Thursday, May 20, 2004

Is this really our business?

“Europeans” are fond of castigating Americans for interfering with matters that are not their immediate concern in order to extend their power. (They are also fond of castigating Americans for not intervening – please note the slightly different verb – in matters of grave importance that the Europeans cannot or will not cope with.) And, of course, the EU has no designs on anything in the world, merely wanting to spread sweetness and light to all and sundry, except when there is a deal to be done with some nasty dictator.

So why is the EU thinking of taking on Nagorno-Karabakh, the disputed Armenian enclave on Azerbaijani territory, at present occupied by Armenian forces, as its special problem? The announcement was made after a visit to Brussels by the Azerbaijani President Ilkham Aliyev (not to be confused with the previous President Aliyev, who was our President Aliyev’s father and died in an American hospital not that long ago. And yes, they did have an election but somehow or other the acting President and son of the previous President won.)

At the moment the intractable problem of Nagorno-Karabakh seems to be looked at by the OSCE but the Azerbaijanis have accused that organization of taking a pro-Armenian line. The EU, having announced its Good Neighbourhood Policy [see previous blog] now feels it ought to move the peace process forward, even though, as Javier Solana has admitted in what must rank as one of the best understatements on the subject that “in reality there has been no noticeable improvement in the situation”.

The EU is apparently thinking of organizing tripartite talks between Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey that would involve the question of Nagorno-Karabakh and other regional matters, such as the opening up of the Turkish-Armenian border. Turkey had closed it down as a mark of solidarity with the Islamic popultion of Azerbaijan.

On the other hand, they seem to be supporting Azerbaijan’s position, that wants the withdrawal of Armenian forces, sent into Nagorno-Karbakh in the wake of a series of massacres there, rather than a wide settlement of various problems.

Quite a mess, all round, you might say, and the EU has so far not managed to distinguish itself in sorting out regional problems nearer home such as Moldova and Transdnestria. So, why are we taking on or pretending to take on this distant and immensely complicated problem?

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