WASHINGTON (RFE/RL)–The likelihood of another Armenian-Azerbaijani war for Nagorno-Karabakh has increased as a result of the U.S.-backed rapprochement between Armenia and Turkey, according to America’s top intelligence official.
“Although there has been progress in the past year toward Turkey-Armenia rapprochement, this has affected the delicate relationship between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and increases the risk of a renewed conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh,” Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair warned late Tuesday in written testimony to a U.S. Senate committee.
Blair also warned of broader security and stability threats persisting in the South Caucasus. “The unresolved conflicts of the Caucasus provide the most likely flashpoints in the Eurasia region,” he said. “Moscow’s expanded military presence in and political-economic ties to Georgia’s separatist regions of South Ossetia and sporadic low-level violence increase the risk of miscalculation or overreaction leading to renewed fighting.”
The United States has strongly supported and at times mediated in the Turkish-Armenian rapprochement that began nearly two years ago and led to the signing last October of two “protocols” envisaging the normalization of relations between the two historical foes.
Azerbaijan has condemned the agreements, saying that an open border with Turkey would only discourage Armenia from conceding to Baku’s demands that Karabakh be put under Azeri rule. Azerbaijani leaders have also continued to threaten to win back Karabakh and the liberated Armenian territories linking Karabakh and Armenia by force.
The authorities in Armenia and Karabakh have dismissed the war threats. International mediators have also disapproved of them, repeatedly urging Baku to to refrain from bellicose rhetoric.
U.S. diplomats have seemed confident, at least until recently, that chances for renewed large-scale fighting in Karabakh are slim. Speaking to RFE/RL in October 2008, then U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried said the danger of another war “has somewhat receded because the [August 2008] war in Georgia reminded everyone in this region how terrible war is.” “War is no joke,” Fried said. “It’s a bad option.”