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   The continued failure of international mediation efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict prompts a detailed consideration of the following topics: (1) the actual causes of the conflict and the actual obiectives of the direct participants; (2) the systemic-structural flaws of the OSCE's Minsk Group peace plan and the reasons why it is unrealistic to expect that this plan will ever be implemented; (3) an alternative compromise peace plan, the critical point of which is a US political-military commitment to the security of Armenia; and (4) an assessment of the chances for a settlement.

Sources of the conflict and international involvement

   We begin by asking what, after all, is this conflict about? What are the underlying causes and motives for this conflict? If the answer to these questions is incorrect, then the whole analysis and the ensuing peace proposals will go awry .

Nationalism vis-a-vis geopolitics

   The Nagorno-Karabagh crisis has been at the center of international attention since 1988. The OSCE has conducted intensive international diplomatic efforts for years to resolve the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict. However, all attempts to reach a viable solution have so far failed. The chief mediating officials suffered professional frustration and were openly pleased to be moved to other assignments: among them Italian

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ambassador Mario Sica, US ambassador John Maresca, Swedish ambassador Jan Elliasson, and Russian ambassador Vladimir Kazimirov. Many westerners, diplomats and scholars alike, explain the near total failure of these mediation efforts solely in terms of the intransigence of the conflicting parties. In their view, this amounts to an irrational incapability to grasp the clear benefits of regional economic co-operation vis-a-vis what they refer to as "ethnic strife".[2]As Ambassador John Presel, US special negotiator for Nagorno-Karabagh, put it before the House International Relations Committee on July 30, 1996:
   ...the ethnic conf1icts in the Caucasus are primarily an expression of the bottled-up nationalism that is unleashed when empires collapse... . The tragedy of Nagorno-Karabagh is that the collapse of empire and the ambitions of crowd-baiting politicians allowed it to turn into a full-scale war.[3]
   Unfortunately, this is a typical western characterization of the origins and dynamics of the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict. Yet it is terribly incacurate. Nationalism is as much a cause of this conflict as it is a cause of the Gulf War. The nationalism of the Armenians and Azerbaijanis is subordinate to the real causes of the conflict and limited mainly to the mobilization and organization of the conflicting societies in Armenia and Azerbaijan. . The real reasons behind the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict are not to be found in the domains of ideology or social and ethnic psychology but in the realm of strategy, or, more precisely; geostrategy.

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