Currently, a relatively favorable military-political situation around the Karabakh conflict has been established to intensify the negotiation process for its solution under the auspices of the OSCE MG.
In particular, a stable situation is maintained on the contact line of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Azerbaijan (RA) and the Republic of Armenia (RA). The level of tension on the line of contact between the Armed Forces and RA in the zone of the Karabakh conflict does not go beyond the traditional violations of the cease-fire by both parties. In other words, in the area of the Karabakh conflict with a rare exception (August 2014 year, April 2016 year and February 2017 year), heavy weapons are not used, which indicates the realization of the consequences of the escalation of the conflict in Baku and Yerevan.
Consequently, the military-political situation surrounding the Karabakh conflict can develop in one of two scenarios:
the first - when the relative military-political balance of forces between the PA and RA is maintained, including the balance of geopolitical interests and the influence of the Russian Federation, the US, the TP, the IRI, the EU;
second - the balance of forces between the above-mentioned geopolitical actors is radically changing, and qualitatively new relations between the Republic of Armenia and the RA with the Russian Federation and the USA are developing, since changing their long-term interests and priorities.
Obviously, the second scenario can lead to intensification of the negotiation process on the solution of the Karabakh conflict under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group. Indeed, both the Russian Federation and the United States are considering maintaining the balance of power between the AR and RA as one of the factors of their geopolitical influence in the region of the South Caucasus. For example the analysis of Russian military supplies in the AR and RA drastically changed the military doctrine of the two conflicting countries. Thus, the official authorities of the AR and RA de facto switched from tactics of accumulation of tactical weapons of the AR and RA to the tactics of replenishing their strategic arsenals.
Therefore, the escalation of the Karabakh conflict, which will be observed until the signing of a political agreement between the Republic of Armenia and the RA on a peaceful resolution of the conflict, will not enter the military phase. The Russian Federation (RF), the USA, the EU, the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) and the Turkish Republic (TP) will not allow this. The intention of the above-mentioned geopolitical actors to change the balance of power in the region of the South Caucasus does not involve military reinforcement of the Republic of Armenia and the RA, but aims at preventing the resumption of large-scale military operations on the line of contact between the Armed Forces and the RA.
Obstacles to the solution of the Karabakh conflict
Within the framework of the negotiation process on the peaceful resolution of the Karabakh conflict, the two approaches of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-chairs - the Russian Federation and the United States - contradicted. The OSCE MG has a consensus only within the framework of the updated Madrid principles, not the Lavrov Plan. Moreover, the official Moscow lobbies "Lavrov's plan". Therefore, with the active participation of the TP and IRI, the Kremlin is interested in resolving the Karabakh conflict within the framework of the Lavrov Plan and the long-term preservation of the balance of power between the PA and the RA in order to maintain military and political stability in the South Caucasus region, which involves the formation of a regional security system in the South Caucasus with a central the role in it of the Russian Federation.
Thus, the official Ankara, advocating the withdrawal of the Armenian Armed Forces from the occupied territories of the AR, is interested in the early resolution of the Karabakh conflict, which will enable the Turkish side to transform into the Eurasian energy hub in the short term for the transportation of hydrocarbons from the AR, IRI, Central Asian republics (CARs) and other countries of the Middle East to Europe. Therefore official Ankara is not interested in the escalation of the Karabakh conflict, which will lead to deterioration of interstate relations with Russia, IRI and RA.
If the official Ankara also seeks to create a free economic zone (FEZ) in the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic (NAR) and build a railroad along the route Kars - Igdyr - Nakhchivan - IRI, then in its turn, the official Tehran is interested in the full functioning of the FEZ in the Armenian-Iranian state border
The official Tehran recognizes the territorial integrity of the AR, but actively supports political, trade and economic relations with the RA. In the context of the closed state border of the Republic of Armenia on the part of the TF and the unstable Armenian-Georgian state border, a short state border with the Islamic Republic of Iran is of key importance to Armenia.
Obviously, the Caucasus TP and IRI policy transforms the Karabakh conflict with all the ensuing positive political consequences for the PA and RA.
However, the United States supports proposals for launching the OSCE investigation mechanism and deploying sensors along the line of contact between the Armed Forces and the RA Armed Forces in the zone of the Karabakh conflict and the Armenian-Azerbaijani state border. In addition, the ambassador to the United States, Richard Mills, who concluded his mission in Yerevan, recently stated that any solution to the Karabakh conflict implies the return of the territories captured in the AR.
But official Yerevan believes that the so-called "NKR" should have a reliable land-based communication with the RA and international guarantees of its security. It is also indicated that Nagorno-Karabakh has no future in the AR. Obviously, the long-term goal of the Karabakh RA strategy is to recognize the NKR's independence at the international level in order to later make it an integral part of the RA. By the way, the Armenian diaspora of the United States and France represents the outcome of the situation. Although, for obvious reasons, the RA does not declare such a goal officially.
The American statement on supporting the establishment of investigation mechanisms in the area of the Karabakh conflict is the result of the visit of US Assistant Secretary John Bolton to the South Caucasus region. According to J. Bolton, this is a favorable statement for Yerevan, if we take into account that the activation of the United States proceeds from the interests of the RA. Indeed, the introduction of investigation mechanisms will become an additional deterrent on the line of contact between the Armed Forces and the RA Armed Forces. Therefore, Baku believes that the introduction of investigation mechanisms in the zone of the Karabakh conflict means strengthening the territorial status quo.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has repeatedly stated that Russia's position on the Karabakh settlement coincides with the position of the United States and France. Moreover, the official Moscow, unlike France and the United States, is trying to participate in the settlement of the Karabakh conflict not only in the format of co-chairmanship in the OSCE MG, but also in the framework of the 3's third-party format of the Russian Federation - the RA-PA.
The position of the Russian Federation in resolving the Karabakh conflict is due to the geopolitical and geoeconomic interests of official Moscow in the South Caucasus. True, the Russian Federation considers the Azerbaijani territories controlled by the NKR (7 occupied areas around the NKR) as an integral part of the Republic of Armenia. At the same time, the Kremlin argues that the Karabakh conflict must be resolved exclusively in peaceful ways.
The Russian Federation treats relations with the AR for a number of reasons:
First, the AR is an important player in the regional oil and gas market, as well as a major buyer of Russian weapons;
Second, the AR is of strategic importance, and the transit potential of the Republic of Armenia is important for the Russian Federation in the context of the implementation of the North-South MTC.
RA is dependent on the Russian Federation, since without Kremlin support, Yerevan would withdraw its troops from the occupied Azerbaijani territories with all the ensuing consequences. Thus, the RA receives hundreds of millions of US dollars to support its Armed Forces in exchange for the dominant position of Russian business in the RA economy. The RA and the Russian Federation are also linked by the military-political alliance through the CSTO and the economic - the UESP.
However, the Kremlin does not intend to support, with the detriment of itself, that AR, that RA. After all, the unequivocal support of the RA will set the AR hostile to the Russian Federation, which will lead to the rapprochement of the AR with the West, which, in its turn, will seriously damage the geopolitical interests of the Russian Federation in the southern direction. In turn, the Russian support of the AR initiates the withdrawal of RA from the CSTO and the UES with all the ensuing consequences, including the launch of the process of integration of Yerevan into the EU and NATO. Therefore, the Russian Federation maintains a balanced relationship with the Republic of Armenia, and with the RA.
The EU is not involved in the peaceful negotiation process on the Karabakh conflict and therefore only seeks to prevent destabilization of the situation in the South Caucasus region. Brussels is concerned about the problems in its periphery due to annexation of the Crimea by the Russian Federation and the well-known events in the Donbass, waves of refugees from the Middle East and the Maghreb, as well as disagreements with the United States over the Iranian nuclear program.
It is natural that a single position on the Karabakh conflict has not yet been developed by the EU. EU member states, declaring adherence to the principle of territorial integrity of the state, de jure do not allow the official Baku to use force against the RA in order to restore the territorial integrity of the AR. The fact is that there is no consensus in the EU governing bodies on the Karabakh settlement.
In addition, in the final document of the last Eastern Partnership Summit (VP), the goal of which was to move from a single platform for the integration of six EU member states to individual programs of cooperation within the national interests of partner countries, the official Brussels guaranteed its support for the principle territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty of all its partners. However, the plan for joint activities with the Armed Forces includes the consideration of the provisions of the UN Security Council resolutions on the Karabakh conflict between the PA and the OSCE, as well as decisions and documents adopted by the OSCE. And the plan for cooperation with the RA on the settlement of the Karabakh conflict provides for the consideration of international principles and norms, including the principle of self-determination of peoples.
In 2010 year, during the preparation of the program, the EP, the PA and the RA committed to mutually recognize the territorial integrity of each other. Thus, in the EU program of the PA, de jure recognized Nagorno-Karabakh as an Azerbaijani territory. In the 2012 year, the EU replaced this condition with the obligation of the parties to settle the Karabakh conflict on the basis of the Updated Madrid Principles, which to a certain extent reflect the position of the Republic of Armenia on the restoration of territorial integrity and the compulsory return of IDPs to their places of permanent residence.
The EU Action Plan for the Implementation of Neighborhood Policy aims to assist the AP in the peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict. However, the measures proposed by the EU in the Action Plan for the AR and RA are identical - the difference is only in the order of priority of the spheres of cooperation with the EU. However, it should be noted that the European Neighborhood Policy has resulted in the EU launching a mechanism for the exchange of prisoners of war.
In other words, the main objective of the Eastern Partnership proclaimed by official Brussels is the spread of EU common values and norms to neighboring countries as part of a policy aimed at involving the AR and RA in its geopolitical orbit.
First, the it can be assumed that, given the lack of confidence between the official authorities of the AR and RA, the OSCE Minsk Group Co-chairs, the United States and France will strive to maintain the status quo presupposing the cease-fire regime and the negotiation process. However, Washington proposes to provide security guarantees on the line of contact between the Armed Forces and the Armed Forces of the Armed Forces only after the negotiation begins. American tactics are dictated by the fact that The US does not want to resolve the Karabakh conflict under Russian conditions, which will lead to strengthening of Russia's strategic positions in the South Caucasus region.
It should be noted that the official Yerevan supports the American plan, not the "Lavrov's plan". Moreover, the American side maintains contacts with the NKR, which is welcomed in Yerevan and in the Armenian diaspora. By the way, official Baku does not accept "Lavrov's plan", which does not provide for the return of the Kalbajar region.
Second, the it can be stated that in the public opinion of the Republic of Armenia and the RA the following understanding was confirmed: the demands of the parties to the Karabakh conflict contradict each other in fundamental issues: for the AR the territorial integrity of the republic is primary and RA is the self-determination of the peoples. It is impossible to settle the Karabakh conflict, satisfying the conditions of both the Azerbaijani and Armenian sides. This is what makes the early resolution of the Karabakh conflict unrealistic. The solution to the Karabakh conflict is possible only on the basis of a compromise on both sides, and not on one.
Third, after the extraordinary parliamentary elections in RA, a full-fledged meeting between President Ilham Aliyev and RA Prime Minister Nikolai Pashinyan will take place to coordinate the radically opposing positions of the two conflicting parties on the political settlement of the Karabakh conflict.
Orientalist, Head of the 3 Information and Analytical CenterRD VIEW, Baku, Azerbaijan