Too often, myths perpetuated about foreign conflict mediation
have actually delayed swift resolutions, Wesleyan University
government professor Arman Grigorian said.

More than 35 professors and diplomats of the United States and
other nations attended the four-day, University-hosted
International Armenian Conference over the weekend. They examined
the political history of the Southern Caucasus, as well as the
current state of strife there, to discuss new approaches for peace
in the area.

The Southern Caucasus — a part of the former Soviet Union
north of the Middle East — consists of Armenia, Azerbaijan
and Georgia.

On the conference’s third day, during a panel on conflict
resolution in the Southern Caucasus, Grigorian warned against
resolutions to dilemmas that require many intermediary parties.

An issue of much contention, Grigorian pointed toward American
involvement in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in Armenia as an
example of third-party mediation that has been largely

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict began in 1988 in a clash over
Soviet territory between Armenians and Azerbaijanis. By the fall of
the Soviet Union in 1991, full-blown war had erupted in the region.
Bloodshed eventually ceased in 1994, yet analysts say its
consequences are strongly felt between the two parties today and
political settlements have yet to be reached.

Some, like Grigorian, feel that U.S. mediation efforts in
conflicts in the Caucasus have only made matters worse. He said the
United States and Russia, two countries with different interests,
have competed in the Caucasus instead of trying to help the

“It’s easy to see me as favoring Russian mediation
— perhaps because I’m Armenian and Armenians tend to be
pro-Russia — but I don’t care which party (is given the
upper hand) as long as they’re seriously interested in
finding a solution,” Grigorian said.

LSA senior Steve Jebinak, who attended the conference on
Saturday and is researching the region, expressed his interest in
Armenian foreign and state relations. “I’m
investigating how regions that have broken away (from their
original country) do function as states, though they’re not
recognized diplomatically.” Armenia declared its independence
from the collapsing Soviet Union in 1991.

Tom de Waal, Caucasus editor and project coordinator of the
Institute for War and Peace Reporting, closed the panel by
suggesting that the weight of discontent among the people of the
Southern Caucasus lies not so much in the conflict itself, but in
the way the conflict is perceived.

“What’s in the mind is often the biggest obstacle to
the resolution of these conflicts,” Waal said. “The
differences are not that great; it’s the perceptions of
conflicts which extenuates those differences.”

Waal said he hopes that in the coming years, Armenians,
Azerbaijanis and Georgians will come to regard their shared past as
a source of unity.

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