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Europe’s “Frozen Conflicts” to be solved in 2018

By Khatia Kardava
Monday, January 22
On January 16, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) held an informal meeting of the plenary to hear a briefing by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on his priorities for 2018.

In his speech to the UN General Assembly, Guterres identified 12 main directions of work for the organization in 2018.

Among the UN priorities, Gutierrez listed the fight against terrorism, climate change, protection of human rights, the empowerment of women, “frozen” conflicts in Europe, continuation of collaboration with the African Union, resolution of the refugee problem in Myanmar and Bangladesh, as well as the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

UN Secretary-General named the settlement of the conflicts in the Middle East and the frozen conflicts in Europe among the main problems that the UN will have to tackle.

He noted that to settle the conflicts in Europe it is necessary to withstand the “dangerous wave of nationalism” and to revitalize the work of mediation initiatives. According to him, it is about the Norman format and the Tripartite Contact Group on Eastern Ukraine. In his speech, UN Secretary-General also referred to the OSCE Minsk Group on Nagorno-Karabakh, the Geneva International Discussions on Georgia and the “5 + 2” process on Transnistria.

Although, on January 1, 2017, UN Secretary-General pledged to make 2017 a year of peace, Guterres noted that conflicts deepened and peace remained elusive over the past year.

“I took office last year calling for us to make 2017 a year for peace. One year later, we must recognize that peace remains elusive. In fundamental ways the world has gone in reverse. Conflicts have deepened and new dangers have emerged," he said.

Reflecting on what the United Nations is facing, Guterres addressed UN members to have greater unity and courage “to meet today's most urgent needs, to ease the fears of the people we serve and set the world on track towards a better future.”

The media outlets in Georgia and other South Caucasus states have broadcasted the speech of UN Secretary Generalwith more optimistic headlines such as:“The resolution of conflicts in Georgia will be the priority of the United Nations 2018”, or “One of UN priorities in year 2018 will be the settlement of Karabakh conflict.”

However, Guterres has not spoken about his strategies or potential policy that can be implemented towards Russia in order to solve the conflicts of Karabakh, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Examining the conflicts in South Caucasus, Latvia’s former President Vaira Vike-Freiberga’s statement made at EU Eastern Partnership in Riga back in 2015 still remains relevant. As she stated, no frozen conflict in the former Soviet space will be resolved as long as Russia retains its veto in the UN Security Council and thus is in a position to block moves toward a resolution. Vike-Freiberga stressed that despite the existence of the OSCE Minsk Group “there has been no progress” on the resolution of the Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan because Moscow doesn’t want any progress.

“The conflict in Transdniestria also is frozen but there is no progress in its resolution. Georgia has lost its lands. Ukraine has been subjected to military occupation, [and] international law is incapable of resolving these issues,” she said. “As long as Russia has a veto in the UN Security Council, one should not expect resolutions from this organization,” Vike-Freiberga added.