Yesterday, Ministers Jeyhun Bayramov and Ararat Mirzoyan met with Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor to the US President. After the meeting Sullivan tweeted: “We welcome the progress Armenia and Azerbaijan have made in talks and encourage continued dialogue. A sustainable and just agreement will be key to unlocking opportunities for both countries and the region.”
Although the National Security Advisor to the US President did not specify what progress he was talking about, analysts believe that this new round of Armenia-Azerbaijan negotiations did not meet the expectations of the US Secretary of State, who had hoped that the parties would finalize and initial a peace deal in Washington. It is no coincidence that even before the talks started, sources in the State Department told journalists anonymously that if the parties approved the text of the treaty, the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia would sign it in one of the European countries shortly afterwards.
But that does not appear to be the case, since the progress in the talks mentioned by Jake Sullivan proves to be insufficient after all.
Armenian media report that the US administration is pressuring both sides to sign the document. It is alleged, in particular, that Nikol Pashinyan is ready to sign a peace treaty recognizing the former Nagorno-Karabagh region as an integral part of Azerbaijan, but he is hindered by a number of demands of the Azerbaijani side regarding these territories, described in Yerevan as “impracticable”.
The day before, at an international conference in Shusha, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev confirmed that the next round of talks at the level of foreign ministers would take place in Moscow in May. The head of state added that he advocated a direct dialogue between Baku and Yerevan.
“I believe the best way to come to an agreement is through direct negotiations between Azerbaijan and Armenia, without any mediators, facilitators and obstacles,” Ilham Aliyev stressed. “I believe direct negotiations between the two countries will be more beneficial and necessary. I think we should keep moving in that direction, provided, of course, Armenia is ready to do that as well.”
As for Moscow’s role in the settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Galuzin spoke about it in an interview with Izvestia. According to him, “the hot phase” of the conflict was ended thanks to President Putin’s efforts.
Galuzin pointed out that the joint statement of the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia of November 10, 2020 deals precisely with the ceasefire, the normalization of Armenia-Azerbaijan relations and the deployment of a peacekeeping contingent.
“This is about moving forward through dialogue in four main directions, namely unblocking transport and economic ties in the region, establishing dialogue to conclude a peace treaty between Armenia and Azerbaijan, delimiting the borders between the two countries, and establishing ties along the public and parliamentary lines, without which it is difficult to talk about full-fledged normalization of bilateral relations,” the diplomat said. “The key elements of the settlement, namely the ceasefire, and the formulation of the key paths towards Armenian-Azerbaijani normalization were formulated and began to be implemented thanks primarily to the mediation mission of Russia and its President. This in itself is a serious accomplishment.”
Mikhail Galuzin mentioned that “Russia has been trying to make specific practical efforts in all four directions all these years,” having accumulated serious potential and a basis for further progress in each of them.
“If we look at things realistically,” the Russian diplomat remarked at the end of the interview, “it is clear that the resolution of such long-standing and sensitive conflict situations as the one in and around Nagorno-Karabakh cannot go without certain hiccups and problems on the ground.”
Thus, today it all comes down to whether the progress made in Washington will affect the outcome of the meeting of the foreign ministers of the two countries to be held in Moscow. This question is more than relevant, especially considering that a number of officials in Moscow have stated in recent days that the trilateral agreement reached in 2020 with Russia’s involvement is “the only real basis” or has “no alternatives” for the settlement of relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
It is not impossible that Moscow may try to “reset” the progress made by the parties in Washington. Or, on the contrary, it may develop Antony Blinken’s initiative in order to give the Armenian-Azerbaijani dialogue a final boost, but with a “Russian accent”.
It seems we will have our answer within the next few weeks.
Translation from Haqqin.az