Armenia-Azerbaijan: when even a zero-efficiency process is important
On July 15, the second meeting of the current year between the Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, and the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, took place in Brussels through the mediation of the President of the European Council, Charles Michel. After
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Armenia-Azerbaijan: when even a zero-efficiency process is important
Expert on regional issues
On July 15, the second meeting of the current year between the Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, and the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, took place in Brussels through the mediation of the President of the European Council, Charles Michel. After the meeting, Ch. Michel made a final statement presenting the results of the negotiations. Azerbaijani and Armenian sides also issued official statements regarding the meeting.
During the summary of negotiations, lasting for about 2 hours and 45 minutes, the most impressive circumstance was perhaps the enthusiastic attitude of a high-ranking EU official. It is natural in case of such situations, when there is an objective need to “save the face” of the negotiation format under the minimal effectiveness of the process. Since, according to Michel’s statement, all the acute issues of the settlement process were discussed: border delimitation, unblocking of communications, the humanitarian crisis created in Artsakh and the rights and security of Artsakh Armenians, as well as the issues of the roadmap for a peace treaty. However, no final agreement was reached on any of the deep issues in Azerbaijan-Armenia relations, which are the core of the process.
According to the President of the European Council, the meeting was “frank and important”. With the above-mentioned thematic division, regarding territorial integrity and sovereignty, the two sides reconfirmed their willingness to mutually recognize the territory of Armenia which covers 29.800 km2 and Azerbaijan’s 86.600 km2 . Furthermore, they reconfirmed the implementation of the delimitation based on the 1991 Almaty Declaration. The leaders of the two countries agreed to accelerate the work of the commissions.
Regarding the unblocking of regional communications, the technical details of future transport agreements which will respect the principles of sovereignty, jurisdiction, equality and reciprocity. The promotion of railway construction has been encouraged, and the EU is ready to support it financially.
Regarding the humanitarian crisis caused by the blockade of Artsakh, Ch. Michel noted: “I emphasized the need to open the Lachin road and also noted Azerbaijan’s willingness to provide humanitarian supplies via Aghdam. I see both options as important and encourage humanitarian deliveries from both sides to ensure the needs of the population are met”.
Regarding the issue of the rights and security of the people of Artsakh, the EU once again expressed its support for “direct dialogue between Baku and the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast”.
Regarding the peace treaty negotiations, Ch. Michel stated that now it is the most decisive stage and called on both leaders “to take further courageous steps to ensure decisive and irreversible progress on the normalization track.”
They also discussed humanitarian issues, particularly the topic of the fate of Armenian detainees and Azerbaijani criminals.”
As it has already been mentioned, looking point by point at all the key directions of the Brussels negotiations, it is clearly seen that no progress has been recorded in the fundamental disagreements of the parties. The excuse for this is very simple: under the current geopolitical and regional realities, Azerbaijan is not ready for even the slightest compromise. The position of the Azerbaijani authorities remains fanatical and uncompromising. The Aliyev regime believes that after the 44-day war in 2020, Armenia has completely capitulated, and should not make even the slightest concession to establish peace in the region. The presence of competing Russian and Western platforms in the Azerbaijan-Armenia settlement process significantly contributes to such a position of Baku, which provides an additional maneuver opportunity for the Aliyev regime. As well as the lack of mood of the international community to push Baku to concessions, which is due to, as already mentioned, the geopolitical situation caused by the Ukrainian crisis, Azerbaijan’s energy and infrastructure capabilities, as well as the nature of Baku-Ankara relations.
As a consequence, Azerbaijan, using the continuous policy of force and threat of force in the direction of both Armenia and Artsakh, is trying its best to disrupt the negotiation process, and what’s more, on behalf of Armenia, so that Yerevan refuses the negotiation and Baku presents it as a manifestation of the Armenian side’s destructiveness. One of the most recent manifestations of the “powerful diplomacy” was the aggression against Artsakh at the start of the American negotiations between the foreign ministers of the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan in June, as a result of which 4 Defense Army soldiers were killed. Moreover, it should be noted that even prior to the last Brussels negotiations, simultaneously, Azerbaijan continued to escalate the situation both in Artsakh and on the border with Armenia. One of the most outstanding examples of the latter is the use of the Armenian Prime Minister’s willingness to recognize the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan as a justification for blocking the Lachin Corridor by the Aliyev regime. Generally, as already mentioned, the reason for such positioning of Baku is that Azerbaijan currently sees opportunities to get the most from Armenia. Moreover, these calculations of Baku are in the range of all key issues with Armenia. In case of Artsakh, Azerbaijan sees an opportunity to completely occupy the historically Armenian-populated region and to ethnically cleanse it, therefore, at least he considers it problematic to directly negotiate with Stepanakert under any “international mechanism” by the international community, thereby gaining a new dependence on various international actors. This is the reason why the Artsakh’s Road of Life, the Lachin Corridor remains blocked for more than 7 months, resulting in the humanitarian situation in the region reaching disaster level. Another humanitarian issue, that is the issue of Armenian POWs forcibly kept in Baku, has not recorded any significant change since the war. More than 3 dozen Armenian Servicemen remain in captivity: moreover, Azerbaijan continues to criminally kidnap new servicemen, regularly terrorizing the civilian population in Artsakh and in various regions of Armenia. In the process of delimitation and demarcation, Baku tries to avoid the option of moving the process forward based on the 1970s maps of the USSR, talking about some fictitious maps. It is within the framework of this logic that although the Armenian side has repeatedly mentioned its willingness to recognize the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan even numerically in the Almaty Declaration, while the Azerbaijani side has not yet made a similar statement. The aim of such a positioning of Azerbaijan is to get opportunities to solve the Artsakh problem with its own agenda through diplomatic manipulative practices and using the recognition of Armenia, as well as unilaterally, without exchange, to get the so called “enclave” territories from Armenia, and not to leave the sovereign territories of Armenia occupied in May 2021.
Baku adopted the same position in the process of the unblocking of regional communications, not giving up the notorious Turkish-Azerbaijani “Zangezur Corridor” project. And, although the universally accepted principle in the issue of unblocking in almost all negotiation platforms is to bring the process under the sovereignty and jurisdiction of the states, nevertheless, the Azerbaijani side refuses the final agreement in every possible way, since for now it sees an opportunity to get the Azerbaijan-Nakhichevan connection through the “corridor” logic.
The above-mentioned realities are the reason why it has not been possible to establish peace in the South Caucasus more than 2.5 years following the bloody war of 2020. Moreover, enjoying the comprehensive support of Turkey, Baku continues to act from an extremist position, constantly creating instability in the region and even expanding its geography. During this period, the Azerbaijani authorities purposely escalated the situation with Iran as well, wanting to neutralize the latter’s principled policy in regional developments.
In the face of new realities, a purposeful attempt is being made to weaken as much as possible the levers of Iran’s influence in the region and in Azerbaijan, and especially Yerevan-Tehran resistance in the issue of implementation of the “Zangezur Corridor” project.
Under the aforementioned circumstances, Armenia’s position is aimed at encouraging the negotiation process on all possible platforms to exclude a new military escalation, despite its near-zero effectiveness. By ensuring the continuity of the negotiation process, it is possible to keep the attention of the international community constantly focused on our region, thereby keeping Azerbaijan’s aggressive behavior as manageable as possible. At the same time, in the complicated geopolitical situation, amid the security system shaken by the 44-day war, the main problem for Armenia is coping with the non-stop challenges through various and new mechanisms. Among such mechanisms are the preservation of the previous systems with Russia, despite the significant decrease in their effectiveness, cooperation with Iran, especially in the part of Syunik, the deepening of relations with India in the military and political fields, the diversification and deepening of cooperation with the USA, the EU, especially with France and other western countries, the process of normalization of relations with Turkey, meetings with Azerbaijan in various negotiation formats, etc. That is to say, in such a crucial period of history, the actual processes are often important even in the face of zero efficiency.