The future of peace in the Caucasus increasingly depends on cultivating greater levels of trust between states in the region, a RUSI roundtable conference has found.
Organised in collaboration with the European Azerbaijan Society on 17 September, 'Security in the Caucasus: Enhancing Cooperation with European Security Architectures' sought to provide Whitehall-based participants with an updated perspective on Caucasus regional security issues.
The conference aimed to encourage a comprehensive approach amongst EU, OSCE and NATO members towards the region, and above all, to showcase the lead taken by countries in the South Caucasus on many of the region's political issues.
Convening a high-level group of ministers, Lords, MPs, Ambassadors and political observers, discussants included ministerial representatives from the South Caucasus countries such as Ambassador Vaqif Sadikhov, Azerbaijan's Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, and David Jalagania, Georgia's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. Widening the scope for debate, regional and international dimensions were provided by Ambassador Unal Cevikov, Turkish Deputy Undersecretary for Political Affairs, as well as senior officials from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the European Union, NATO and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.
Conflict and reconciliation
Championing the argument for political reconciliation, the seminar raised a broad range of issues impacting on the future of the Caucasus, paying particular attention to prevailing conflicts over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region and the occupied Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Government representatives from Azerbaijan and Georgia discussed their respective views on the conflicts, helping to highlight the threat which these disputes represent to wider notions of European security, in addition to their ongoing human cost in terms of the continued displacement of divided communities. Simmering belligerence in both instances was said to require renewed efforts by all those involved in order to translate negotiations and political overtures into a more lasting regional peace.
Turkey's diplomatic and foreign policy approach was in this respect seen as providing a very welcome impetus in terms of developing cross-channelled and multi-faceted opportunities for regional cooperation.
However, the establishment of a greater level of trust between the Caucasus states is central to peace across the region. Without such trust, support from the international community will inevitably fail to shore up hitherto positive steps.
The region's ever growing importance as a future strategic hub for energy transit routes was also discussed, including the importance of the southeastern corridor for the European Union in promoting energy diversification.
The various international arrangements designed to facilitate security and European co-operation with the region, such as NATO's Partnership for Peace, the OSCE, or the EU's Eastern Partnership, were also presented to Participants. While it was acknowledged that these initiatives could produce, and had already produced, positive effects within individual nations, the institutional approach was however found to have reached certain limitations in terms of promoting greater regional cooperation.
The conference stressed the importance of an increase in trust between the Caucasus states themselves and the international players in the region, which will contribute towards the long-term aims of conflict resolution there. In parallel to this being established, the region as a whole should move forward in establishing greater diplomatic relations with Europe.
If you would like to find out more about the conference and RUSI's engagement with the Caucasus region, please contact Alastair Cameron, Head of the European Security Programme.