23 November 2020

The Yasuhi Akashi Plan moved to the Caucasus. The reminiscences of a post-imperial nationalist generation in Nagorno-Karabakh

Iulian Chifu

The post-Cold War era went through a transition period towards the globalized world, wherein the nature of the conflicts that broke out was identitary, first of all the ethnical and religious one. The solutions at that time, given the nationalist recrudescence which led to the dissolution of the artificial ideological empires – URSS, the former Yugoslavia -, have determined the most serious conflicts in the Western Balkans and the ex-Soviet space. But today’s comeback – through the Lavrov Plan solution and the Declaration signed by the presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan and the Armenian prime-minister – to the Yasushi Akashi model, which failed in 1993 in Bosnia, seems to be like a a relapse in the black transition of genocide, purges and cultural mosaic, unstable improvisations and weak states, lacking a societal cohesion.

Image source: Profimedia - punct de control al armatei ruse în Nagorno-Karabakh

The detailed solution of an unsparing reality: the Yasushi Akashi plan  

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Dayton solution (November 1st 1995) was a complex and problem-solving state construction of structural violence through the format of a confederative state between a federation (Croatian-Muslim) and a Serbian republic. It was an administrative mistake, a maximal complication built to avoid a new conflict. The fact that, today, even this format – with three presidents and a rotating presidency every eight 8 months – became old-fashioned and blocks the path of the Bosnian state towards the European Union, breaking the right of minorities different than those included in the Constitution, got proved through the ECHR Decision in the Sejdić -Finci case (a Jewish and a Romani who will never be able to run for president in the tripartite format that includes a Serbian, a Croatian and a Bosnian Muslim).

Few people actually know that the plan came after two other solutions, the Vence-Owen Plan (a Serbian-Croatian partition option, wherein the Bosnians were considered Serbian-Croatian who followed the Muslim religion, but not as having different ethnicity) and the Yasushi Aksahi Plan. The former general under-secretary of UN and personal envoy of the General Secretary for the former Yugoslavia – known for his ingenious and innovative solutions in the South-East Asia, mostly in Cambodia – has analyzed the 1992-1005 situation and came up with a detailed rescue formula for the communities in the exact place they were located, at their homes, and a new planning which included a complex system of ethnical enclaves and transport corridors on the territory of another ethnicity, to connect each enclave to the main territorial area of that specific landlocked ethnicity.

The reality in the field was, however, difficult and took vengeance on the hardest way possible against the office solutions, which were artificial and dysfunctional, which could not stand up against the nationalist attempts of ethnical standardization in the Western Balkans. Out of the six Bosnian enclaves, three of them, Gorazde, Srebenica and Zepa were the targets of the Serbian attacks, and Srebenica - the massacre of all Muslim men and young boys – was avoided by a hair’s breadth, but the enclaves were mostly evacuated, getting to a contiguous and quite pure ethnical territorial formula. The Yasushi Akashi Plan failed, and the high Japanese diplomat had to carry with him the burden of making a decision that led to the death of thousands of people in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Mutual reliance and corridors which are feeding Russia’s new dominating role in the Caucasus

The peace declaration/plan – which combines the Lavrov Plan, discussed for years, and the ad-hoc solution from November 9-10th from Nagorno-Karabakh – is taking the clearest shapes possible of the Yasushi Akashi, although we are talking about a failed and criticized plan. It is not establishing the status of the territory of what’s left from the Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh, but creates the corridors between Armenia and the ethnic Armenian enclave Nagorno-Karabakh (or Artsakh), through Lachin corridor and it connects Azerbaijan in the Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh to the Azerbaijani enclave Nakhchivan, through the corridor that’s next to the Armenian-Iranian border, on Armenia’s territory.

The solution seems to have been chosen only to satisfy Russia’s interests, not of those directly involved in it, as both have some problems with Russia’s proposal. This complaint is also shared with the neighbors of the regional power of those in question, Azerbaijan and Armenia – Turkey and Iran. Although it has signed the imposed peace, Armenia is taking advantage on the Russian presence on the official territory of Azerbaijan, it gets only half of Nagorno-Karabakh, however not the Shusha/Shushi province, which guarantees the control and occupation of the area by the holder of the heights above Stepanakert capital – and loses also the Southern corridor, however wins the increased dependency on Russia and an increased presence of the Russian troops – 2000 in Nagorno Karabakh, at the contact line with the Azerbaijanis, where they monitor the Lachin corridor, and an unspecified number of Russian FSB for the Southern corridor towards Nakhchivan, at the border with Iran. The current situation turns Armenia into a second Russian Abkhazia, a weak state, substantially controlled through the dominating Russian military and investment presence.

Being a winner on the field, in the direct war, mostly thanks to the drone war and the high-tech procured from Turkey and Israel, Azerbaijan has the advantage of having a recognized territorial integrity and of not being asked to give autonomy  to the Azerbaijani area. Also in terms of advantages, there is the chance of avoiding genocide against the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. Also, although it got rid of the Russian troops six years ago (after the withdrawal of the Garbala radar), now these troops are, again, entering the Armenian region from Nagorno Karabakh. It has the advantage of the corridor that goes to Nakhchivan, but it seems it got fooled when it comes to the distribution of the peace maintenance forces between Russia and Turkey, which was frustrating for Ankara, criticizing the hastened decision of Ilham Aliyev when signing the joint statement.

Russian unilateralism and the surprise solution that comes from a different era

And within the regional powers there is a constant complaint about the unilateral Russian solution: Turkey is starting to realize that, although it has contributed to the ceasefire agreement, it does not have access in Nagorno-Karabakh or the permission to deploy troops on the field, in the enclave, just like the peace maintenance troops. At the same time, Iran is not happy that it was not consulted or that it is not part of the discussion especially that it has repeatedly announced that it was opposing that part of the plan which referred to the Russian border guards’ presence at its Northern border. As the two states are part of the Astana mechanism, together with Russia, these increased complaints are weakening the plan and the ceasefire solution and is threatening Russia’s position in Syria and in the entire Middle East.

The complaint is actually more complex, it targets also the multilateral international bodies, needed to legitimate the situation on the field: OSCE and the Minsk group were counted out of the peace format and the discussions –first of all the US and France. Then, the situation was not brought to the UN Security Council’s table for validation, although at the UN there are multiple resolutions and conventions on the Nagorno-Karabakh war. The European Union was not even consulted or present in any way possible but it must contemplate a fait accompli, an artificial solution, which favors on the plan’s author. (At the Romanian Foreign Affairs Ministry’s request, the Foreign Affairs Council will discuss within the following reunion the situation of the extended conflicts in the Wider Black Sea region). Hereof, the payoffs will soon start to show up.

In fact, Putin’s Russia found a way to get its own strategic advantages out of the entire situation: it sent 2000 troops on the field, for the first time in Southern Caucasus after 2008, following efforts of withdrawing its troops from Georgia and Azerbaijan; it took over a unique and exclusive role as peace maintenance forces, breaking all the principles for getting such a status – with no interests on the field, multinational forces or troops from the neighbor countries and with a multilateral institutional validation. Also, Russia gained a new value in relation with its rival from the Caucasus – in terms of influence – Turkey, as it conceded the corridor, to allow Turkey to transit it towards Central Asia, and also the direct connection to Azerbaijan, however it kept the Russian forces there to control the transit and it moved it in the additional strategic military presence in the areas Turkey is interested in and built a new dependence for Turkey on Russia.

As the Turkish troops will not be allowed to enter Nagorno-Karabakh, we are once again dealing with a Russian fraudulence and a revanchist and unilateral solution, which are only favoring Russia, and an improvised pseudo-solution in the Caucasus. It is an option which proposes the revalidation of nationalist approaches and the ethnic cultures artificially shaped, which is replacing the democratic and integrative solution of all the inhabitants of a space and a community by following the minorities’ right and the civilized approach, normal in the 21st century, of topics like peace, war and borders in Europe.

The fairness of the final solution for Nagorno-Karabakh involves the commitment of all actors – including of the Western actors, US and EU – and the validation of a mutually acceptable solution in the multilateral bodies responsible for the area’s security – OSCE and the UN. It requires the involvement of all actors which can join the reconstruction and which can manage the necessary reforms in Armenia as well, first of all the EU. But, as the Russian troops have immediately entered the field, any option will be conditioned and limited by Russia’s movement and its troops, dislocated in the Caucasus for 5 years, with the possibility to withdraw them only if both parts require it (or, at least, if one of them demands it). This is an option open to Russian pressures on the two Caucasian capitals, Yerevan and Baku, which stays on the field sine die, without considering the interests of the other actors in the region, both global and European ones.

Translated by Andreea Soare