Home | Order Information | Contents

Chapter IV (part 3/3)


UN and CSCE Policies in Transcaucasia

Olivier Paye & Eric Remacle

Chapter IV consists of 3 parts (1,2,3) + notes

  1. Concluding Comments
  2. Three sets of conclusions may be drawn from a study of UN and CSCE involvement in the crisis management of the three Transcaucasian conflicts. The first set relates to the interactions of the national interests of the States involved, including the big powers and regional players, and the action or lack of action on the part of the international organizations. The second set of conclusions have a bearing on the capacities of the UN and the CSCE. These have to act coherently and efficiently, as demonstrated by their management of the Transcaucasian crises. In a third set of conclusions, a typology of patterns of co-operation between the UN and the CSCE, as a regional arrangement based on the Transcaucasian experience, is proposed.

    1. National Interests and International Organizations

      The influence of national interests on UN and CSCE actions may be analysed according to three different categories of players: the warring parties; the neighbouring States and regional powers (particularly Russia, Turkey, Iran and, subsidiarily, Kazakhstan); and the Western States. The interests of the Western States are threefold. Their first aim is to preserve their historic ties and geopolitical alliances with the countries involved. This motive was crucial to the French and Greek veto on the use of the "consensus-minus-one" procedure by the CSCE for a formal condemnation of Armenia's participation in the violation of the integrity of Azeri territory. A second aim is to preserve Western interests in energy supplies (oil and gas) coming from or through the territories of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia, which gave rise to fierce competition between Russia, Turkey and Iran. A third Western concern stems from the perceived risk of a strategic reinforcement of Russia and/or Iran, which are still regarded (especially in the US) as potential threats to Western interests.

      Similar motives determine the policies of neighbouring countries and regional powers. These States have specific interests to defend. Firstly, they have to cope with the consequences of the wars in Transcaucasia, such as the stream of refugees or the risk of the war spilling over into areas close to their borders, like Nakhichevan (near Turkey), or even right onto their territory, like Iranian Azerbaijan or the Northern Caucasus. Secondly, they may use wars as a tool in internal or foreign policies: thus Russia is demonstrating its influence in "near abroad" areas and the increasing role of the CIS as a regional organization; the Turkish government is using its initiatives in Transcaucasia and Central Asia to divert public opinion at home from dissatisfaction with the social situation and international protests against repression in Kurdistan; Iran is trying to break its isolation on the world scene.

      The conflicts in Transcaucasia are, in addition, creating opportunities for neighbouring States and regional powers to strengthen or develop alliances with other powers on the basis of strategic aims (such as oil supply, arms procurement or recognition as a regional power). The Turkish-US friendship, for instance, has been clearly reinforced by common initiatives and positions. Attempts to develop a Russian-Iranian axis(157) in the peace process for Nagorno-Karabakh may be analysed in the same way.

      The warring parties have threefold interests to defend. The development of the war and of international mediation is useful for legitimacy purposes: it may stabilize fragile regimes (Shevardnadze, Aliyev), and it may lead to a de facto recognition by the international community of non-governmental parties (the Abkhaz rebels, the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh). Warring parties may express preferences for mediation by one or another organization or state: Armenia, for example, had more reservations than Azerbaijan about the CSCE, because it did not consider its political make-up to be as favourable. A conflict may be internationalized in order to obtain international condemnation of the violation of the integrity of the territory involved (Azeri and Georgian governments), to prevent direct Russian involvement (idem), to restrain military gains by opposite side, to secure humanitarian aid, etc.

    2. Capabilities of the International Organizations in Crisis Management

      The conflicts in Transcaucasia constituted a test case for the capacity of the UN and the CSCE to act as mediators and military peacekeepers. Here, the United Nations Organization is confronted in particular with the gap between the normative and operative imperatives of its intervention. The operational means of the United Nations are not adapted to the scope and far-reaching aims of Security Council resolutions. This may be explained firstly by the lack of financial and military means. The main powers have a selective interest in such conflicts. Transcaucasia is not a region of "vital interest" for the Western States, and public opinion in the West would not readily accept the sending of troops to the region. This limited interest of Western countries in the conflicts in the Caucasus gives rise to a contradiction between, on the one hand, the desire of the US government and other Western powers to prevent Russian or Iranian unilateral actions in the region and, on the other, their inability to provide the UN or the CSCE with adequate resources for the international management of the conflicts.

      The UN and CSCE have come up against the specific interests of one main regional and international power (Russia in Transcaucasia, the European Union in the former Yugoslavia) which is not ready to give up its hegemonic position in the mediation process. In Abkhazia, for instance, under the Moscow Agreement of 3 September 1993 a trilateral peacekeeping force (similar to the one set up in South Ossetia) was to be deployed. In the second stage, the UN was to consolidate the peace plan negotiated by Russia (Sochi Agreement of 27 July 1993), leading to the following division of labour: peacekeeping for the UN, peacemaking for the main regional power.(158) In the Abkhazian case, only UN observers were deployed to supervise the implementation of the peace agreement. When the Abkhaz attacks of September 1993 called into question the validity of the Sochi Agreement, the UN tried to assume the leading role in the peacemaking process by promoting a global peace plan. The negotiation of a comprehensive set of principles acceptable to both sides was coupled with a peacekeeping operation. Since spring 1994, the UN has had to accept that Russia is once more leading the peacemaking process. The Security Council, noting the recent peace agreement of 14 May 1994 - negotiated by Russia - welcomed the new CIS peacekeeping operation agreed by the parties and stressed the co-ordination necessary between the CIS activities and the UN observation mission.(159) The main UN objective at present is to keep Russian peace efforts around the negotiation table and in the field under international supervision and to monitor their conformity with international standards.

      Russia's views differed in a number of ways from the UN's. Russia disagreed with proposals which were central to the UN peace plan, such as the idea of an international peace conference and a restriction on Russian participation in the peacekeeping force. Nor did UN recognition of Russia's role as "facilitator" give Russia full satisfaction.

      We may conclude from this experience that, where a regional power has an interest in using its own resources to mediate a conflict, it is very difficult for the UN to promote another strategy for managing the crisis, especially when the other Permanent Members of the Security Council do not have vital interests in the area.

      Where the CSCE is concerned, other problems need to be considered, such as interference with the national interests of the Russian Federation. The conflicts in Transcaucasia constituted a completely new experience in peacemaking for the CSCE. Its efficiency in the case of South Ossetia was due to the fact that its intervention followed an agreement between the parties under the auspices of Moscow. The CSCE had merely to supervise a process led by a major power. In the case of Nagorno-Karabakh, the CSCE's leading role in the establishment of the Minsk Group was partly accepted and partly contested by the warring parties and, from July 1993 onwards, was disturbed by Russian interference. The CSCE was able to prepare the monitoring mission - a peacekeeping force of 600 men - with the help of the Conflict Prevention Centre in Vienna, but was not able to put it into operation in practice.

      For the CSCE, the Transcaucasian experience led in the first place to co-operation with the United Nations. After the decision (at its Helsinki Summit of July 1992) to act as a regional arrangement(160), the CSCE submitted itself to the provisions of Chapter VIII of the UN Charter, which states that in principle, unless the Security Council decides otherwise, regional organizations are empowered to deal with disputes of local interest and to resolve them by peaceful means (UN Charter, Art. 52). Regional organizations are prohibited from undertaking any "coercive actions" without the prior authorization of the Security Council (UN Charter, art. 53).(161) The patterns for the division of labour between the UN and the CSCE in Nagorno-Karabakh and Abkhazia (the UN were never involved in the South Ossetian conflict) deserve more thorough analysis.

    3. Patterns for the Division of Labour between the UN and the CSCE

      1. The Nagorno-Karabakh Pattern

        "In the case of Nagorno-Karabakh, the UN has supported the work of the CSCE as just one example of a new division of labour with regional organizations", wrote Boutros Boutros-Ghali.(162) The relationship described by Boutros-Ghali is quite similar to the relationship between the UN and the EC in the second stage of the international crisis management in the former Yugoslavia (from late September 1991 to mid-July 1992), when the UN carried out the functions delegated to it by the EC (prohibition of arms transfers to Yugoslavia, negotiation of a cease-fire coupled with a UN peacekeeping operation). But the scheme of UN-CSCE relations regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh is more harmonious than the UN-EC relationship:

        • most of the UN fact-finding missions to Nagorno-Karabakh were sent explicitly to back CSCE efforts to achieve a peaceful settlement of the conflict(163);
        • since the beginning of the CSCE's Minsk peace process, a UN observer has always been present at the negotiating table(164);
        • almost all Raffaelli's proposals were endorsed by the Security Council.

        By contrast, in the context of the former Yugoslavia, there were a number of controversial points, like the EC's recognition process or the EC proposal to ban oil trading with Yugoslavia.(165) These differences may be explained by the fact that the EC is not only an international organization, but also a state-like political player. They may also be explained by the absence of the US and Russia in the EC peacemaking process. The CSCE political leadership visible in the international crisis management in Nagorno-Karabakh is, however, not much in line with the spirit of Chapter VIII of the Charter, which implies that regional organizations should, in all circumstances, be at the service of the Security Council, and not vice versa.

      2. The Abkhazian Pattern

        In the peace process in Abkhazia, co-operation between the UN and Russia was far more important than the co-operation between the UN and the CSCE - despite the fact that most of the Security Council resolutions relating to Georgia welcomed the CSCE's peace efforts. The UN has always made a point of associating the CSCE with its peacemaking process:

        • if the UN called an international peace conference on Abkhazia, it insisted that the CSCE should be invited(166);
        • several meetings were organized between the UN special envoy, Eduard Brunner, and the CSCE Chairwoman-in-Office, Margaretha af Ugglas, or her personal representative for Georgia, Istvan Gyarmati.(167)

        These efforts do not, however, take from the fact that the CSCE was playing only a secondary role in the settlement of the Abkhaz conflict.

      3. Prospects for Co-operation

        The Transcaucasian conflicts have shown the necessity to improve co-operation between the two organizations in crisis situations. Such co-operation would accord with the policies of both the CSCE and the UN. The Rome Council of the CSCE has defined principles for peacekeeping and for its co-operation with other organizations.(168) Although the UN Secretary-General is promoting a case-by-case approach to the division of labour between the universal organization and the regional ones, an agreement was signed on 26 May 1993 between the UN Secretary-General and the CSCE in order to establish a framework for co-operation and co-ordination(169), and the Budapest Summit of the CSCE has defined procedures for the division of labour between the two organizations.(170)

Continue or go back to the contents page.

Contested Borders in the Caucasus, by Bruno Coppieters (ed.)
© 1996, VUB University Press