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In a Contingency Planning Memorandum entitled “Renewed Conflict over Nagorno Karabakh” and published by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a former U.S. envoy Carey Cavanaugh offered suggestions for the next steps in the largely stalled diplomatic effort to deal with the conflict. Cavanaugh was the American co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group between 1999 and 2002 and was the key organizer of the Heydar Aliyev – Robert Kocharyan summit in Key West, Florida in April 2001.
In his paper, Cavanaugh estimates that “the likelihood that Armenians and Azerbaijanis will clash over Nagorno-Karabakh in the next twelve months is high” and demands urgent diplomatic efforts to address such an outcome. Cavanaugh’s recommendations for diplomatic reaction to a potential new escalation in fighting in Karabakh include:
“The United States could immediately work to reestablish a cease-fire. A united front from the three co-chair nations in the past helped significantly. Supporting Russia’s lead on direct negotiations with military leadership from the warring parties has proven prudent and effective.
The United States could promote a UN Security Council resolution condemning any major military action. A secondary option, if known, would be to name the instigator. Working with partners, the United States would penalize the party that initiates any major escalation—through public condemnation and potentially by withdrawing economic assistance or using sanctions. It could actively discourage economic support from [international financial institutions] and private investors.”
Notably, Cavanaugh’s assessment contradicts a recently published CFR estimate that likelihood of fresh Karabakh fighting was both low and largely irrelevant to priority American concerns.