According to the Secretary of State, “two sides have discussed some very tough issues over the last few days and they’ve made tangible progress on a durable peace agreement”.
The official statements of Baku and Yerevan were much more restrained in their assessment of the Washington talks. In particular, they emphasized the parties’ previous contradictions on the most important aspects of the agreement. But if that is the case, how can the progress made in the Armenia-Azerbaijan talks in Washington on a number of other points bring a final peace agreement any closer?
The answer can be found in the comments of Antony Blinken himself, who recommended that the parties expand the scope of compromise and make further mutual concessions. It follows unequivocally that peace is possible only under these conditions.
While we are in no way diminishing the long-standing diplomatic expertise of the current US Secretary of State, one cannot rule out that in this case Antony Blinken’s toolbox for forcing a peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan proved to be insufficient. Even despite the deep US involvement in the process and the vigorous diplomatic initiatives of the State Department.
Russia did not fail to point this out, its officials reiterating that there is and can be no alternative to the trilateral agreements reached in Moscow with the involvement of President Vladimir Putin in 2020.
On the other hand, the Armenian authorities continue to insist on the inclusion of the toponym “Karabakh” in the peace agreement, and this is one of the main obstacles blocking the possibility of coming to an agreement.
Speaking in Prague yesterday, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said that there are two main obstacles on the way to signing a final peace agreement. One is Azerbaijan’s refusal to include in the final document the issue of the rights and security of the Karabakh Armenians, and the other is official Baku’s unwillingness to recognize, as Pashinyan put it, “Armenia’s territory of 29,800 square kilometers.”
Azerbaijan’s key conditions for the peace agreement have long been known to all: Baku does not accept any reference to the so-called Karabakh issue, because for Azerbaijan it was completely closed in November 2020. And this means that any discussion regarding the rights or security of Armenians living in the territories under temporary control of the Russian peacekeeping forces is possible only through direct negotiations between representatives of the government of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Karabakh Armenians. In other words, this is none of Armenia’s business.
In this case, the principled position of Azerbaijan is informed by a clear understanding that there is a possibility that Armenia, even accepting that the former Nagorno-Karabakh region is part of Azerbaijan, nevertheless tries to push through a clause in the final peace agreement that would allow the Karabakh Armenians to obtain a special status in the future.
To expect Azerbaijan to compromise on this matter is to have no grasp of the situation in the South Caucasus after November 10, 2020. And if the Armenian side continues to insist on this approach, there will continue to be no peace in the region. This was once again confirmed by President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, who reminded in his speech in Shusha that it is Armenia that would suffer most from the lack of peace.
As a result, after the Armenian-Azerbaijani talks in Washington ended with alleged progress on some issues and disagreements on critical ones remained the same, the baton of mediation efforts is once again passed to Moscow, where the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan will meet in the coming days or weeks. In his speech in Prague, Nikol Pashinyan said that he would also pay a working visit to the Russian capital next week.
It appears that the Armenian Prime Minister still views international politics as a simultaneous game on several chess boards. This time, with the failed US attempt to resolve the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict as a “bonus”, Pashinyan is likely to put on Putin’s desk the draft, ready-to-be-signed document discussed in Washington, in order to wheedle “better offers” from Putin under the pretext of returning the Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiation process under Russia’s auspices.
However, Nikol Pashinyan’s tactical plans are, as always, quite transparent and therefore delusional. All the more so if we bear in mind that this time the Kremlin has prepared for the Armenian Prime Minister not the carrot of a reliable strategic ally, but the stick for playing on several political chess boards at once.
Translated from Haqqin.az