Experts comments CACDS - Southern Caucasus

Ruben Mehrabyan: The unacceptability of the formula "Territory in exchange for peace" in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict ...

Meeting of Armenian and Azerbaijani Foreign Ministers in Brussels, 11 July 2018, photo - Radio Azatutyun

After the Velvet Revolution in Armenia, a change of political elite took place, and the "non-system" forces came to power, which were forced to become "from scratch" in many ways into foreign policy processes with all the legacy left by the former government. And above all, it concerns the negotiation process for the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict through the mediation of the troika of the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group.

The new Armenian authorities are fully aware of the vital importance of the issue, which is an unresolved challenge to the security of the Armenian nation of an existential nature, and thus an unacceptably high price of a possible mistake during the negotiation process. As elected to the post of premier 8 May 2018 in May as a result of revolutionary changes in the country, Nikol Pashinyan the next day, 9 May, visited Stepanakert and gave a large press conference with the participation of the world's leading media, during which voiced the main theses of Armenian diplomacy to this day:

- an exclusively peaceful solution to the problem,

- the restoration of the full format of the negotiations and the return of Nagorno-Karabakh to the negotiating table,

- international recognition of the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh Republic) and its leadership.

During the period from May 2018 to the present day, sharply intensified contacts between Yerevan and Baku, especially between the heads of foreign policy departments. There was also a personal acquaintance of the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan and a number of informal meetings of the theta-ata. During one of them, 28 in September in Dushanbe, was reached an agreement comprising three items:

The first - heads of defense ministries of Armenia and Azerbaijan should agree to prevent incidents at the border. Pashinyan emphasized that he immediately informed the President of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) Bako Sahakyan about this agreement.

The second - Pashinyan and Aliyev agreed to be committed to dialogue and negotiations. Both stressed the importance of a peaceful settlement of the Karabakh issue.

The third - Baku and Yerevan will establish an operational link between themselves, "in order to maintain the inviolability of the cease-fire regime."

In fact, to this day, during the 4 months, no cases of deaths of servicemen on the line of contact in Nagorno-Karabakh and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border were observed. The ministries of defense, weekly in press releases, note the number of shots produced from the opposite side, which appear to be not focussed.

Of course, this can be considered an achievement of the past period. However, it is obvious that everything "holds on an honest word", and there is no guarantee that under the influence of certain factors or circumstances the situation will not deteriorate. Nevertheless, on the other hand, a significant period of absence of significant violations of the cease-fire regime in opposing combat positions with each passing day increases the political price of a hypothetical first shot, which will transfer the situation to another plane.

Three subjects of the conflict

The peculiarity of the current stage of the negotiation process is that the official position of Yerevan has undergone a fundamental change as a consequence of internal changes. It is that Yerevan, in the words of Prime Minister Pashinyan, says:

- about the intention to continue the negotiation process exclusively within the framework of the tripartite co-chairmanship of the OSCE Minsk Group;

- about the intention to negotiate only on behalf of the Republic of Armenia;

- the impossibility of conducting talks on behalf of Nagorno-Karabakh, because the people of Nagorno-Karabakh authorized the conduct of negotiations by their elected leadership, and not by the leadership of Armenia, in whose elections it does not take part.

It should be noted that with the beginning of the OSCE Minsk Group operation with 1992, the negotiation format was tripartite, including Armenia, Azerbaijan and the unacknowledged Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, which, in that composition, signed a ceasefire agreement in May 1994, in force today time

The issue of restoring the tripartite format is not a whim of Yerevan and Stepanakert, but a desire to restore a format capable of withdrawing the negotiation process from the logical deadlock resulting from the violation of this format in 1998, which is a reflection of the real nature of this conflict. Speech about the withdrawal of Stepanakert from the negotiations. Previously, it found its "explanation" that the coming to power in 1998, Robert Kocharyan and his successor to 2008, Serzh Sargsyan, came from Nagorno-Karabakh. Thus they "had the right to represent" not only Armenia but also Nagorno-Karabakh. Nikol Pashinyan, because of his origin not from Nagorno-Karabakh, has such a "right" not only de jure but also de facto. Pashinyan just stated the state of affairs.

Consequently, the conflict itself is Nagorno-Karabakh, the negotiation process is aimed at determining the future of Nagorno-Karabakh, and its absence at the negotiating table in the most obvious way seems unnatural.

Intensification of contacts and reaction of Moscow

The period of Pashinyan's administration in the negotiation process was marked by the intensification of contacts at the level of the heads of the Foreign Ministry, as well as the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan. Moreover, a series of meetings, accompanied by cautiously optimistic statements, is characterized by Yerevan in different ways - "conversations", "discussions", but not "negotiations" ...

The last meeting between the Armenian and Azerbaijani Foreign Ministers, Zorrab Mnatsakanyan and Elmar Mamedyarov, lasted about four hours, and the meeting between Nikol Pashinyan and Ilham Aliyev, the aunt in Davos, was an hour and a half. And if the meeting of the foreign ministers took place with the participation of mediators, then, on the background of the absence of victims on the contact line due to the enemy's fire effect, Pashinyan-Aliyev's meeting "without witnesses" caused a certain nervousness in Moscow. And some Russian "independent" experts Of the often commented negotiating process, they began to "predict" the further development of events in the very same way that Pashinyan was about to "surrender Karabakh on the conditions of Baku", while Pashinyan's opponents almost simultaneously picked up a "melody". As Pashinyan directly stated that the transaction "land in exchange for peace" is unacceptable, even at the level of discussion, and is simply not discussed.

It is not difficult to understand the Russian reaction, since there is a danger that Moscow may lose the most important lever - the ability to control the degree of tension on the line of contact, which acted primarily against the Armenian parties, and the Azerbaijani motivation to acquire new parties of Russian weapons in the hope of obtaining the opportunity force change status quo.

During the joint press conference, Nikol Pashinyan and Angela Merkel in Berlin, during the official visit to Germany, also addressed Nagorno-Karabakh issue. Russians have been staging Yerevan to Berlin due to praise for the policy of Armenia on the part of Merkel in the Nagorno-Karabakh issue and to the German chancellor turned "conspiracy arrows" with a redirection towards Baku.

The nervous reaction of Russian experts specializing in the region is rather eloquent and understandable, whereas the Moscow response to the purchase is diverse. On the one hand, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov calls, so that "Armenian friends responded reciprocally" to "Baku's readiness to seek untying". On the other hand, his deputy G. Karasin, while in Yerevan, expresses skepticism about the fact that the issue will be resolved in a visible perspective as it is a "difficult question," but stated that "he welcomes the regularity of meetings between Pashinyan and Aliyev, as well as the meetings between the foreign ministers of both countries." At the same time, Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia says that the international community has a consensus on the issue of Karabakh - to exclude the use of force, and Armenia on the eve of concluding a deal for the acquisition of four multipurpose fighters of the generation 4 + Su-30СМ, at the official level, hinting that this is not the limit.

Expectations from the current stage of the negotiation process and reality

Intensification of contacts between the parties in the face of changing conditions in the region has formed actors certain expectations in the form of "wishes" of the fastest effective steps. The summons of the troika co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group to the parties "to prepare peoples for peace", contained in a statement after the meeting of Armenian and Azerbaijani Foreign Ministers of January 16 and signed by their signatures, was greeted UN secretary general. But does all this say about the determinism of success?

So far, very far from reality, the anticipation of rapprochement of positions in the face of high mistrust between the parties, in particular, with regard to their further intentions. The Azerbaijani side suspects the Armenian parties in their intention to delay the negotiation process indefinitely and to freeze the situation so that the time factor worked in its favor, therefore deliberately proceeding to periodic exacerbations in order to draw the attention of the international community to the conflict with the message that the conflict can not be considered frozen, it can go in the hot phase.

The Armenian sides suspect Azerbaijani that the current calm on the line of contact is aimed only at the formation and propagation of its peace-loving image, blunt vigilance and the use of the factor of surprise for launching a new war (like the four-day war in April 2016). And in this they see the reason why it is necessary always to "keep dust dry" ...

The transaction "territory in exchange for peace" is ruled out not only because it was ruled out by the prime minister of Armenia, but because it essentially has nothing to do with reality. The Armenian parties are not, in fact, petitioners of the world, nor do they need to prepare for peace, since they were tuned to the world from the beginning, and the war was imposed by the wrong side. The challenge was accepted, and the truce was actually imposed by the appropriate actions, an agreement on which remains the only document still working to this day.

The reality is that in order to build trust between the parties, in any case, the elimination of attempts to talk from the position of force, for which the grounds are simply absent, and the exclusion of any possible military scenarios. And the call to "prepare peoples for peace" concerns, first of all, the Azerbaijani side, where strict anti-Armenian propaganda, the language of hatred and demonization of all Armenian are practiced at the state policy level; here one-to-one tools and methodology of Russian propaganda are used. The start of a real solution to the Karabakh issue must precede the democratic processes in Azerbaijan. And this is not a matter of taste, which, it seems, is simply a priori dictatorship - it's bad, and democracy is good. This is an issue of practical significance, since the dictatorship requires, for its internal strength, the resolution of internal contradictions and self-reproduction, the presence and propaganda of the image of an external enemy.

It is axiomatic that there is no eternal conflict, and the interest of any two neighboring countries is that they cooperate and integrate, and not vice versa. The post-war experience of European countries, the recent experience of the Balkan countries shows that the transformation of conflicts and reconciliation of peoples are only possible if there is a common value foundation and the formation of a "third dimension" based on human rights and the rule of law.

At the moment, taking into account regional realities, the expectation of the proximity of such a perspective seems to be, to put it mildly, premature. Realism is to preserve the "thin world", to maintain, if possible, regional stability, to suppress the destructive influence of well-known foreign actors, to overcome the language of hatred, to keep channels of communication open ... With the understanding that sooner or later, it will come to the awareness that for any two neighboring states objectively interests predominantly coincide ...

Political scientist Ruben Mehrabyan

Ruben Mehrabyan

Expert of the Armenian Institute of International Relations and Security, editor of the Russian-language version of "Aravot", Yerevan, Armenia