The pandemic has transferred a great number of political processes, including conflict resolution, into the virtual world of Internet technology. Conferences, meetings, bilateral contacts are steadily mastering the format of video calls. During the (21.04) joint videoconference, the Foreign Ministers of Armenia (RA) and Azerbaijan (AR) and the Minsk Group (MG) co-chairs discussed the impact of the pandemic on the region and recent events around the Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) conflict. It was noted that due to the pandemic, the implementation of agreed measures, personal meetings and visits of the co-chairs to the region were postponed. It was hoped that the resolve shown in response to the global pandemic would give a constructive impetus to the peace process. The co-chairs drew particular attention to the call of the UN Secretary General (23.03) to stop the shootout during the crisis. What really happens under the guise of common phrases?

The pandemic, indeed, pushed for a while the problems of conflicts around the world, but it can help to begin to resolve them, if, for example, for the South Caucasus, it becomes a regional threat that requires all parties to the conflict to overcome their cooperation. Such a situation cannot be completely ruled out, since the current virus, attack on humanity is predicted to be long-term: it is not about months, but about years. It is believed that when the threat of a pandemic passes, the world will change significantly: a new world security system will be formed, the global economy will be transformed, and new interstate relations will take shape. Under these conditions, it is important to assess objectively the state of the conflict and the model for its resolution being discussed today.

The focus is on a very curious statement by Russian Foreign Minister S. Lavrov: negotiators and mediators are currently discussing a document based on the Madrid principles. If this information is correct, then on the negotiating table, a stage-by-stage rather than a batch version supported by Yerevan will suit Baku. Why does Moscow resort to such statements while the stalemate around the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict suits all external players: Europe, the USA, Iran, and Russia itself? The main thing is to prevent the war, since in its case it will be necessary to show clearly your position. So far, the formal recognition of Karabakh’s membership in Azerbaijan practically does not oblige anyone to anything.

It is difficult to predict another war today, but the demands made in Yerevan against the backdrop of a critical drop in oil prices to annex occupied territories can make a difference. The position of the Republic of Armenia and the occupying authorities of the NK testifies to their desire to maintain the status quo even by escalating the confrontation. Firstly, the elections to the NK, which almost everyone opposed; secondly, the official statements of the Armenian authorities that no territorial issues are discussed at the talks, and that the occupied territories are the NK security belt; thirdly, a sharply negative reaction to the statement of S. Lavrov.  Although there are opinions that the words of "friend" S. Lavrov at a meeting of the Club for Supporting Public Diplomacy named after A. Gorchakov should be regarded as a warning to Armenia. The new government is misleading the people of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, but the “strategic ally” of the Republic of Armenia “diplomatically opened the eyes of the thinking political elite to the fact that betrayal of national interests is being committed behind the back of the Armenian people”. Maybe it warns, and maybe it blackmails the Armenian authorities that are objectionable to Russia, forcing constant excuses! There are many facts in favor of the correctness of the second conclusion. Within Armenia, an acute struggle for power does not stop, a wide variety of technologies are used, generally directed against Prime Minister N. Pashinyan, who, like his predecessors, made an elementary mistake by concentrating power on himself, instead of forming a team of leaders. Even my own experience did not warn - take away the leader (Ter-Petrosyan, Sargsyan) and power will fall at your feet.

Moscow’s position is clear - Pashinyan is “not  their”, formally continuing the pro-Russian policy, he refuses to unquestioningly carry out any orders received, moreover, there is a deep conviction that, at the first opportunity, the head of the Republic of Armenia will abruptly change the country's foreign policy, which he spoke openly about before coming to power. Against the background of seemingly quite friendly relations, Moscow needs other elegant technologies of massive impact on Pashinyan. Therefore, the allegedly official position of Russia on the resolution of the NK conflict is interpreted in the necessary context by the Armenian opposition, friendly to Moscow. At the same time, the statements and assessments of Pashinyan himself are cleverly used, which he regularly makes public with startling political myopia.

At the beginning of 2020, Pashinyan, calling on the NK representatives to indicate their attitude to the discussed option for resolving the conflict, in fact announced almost all its details: the return of the seven regions of Azerbaijan - Agdam, Fizuli, Jabrail Zangelan, Gubadly, Kelbajar and Lachin - provided preservation of the corridor connecting NK with ARmenia. Determination of the legal status of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic by voting of the Armenian and Azerbaijani population of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic under the auspices of the UN or OSCE within the terms agreed between the parties questions put to the vote should not be limited and may include all options regarding status. Complete settlement of political, trade, economic and humanitarian ties in the region, restoration of good-neighborly cooperation, ensuring complete stability in the region. The displaced Armenians, with the assistance of the international community, will leave the territories of the occupied five regions. The civilian authorities of Azerbaijan will occupy these territories after the international peacekeeping forces are deployed and the armed forces located in these areas are withdrawn. Peacekeeping forces will be deployed along the administrative borders of the former NKAO, with the exception of the Kelbajar and Lachin districts. Kelbajar will remain under transition monitoring by the OSCE. Prior to the final resolution of the conflict, the NK must be endowed with a temporary status, which guarantees its daily life.

This plan, of course, was rejected by the separatists, since the self-proclaimed republic lost not only “subjectivity”, but also the occupied territories appropriated by its “constitution”. Therefore, the Republic of Armenia returned to its old position: the realization of the right of the NK to self-determination without any restrictions. The Armenian authorities do not discuss a phased solution to the Karabakh problem in a joint statement of the Foreign Ministers of the RA, RF, Azerbaijan and the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs (04.15.19), which outlines the negotiations, there are no "references or even hints of a phased settlement." The basic principles have the principle of self-determination, which for the Armenian parties is a priority and primary. Concessions were not and never will be. Not a single decision that concerns the “people of Artsakh” can be made without it. There is no alternative to a peaceful settlement.

The position of N. Pashinyan, who stated (February 22), “NK and Azerbaijan are in completely different realities, has become toughened. This once again testifies that “Artsakh” and Azerbaijan can never be in the common political space. Having forgotten his previous assessments, Pashinyan praises NK’s “democracy” and contrasts it with “authoritarianism of Azerbaijan”, and his proposals, voiced as “Munich principles”, new approaches and “micro-revolutions”, cause bewilderment for almost all parties involved in the conflict.

So, the “Lavrov’s plan” is a factor of pressure on the government of the Republic of Armenia, which is not considered a reliable ally in the policy pursued in the region. Attacks on any words of Pashinyan are not accidental. This also applies to his last statement (April 20) regarding the results of the "velvet revolution": “The pro-Western forces of Armenia nourished the hope that “their people” would come to power. However, time passed, and it became clear that non-Western forces did not come to power in Armenia. Therefore, they have reason to be disappointed. The pro-Russian forces were also disappointed, who expected that the Armenian authorities would turn out to be so helpless and puppet that they would cede power to the pro-Russian groups. They also believed that Moscow would not allow our power to last long. I don’t know why they thought so.”

Immediately there were accusations that the representatives of the Armenian authorities “were completely deprived of their internal geopolitical preferences and orientations, boiled in the national juice, being in a small town vacuum”. They reminded Pashinyan that Armenia is a member of the EurAsEC, CSTO, and Russia is a strategic ally and guarantor of security of the Republic of Armenia, while Pashinyan did everything to destroy "pro-Russian groups" in Armenia.

In the end (05.06.20), the Prime Minister announced that the Republic of Armenia was building a completely new foreign policy concept and no longer intended to put up with the status of a “third-rate country”, which should be taken into account by all foreign partners. Characteristically, seeing all the risks, the prime minister noted that his team had already made a choice, and would continue to be firmly guided by this principle. It is quite clear to whom these words are intended in the first place. It is less clear whether behind these words there is at least some Western support. It is not at all clear what the answer to these words will be. No matter how, we are already living in a new world of political pandemic, in which everyone is for himself and against everyone. However, all the answers are not far away” ...

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