminars and webinars which assist partners in their democratic transitions, reform processes, and Euro Atlantic aspirations. 

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