View of once Armenian village of Hasangaya in part of Mardakert district held by Azerbaijani forces and settled by refugees from Kelbajar. Photo by CRISISGROUP/Jorge Gutierrez Lucena

“Digging out of Deadlock in Nagorno-Karabakh” is a new report published by the International Crisis Group (ICG), which makes an assessment of the status quo in the Karabakh conflict and offers recommendations to Armenia, Azerbaijan and international mediators.

According to the report “an opportunity has opened to reset deadlocked talks between Baku and Yerevan over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.” According to the report, the opportunity is connected with the relaxation of frontline tensions over the past three years. The report cautions, however, that “the parties are a long way apart, but negotiations could help prevent a new escalation after years of growing militarisation and lay the groundwork for the conflict’s eventual resolution.”

Concrete suggestions include: “On the adjacent [to Nagorno Karabakh proper] territories, temporarily freezing new [Armenian] settlement construction in return for Azerbaijan refraining from legal action or new sanctions could improve prospects for talks. For peacekeepers, the OSCE High-Level Planning Group could reassess options. On Nagorno-Karabakh’s status, the parties remain far apart but informal talks could still be worthwhile.”

ICG had issued several reports on Karabakh in the past. In its 2017 report, “Nagorno Karabakh’s Gathering War Clouds,” ICG warned of dangers of military escalation. In 2016 briefing paper, ICG researcher Magdalena Grono recommended an expansion in EU’s outreach to de-facto post-Soviet states, including Artsakh.

Brussels-based ICG is led by chair Mark Malloch-Brown, a former British minister of state, and president & CEO Robert Malley, a former U.S. official in the Obama White House. Its chief corporate sponsors are oil companies BP and Statoil, both with long-standing interests in Azerbaijan, as well as two law firms: Shearman & Sterling LLP, which recently represented the United Technologies Corporation (UTC) in a case related to allegations of corruption in Azerbaijan, and White & Case LLP, which has represented and advised Azerbaijani government entities.