Scotland can help bring peace to South Caucasus – Angus Robertson

It’s time for peace in the South Caucasus. Three decades after a territorial dispute began between the former Soviet republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan, violence has flared up again.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev gestures as he addresses the nation following fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan (Picture: Azerbaijani Presidential Press Office via AP)
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev gestures as he addresses the nation following fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan (Picture: Azerbaijani Presidential Press Office via AP)

Renewed fighting over the weekend claimed the lives of dozens of people and there is a serious risk of escalation and wider regional involvement.

At the heart of the conflict is the mountainous region of Nagorno-Karabakh which is claimed by both nations. Although internationally recognised as a part of Azerbaijan, it is controlled by ethnic Armenians who are supported by the government of Armenia.

Now the Azeri President Ilham Aliyev says he is confident of regaining control over the region. Armenia has declared martial law and mobilised its entire armed forces and its Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan told Armenians, “Get ready to defend our sacred homeland” and accused Azerbaijan of “planned aggression”.

Both nations have major backers with the Azeris supported by Turkey and Armenia by Russia. The international community has called for a ceasefire. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “extremely concerned” and called for both sides to stop fighting.

In truth what is required is a lasting peace settlement. However, three decades of attempts have been elusive. These include the high-profile involvement of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation and Europe and also dialogue which brought politicians from the region to Edinburgh.

In 2003 I hosted the South Caucuses Parliamentary Initiative which brought delegates to the Scottish Parliament and Prestonfield House Hotel. Edinburgh and Scotland should again offer to help in the search for peace and reconciliation.

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Joy Yates

Editorial Director