Publications of experts CACDS - Southern Caucasus

Karabakh conflict. The inevitability of maintaining the status quo: neither peace nor a great war

Photo: AR

The OSCE Minsk Group, actively promoting the summit between the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia, by its latest statement, updated the old formula for resolving the conflict around Nagorno-Karabakh. In the current paradigm of relations between the official Yerevan and Baku, it is not acceptable in principle for the two opposing sides. Will someone go to a "compromise", being able to present it not as a "manifestation of weakness"?

The Munich Security Conference in fact confirmed that the solution to the Karabakh conflict in the medium term is unlikely due to lack of confidence between the official authorities of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia, as well as mutually exclusive requirements of both sides within the framework of the negotiation process under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group. It is symbolic that the Azerbaijani and Armenian Foreign Ministers Elmar Mammadyarov and Zohrab Mnatsakanyan did not meet at the fields of the Munich Security Conference to discuss prospects for peaceful resolution of the Karabakh conflict.

Oral agreements reached between President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in Dushanbe, St. Petersburg and Davos created the impression that the dialogue with the new authorities in Yerevan yields definite results. Victims on the line of contact between the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan and Armenia in Nagorno Karabakh have become less, the military-political situation on the line of contact of the armies of the two countries is generally stable. This is indicated by the head of the Joint Staff of the CSTO Colonel General A. Sidorov. In his opinion, "the joint efforts of international mediators and states of the region in recent months have led to a reduction of tension", which "allowed to intensify the dialogue necessary for further work on the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict." The fact is that for the first time in recent decades, on the initiative of Moscow, a direct link has been established between Baku and Yerevan at the level of the heads of state.

N.Pashinyan's Karabakh policy is directed, inter alia, on the return of the self-proclaimed "NKR" to the negotiation process under the auspices of the OSCE MG. However, the self-proclaimed "NKR" is involved in the negotiation process in the sense that the visit of OSCE MG co-chairs to the region is always accompanied by a visit to Karabakh and meetings with the leaders of the unrecognized republic. According to N.Pashinyan, he can not represent the self-proclaimed "NKR" at the talks, as Karabakh residents did not choose him; only his citizens were elected to Armenia, whom he is authorized to represent at the OSCE Minsk Group negotiations. Obviously, in this case, representatives of the Azerbaijani community of Nagorno-Karabakh, who left the territory as a result of hostilities, should also be present at the negotiating table.

In turn, a compromise in the understanding of Baku is a return to the original positions that preceded the emergence of the Karabakh conflict. That is, the restoration of the situation up to 1988 year and the further determination of the status of Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan in accordance with the norms of international law (within the various forms of granting national-cultural autonomy according to world standards).

At the same time, Baku proposes new proposals as measures of confidence. It is a question of the exchange of prisoners on the principle of "all at all". N.Pashinyan said that 6 December 2018 of the year in St. Petersburg at the CIS summit, during a meeting with I.Aliyev, "they talked about the exchange of prisoners, there was no agreement, but discussions will be continued." Yerevan is striving for a more effective dialogue with the mediators of the OSCE MG in the current situation in order not to be under their pressure against the background of Azerbaijani constructiveness. Indeed, within the framework of the negotiation process under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group, there is no meaningful discussion of the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh, but it only refers to the importance of implementing the economic potential of the South Caucasus region.

Mutual concessions (not) lead ...

At one time, it is necessary to repeat the current "likebez" in the settlement ... The political settlement of the Karabakh conflict through mutual concessions is not possible. According to the official Yerevan, concessions (and this maximum) are to return the territory of Azerbaijan occupied around Nagorno-Karabakh and make Nagorno-Karabakh independent. However, the latter is unacceptable for Azerbaijan. For official Baku, concessions are the granting of Nagorno-Karabakh a high status of autonomy within Azerbaijan in exchange for the return of the occupied territories and the release of Armenia. But this, in turn, does not accept Armenia.

In other words, in the framework of the negotiation process under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group, two packages are discussed in the course of the negotiation process under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group: 1-X - de-occupation of 7 of the occupied Armenian Armed Forces of Azeri regions not forming part of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAR) and not applying for another status outside Azerbaijan 2-th is the status of the former NKAR, now existing as a self-proclaimed "NKR".

therefore the whole problem of the peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict is which party - Azerbaijan or Armenia - will be the first to concede, and which of the above packages will be taken as the basis for the preparation of a large political agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

It can be assumed that the official Baku will continue to implement its strategy, which will remain within the framework of the negotiation process under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group, and at the same time, with the help of controlled military activity, to pressure the official Yerevan on the line of contact between the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan and Armenia in the zone of the Karabakh conflict. Especially since in Baku it is believed that the negotiation process implies fulfillment of a number of conditions by the Armenian side: first of all, the Armed Forces of Armenia should leave Azerbaijan's occupied territories, Azerbaijani citizens should return to their lands. After that, peace and security can be established in the region.

In turn, official Yerevan will consistently implement its plan: the exchange of 5 Azerbaijani areas occupied by the Armed Forces of Armenia around Nagorno-Karabakh to recognize Baku's independence as the self-proclaimed "NKR".

The role of Moscow

In Moscow, they were convinced that the turning of Yerevan to the US and NATO is not possible. For example, N.Pashinyan has previously stated that he does not intend to revise Armenia's foreign policy as a strategic partner of the Russian Federation, as well as to radically change the approaches regarding the settlement of the conflict with Azerbaijan regarding Karabakh. However, in the summer of 2016, N.Pashinyan opposed "Lavrov's plan", calling it a plan for compelling Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh to surrender. Moreover, in order to reach a compromise settlement of the Karabakh conflict, N.Pashinyan and in 2016 year, and during the submission to the National Assembly of the program, the Armenian government headed by him stated that it would provide an atmosphere of mutual compromise and trust.

N. Pashinyan, on the CSTO line, has decided to send an Armenian humanitarian mission consisting of 83 to the Syrian Arab Republic. Moreover, on the one hand, the ex-president of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan did not go on this step, and on the other hand, the assistant to the President of the United States on national security, John Bolton, during his visit to Yerevan, warned N.Pashinyan from participating in Syrian events.

Yerevan can not do without Russia in the security issue of Armenia. It is symbolic that, with the intensification of the negotiation process to resolve the Karabakh conflict, Moscow and Yerevan signed a contract for the purchase of four multifunctional Su-30СМ fighters, which the Armenian Armed Forces should receive in 2020 year. Moscow made serious concessions to implement the deal with Yerevan: the Kremlin allocated loans and sold aircraft on the domestic, not export prices. As a result, the Air Forces of Armenia are purchasing modern warplanes capable of significantly increasing the republic's combat potential. The Air Forces of Azerbaijan do not possess such advanced combat aircraft, - the Air Force has modernized MiG-29 fighters in Ukraine.

Moreover, at a recent meeting, defense ministers from Armenia and Russia discussed a wide range of issues of military and military-technical cooperation, including those related to the manning of the Armed Forces of Armenia with the most up-to-date and precise weapons that ensure the preventive superiority of Yerevan. Preventive superiority of Yerevan points to a qualitatively new situation in the Armenian-Russian agenda. This agenda not only changes the nature of bilateral relations between Armenia and the Russian Federation, but also military-political perspectives in the South Caucasus region, as well as trends in the development of the regional security system as a whole. After all, the Armenian government intends to replenish the arsenal of the Soviet Union with high-precision missile complexes, modern artillery and air defense complexes, multifunctional aircraft, automated and robotized air and ground systems, thereby enhancing intelligence, range and accuracy of fire damage.

One of the most important elements of ensuring the security of Armenia is the development of the Armenian military-industrial complex (MIC). By the way, the development of the military-industrial complex of Armenia is considered as a key factor in ensuring and strengthening the combat readiness of the Armed Forces, economic growth, progress in the scientific and technological sphere of the country. Obviously, the implementation of the above-mentioned program of Armenia also leads to the strengthening of Moscow's strategic positions, both in Armenia and in general in the South Caucasus on the background of the Georgian-Russian talks, the Armenian-Georgian rapprochement and the Azerbaijani-Georgian cold weather ...

Activity of the West in the Karabakh direction

Officially, US activity in the framework of the settlement of the Karabakh conflict under the auspices of the OSCE MG as a whole does not contradict Moscow's efforts. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Karasin recently said that the RF, France, the United States and the EU are united in the fact that in the settlement of the Karabakh conflict power scenarios should be categorically excluded.

However, in the context of the Russian-Turkish activity in resolving the Karabakh conflict with the ratification of the Armenian-Turkish protocols, former Co-chair of the OSCE MG Richard Hoagland issued a document that reflects the principles of the settlement of the Karabakh conflict. True, R. Hogland repeated what Russia, the United States and France have been saying over the last few years: a special temporary status for the self-proclaimed "NKR"; the return of territories around the self-proclaimed "NKR" to Azerbaijan; resolution of the problem with refugees, etc. The conduct of the OSCE MG ex-co-chairman Robert H. Hogland should be considered in the context of the visit of President Trend Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Baku and Astana as well as the willingness of the official Ankara with the Russian Federation to resolve the Karabakh conflict.

Washington officially fears that the US-EU will resolve the Armenian-Turkish and Azerbaijani-Armenian conflicts without engaging in the political process of Turkey, Russia and Kazakhstan with the participation of Armenia and Azerbaijan (and indirect participation of Iran).

At the same time, The United States de facto also invites the parties to the Karabakh conflict to take as a model the "occupied territories in exchange for peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia". In fact, the United States urges Yerevan to abandon the model of "occupied territories in exchange for the permanent status of Nagorno-Karabakh". Obviously, the model "occupied territories in exchange for peace (or security) between Azerbaijan and Armenia" is consistent with the Russian "Lavrov plan". However, this model does not reject the definition of the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. This is evidenced by a statement by N. Pashinyan in Berlin at a joint press conference with Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel. According to N.Pashinyan, the solution of the problem is the question of the three parties (Azerbaijan-Armenia-NKR) involved in the conflict, and the international community can not resolve the Karabakh conflict instead of the three parties, or may only create a platform for dialogue and negotiations.

Interests of the Islamic Republic of Iran и Turkish Republic

Tehran is an opponent of the military-political presence of the West in the region of the South Caucasus, including as peacekeepers in the zone of the Karabakh conflict. Tehran has repeatedly stated that it refuses to recognize the updated Madrid principles of the 2009 of the year for the resolution of the Karabakh conflict, since an international peacekeeping contingent must be located in the settlement area. Tehran insists on resolving the Karabakh conflict exclusively by the efforts of the countries of the region of the South Caucasus. Obviously that is such Tehran's position meets the interests of Moscow, which offers the parties to the conflict to agree on a CSTO peacekeeping mission, not NATO or Europe.

Against the backdrop of well-known events in Syria today, Ankara is less active in the current negotiation process around the Karabakh conflict. Although, Ankara stresses that without a solution to the Karabakh conflict and speech can not be about the normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia. Ankara is not ready to settle relations with Yerevan, since Turkey does not have such a political force that is ready even to discuss the issue of resolving the Armenian-Turkish contradictions. The only supporter of the settlement of Turkey's relations with Armenia is the pro-Kurdish party, which is de facto banned.


First, the creating confidence between Azerbaijan and Armenia, as well as giving the negotiating process under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group an irreversible character may be the concrete steps of the conflicting parties that will change the status quo in the region of the South Caucasus and make it impossible for a new escalation of the conflict. Therefore, it is necessary to withdraw the Armenian Armed Forces from the occupied territories around Nagorno-Karabakh, to unblock the borders of Azerbaijan and Turkey with Armenia. The first steps to resolve the Karabakh conflict should not leave room for maneuver to Azerbaijan and Armenia, but to fix the corresponding "point of non-return". Obviously, this process can take years.

Second, the negotiations between Baku and Yerevan on the Karabakh conflict under the auspices of the OSCE MG will alternate with military incidents, but the complete stoppage of the peace process is ruled out. Therefore, it is necessary that the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs achieve at least a temporary but significant Azerbaijani-Armenian agreement within the framework of a step-by-step settlement of the Karabakh conflict, which will facilitate the harmonization of this key issue and bring Baku and Yerevan to a final decision out of the new war.

Third, the parameters of the Azerbaijani compromise should be announced in Baku. The deterioration of macroeconomic and microeconomic indicators in Azerbaijan against volatile world prices for energy resources does not contribute to solving the Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict by force. Official Baku is still not in a position to change the military parity between Azerbaijan and Armenia in its favor. Obviously, a significant change in military parity requires a lot of financial and time. Moreover, the military activity on the line of contact between the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan and Armenia in the zone of the Karabakh conflict will be observed until the signing of a peace agreement between the two states.

The indicated controlled military activity will not turn into a "red" trait, since Large-scale military operations in the area of ​​the Karabakh conflict are fraught with serious internal political and economic consequences for Azerbaijan and Armenia. Especially since Russia, Iran and Turkey, by virtue of their national and regional interests, will strive to maintain the status quo in the zone of the Karabakh conflict, while simultaneously involving Azerbaijan and Armenia in the "regional format" of the solution of the conflict.

Rauf Radzhabov Orientalist, Head of Analytical Center 3RD VIEW, Baku, Azerbaijan