Situated at the margins of European, Eurasian and Middle Eastern geopolitical spheres, the Karabakh conflict bewilders the observer in terms of the number of actors involved. The conflict has intersected with and deeply coloured the emergence of a new geopolitical space in the South Caucasus, a region historically and today where great powers compete for influence. Indeed, the competing agendas and unilateral initiatives of international mediators are often held to be a key explanation of the lack of progress in the peace process. Early mediation attempts were initiated by Russia, Kazakhstan and Iran; from 1992 the Karabakh conflict emerged as a key test-case for the validity of the 'New World Order' that many claimed would succeed Cold War geopolitics, and the capacity of the institutions created to administer it: the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe, later the organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), under whose aegis the 'Minsk Group' was given the mandate to mediate in the Karabakh conflict.
Initially debilitated by unfolding events on the battlefield, the resulting OSCE-sponsored process has been oriented towards securing agreement between the sides on both the content and methodology of a settlement. As the chapter by Jacoby shows, however, the process has not vindicated hopes and expectations for greater cooperation among leading powers. Subsequent chapters by Zulfuqarov and Libaridian further provide evidence of how the parties to the conflict continue to fear that peace will institute a new regional hegemony favouring the other side. Their contributions also highlight a central dilemma for many peace processes: the tension inherent in processes managed by states for states in conflict scenarios featuring non-state actors. The de facto authorities in Nagorny Karabakh may constitute a particular kind of non-state actor, one that is highly structured and organised, yet as Libaridian argues, the statist premise underlying international mediation that minorities would relinquish aspirations for independence in return for assurances of stability, economic prosperity and minority rights has proved unfounded. Similarly, as Zulfuqarov shows, Azerbaijan's hopes that a body enshrining the principle of territorial integrity would mediate in its favour have not been realised.
This sense of disappointment should not, however, obscure the underlying point that the current structure of the peace process marginalises precisely those communities that have the most to gain or lose from it: the Karabakh Armenians and the displaced Karabakh Azerbaijani community. Establishing contact between these two constituencies, which must ultimately live in peace in the case of a settlement, must form an integral aspect of future peacemaking efforts, a factor acknowledged in June 2005 by the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry.
The absence of a clear regional hegemon has also contributed to an idiosyncratic feature of the Karabakh conflict explored in Antonenko's article: the self-regulating nature of the ceasefire regime. The relative stability of the ceasefire indicates that neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan have hitherto been inclined to resume violence. However, as Freizer warns in her contribution, rising ceasefire violations, increased military expenditures and mutual demonisation may reach a tipping point where such an outcome becomes inevitable.