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YEREVAN. – While the Karabakh conflict will certainly be on Bolton’s agenda, it is unlikely to be a top item, former U.S. co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group Carey Cavanaugh says.

Mr. Carey Cavanaugh, professor of diplomacy at the University of Kentucky and chairman of International Alert, commented for Armenian News-NEWS.am on the recent visit of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent as well as upcoming visit by John Bolton.

He described Kent’s visit as “not unusual” and added that Bolton’s visit is a different thing.

“President Donald Trump called for international action to restrain Iran at the United Nations last month, but was largely unsuccessful.  Bolton is now seeking to build support in the Caucasus and in Moscow to help counter Iranian influence.  At the same time, contentious foreign policy issues involving Russia and Turkey have dominated recent newspaper headlines – these include Ukraine, Syria, and energy/pipeline issues.  These too will undoubtedly be high on Bolton’s agenda.  There is great value in reviewing and sharing US concerns about these topics with Yerevan, Baku and Tbilisi, and where possible enlisting their support,” Cavanaugh said.

Former Co-Chair has no doubt that Karabakh will be discussed during Bolton’s visit, particularly given the September meeting in Dushanbe between Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and President Ilham Aliyev.

Cavanaugh is confident that the encounter in Dushanbe showed that a direct dialogue on settlement issues remains possible. 

“Another positive sign that emerged in Dushanbe was the commitment by both leaders to move forward with some small confidence building measures that would reduce prospects for ceasefire violations along the Line of Contact and the border.  Strengthening the ceasefire is particularly important, as it can help build a foundation for peace.  My personal concern is that in the past two years it has become too quiet on the Karabakh peace front, but not sufficiently quiet on the Karabakh military front.”

However, the professor noted that there has been scant discussion of compromise solutions by the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan and therefore little ability to move forward on possible settlement proposals. 

“More needs to be done here, but that may be difficult in the near term, especially given the unsettled political situation in Armenia and the run up to snap parliamentary elections in December.

While the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will certainly be on Bolton’s agenda, it is unlikely to be a top item.  Nevertheless, I believe Bolton’s visit should bring greater clarity to the White House and President Trump regarding this long-standing dispute and a better perspective on what more might be done to advance peace.”

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