Publications of experts CACDS - Southern Caucasus

Rauf Radjabov: "Karabakh conflict: zero-compromise policy"


As the author of an alternative model of the political settlement of the Karabakh conflict (the "Karabakh triangle" and the principles of resolution, "Kosovo precedent" and "Karabakh triangle"), I consider it important that the following questions be answered:

- First, how much those who make decisions on the political settlement of the Karabakh conflict understand the inevitability of compromises, or is it a game, like the entire negotiation process as a whole? If so, then what do the international mediators of the OSCE MG and the negotiators (Azerbaijan and Armenia) count on, and can not all sides work equally?

- Secondly, what exactly are the parties to the conflict (Azerbaijan and Armenia) invest in the notion of "compromise" - the holding of a referendum in Baku and the unblocking of communications in return for Yerevan's return of 5 to occupied Azerbaijani areas? Or "compromise" is a sign of equality between the outcome of the conflict and the cause of its occurrence?

- Thirdly, are there in principle the point of contact between the compromises between the Azerbaijani and Armenian sides?

- Fourthly, what are the mechanisms for preparing societies (including the Azerbaijani and Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh) for a positive perception of decisions on the Karabakh conflict?

World practice and Karabakh triangle

World practice knows two models of political settlement of armed and ethnic conflicts. According to the first model, the conflict is settled with the interests of both sides, and the second - the so-called. positional bargain: the parties are trying to resolve the conflict, proceeding from their own positions, without taking into account the interests of the opposing side. At present, in the process of political settlement of the Karabakh conflict, a positional bargain prevails. The political elites of the two countries are obliged to engage in the search and settlement of concessions and compromises, but to resolve the Karabakh conflict.

The policy of compromise will never lead to a solution to the Karabakh conflict. It is the resolution, rather than the settlement, to be the main and strategic direction of the negotiation process under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group. The policy of compromise involves, firstly, a positional bargain, and secondly, concessions, i.e. failure or rollback in its position, and this is already a loss. Thirdly, the lack of a reliable regional security system for the long-term perspective.

What, in such a case, implies a policy of resolving the "Karabakh triangle"? First, direct cooperation between the conflicting parties. Secondly, mutually beneficial and mutually acceptable terms of a political agreement. Thirdly, the above conditions will allow the parties to the conflict to jointly create a long-term system of national and regional security. It's time for the official Baku and Yerevan to radically change the strategy of the negotiation process under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group.

The attempt to settle the Karabakh conflict on the basis of compromises in reality turns into a positional bargaining of the conflicting parties. For example, one side (Armenia) offers territories in exchange for a status, the other (Azerbaijan) - communications in exchange for territory. Meanwhile, the bargaining situation and the situation of finding a mutually acceptable compromise are, nevertheless, two different things: in the first case, each side tries to redeem its opponent without changing its position, in the second case it is supposed to bring the positions closer together and find a common denominator in order to to complete the negotiation process by signing a political agreement.

Today in the negotiation process prevails the simulation game and frank bargaining. There is no readiness for real cooperation. The positions of the parties in the understanding of what is and can and must be the subject of compromises are too different. Officially, Yerevan, achieving its temporary military success during the 2-Karabakh War, seeks to build an asymmetrical formula for a compromise, derived from the relationship between the victorious and the losing side. Consequently, official Yerevan is expecting not so much compromise from official Baku as recognition of the results of the war. The position of official Yerevan at these trades is well known: either Azerbaijan's recognition of NKR's independence, or Armenia recognizes the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh. A similar position of the Armenian side is unacceptable for Baku. Indeed, Armenia's true plans for Karabakh are as follows: in case of independence by Karabakh, this self-proclaimed education will be part of Armenia. It is not even a search for real compromises, but the desire to put the negotiation process in direct dependence on de facto "military success". The position of the official Baku is to demonstrate today's and future successes, including the military ones. In other words, in one case, the search for real trade-offs is hampered by nostalgia for past successes, and in the other by coming.

Status quo

It can be assumed that there will be no full-scale military confrontation on the line of contact between the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan and Armenia in the zone of the Karabakh conflict. However, the unwillingness of the parties to the Karabakh conflict to compromise and the desire of the official authorities of both countries to strengthen their negotiating positions within the framework of the Minsk format under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group by weakening the positions of the opposite party lead to violations of the ceasefire with all the ensuing consequences. Including, with the attempt to repeat 4-day April war 2016 year. But nothing more.

The fact is that full-scale hostilities in the zone of the Karabakh conflict are possible only in the case of support of Azerbaijan or Armenia by external geopolitical actors - the Russian Federation, the USA, Turkey and Iran. Obviously, given the rapprochement of the Russian Federation, Iran and Turkey to the Middle East agenda, the above-mentioned external players are not interested in the radical break-up of the status quo operating in the zone of the Karabakh conflict. In spite of the fact that official Ankara in recent years has repeatedly declared the inadmissibility of maintaining the status quo in the zone of the Karabakh conflict, calling on official Yerevan to withdraw military units of the Armed Forces of the occupied Azerbaijani areas.

Today, the complex military-political situation in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, Libya and the Middle East region as a whole requires the Russian Federation, Turkey and Iran to prevent the implementation of a military scenario in the South Caucasus region.

Against this backdrop, the United States is not in a position to change the status quo in favor of Baku or Yerevan without the assistance of NATO. However, the cooling of relations between NATO and the Russian Federation against the backdrop of the situation in the east of Ukraine does not contribute to the military activity of Azerbaijan in the zone of the Karabakh conflict. Official Moscow will provide military and political support to the official Yerevan, without fear of further aggravation of relations with NATO and aggravation of economic sanctions by the United States. In addition, NATO is not ready to support official Baku in its intentions by military means to change the status quo in its favor. Therefore, the Azerbaijani authorities do not consider the United States and NATO as a counterweight, which could limit or completely exclude the possible military intervention of the Russian Federation in the Azerbaijani-Armenian military confrontation.

In addition, the military factor neutralizing the implementation of the military scenario in the area of ​​the Karabakh conflict should also be taken into account. In particular, the sides of the Karabakh conflict - Azerbaijan and Armenia - have a comparable number of aircraft - an order of 70 thousand military personnel and roughly equal numbers of military equipment and armaments. Moreover, a large number of new military equipment in the Azerbaijani Armed Forces did not change in favor of one of the parties of military parity against the background of Russian arms supplies to Armenia. In spite of the fact that the fighting of the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan during the 4-day April war of 2016 clearly demonstrated serious deficiencies in the defense of the army units of Armenia. But after the 4 day-long April war of 2016, the Armenian side in a row reinforced the military-technical equipment of the line of defense on the whole front of the touch.

Possible scenarios of military action in the zone of the Karabakh conflict

As part of the 1 scenario, the Azerbaijani side will strengthen the negotiating position within the framework of the OSCE MG. For example, the advent of advanced army units of the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan without recruiting units of the second echelon will allow to occupy several key heights on the line of contact in order to provide comfortable positions in the event of repeating events of April 2016 year. Certain advantages in this scenario to the Azerbaijani side provide the presence of shock drillers (Israeli Spike complexes) in the Army of Azerbaijan, allowing them to hit armored vehicles in the upper projection. The use of this technical advantage by the Azerbaijani side will deprive the Armenian side of the benefits of an effective defensive line. In the event of success, the official Baku will gain a positional advantage, starting with peace talks under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group, demanding the liberation of occupied 7 Azerbaijani areas (5 completely and 2 in part) with the armed forces of Armenia outside of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The 2 scenario assumes the deployment by the Azerbaijani side of a full-scale military operation across the front in the zone of the Karabakh conflict. And for the implementation of this scenario, the neutrality of the Russian Federation, Turkey and Iran is required, which for some reason is not possible. Indeed, the offensive of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces from the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic (NAR) in the direction of Nagorno-Karabakh through Armenian territory will immediately raise the issue of interference with the CSTO, as Armenia itself was subjected to the attack (without taking into account the NKR). It is obvious that the military intervention of the Russian Federation on the side of Armenia will lead to Turkey's membership in the war. However, both in Moscow and in Ankara do not consider this scenario as an effective political tool for resolving the Karabakh conflict.

Real, not imaginary goals

The main goal of Armenia and the Armenian-speaking population of Nagorno-Karabakh is not the security of the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia is surrounded by countries with significant problems. Except, perhaps, Iran. But if the situation around Iran is fundamentally different then Russia is the only guarantor. Although Russia has its own interest, leaving from Armenia for official Moscow is a loss of the Caucasus. On the other hand, Armenia should not be manipulated by the occupied Azerbaijani territories and submit claims to NAR, etc. It is harmful and dangerous.

In turn, the isolation policy of the "partner" in the negotiation process can not be considered pragmatic for a long-term perspective. In the short-term perspective, yes, but it is an element of positional bargaining. Possible participation of Armenia in certain regional projects is expedient, precisely because of the prism of building long-term relationships taking into account the interests of the parties. This step would demonstrate that a new stage in the negotiation process begins - cooperation with the aim of resolving the conflict.

The topic of a referendum can not be left unaffected. Miracles are ... In 1923 year, after 3 year after the 1 Karabakh war, the population of Nagorno-Karabakh voted for the right to remain in Azerbaijan. But the point is that miracles are the fruit of human effort and deeds. There is an opinion in Azerbaijan and Armenia that, if we say that if a referendum takes place throughout Azerbaijan, then the result is not difficult to predict. If the will of Karabakh Armenians and Azerbaijanis will pass within the limits of Nagorno-Karabakh, then the result will be negative for the official Baku. In reality, however, both sides in the negotiations should be guided only by international law. The world community does not yet know the precedent of recognizing the separatist regime in parts of the territory of an independent state. For example, Franco-speaking Quebec, who strived to separate from English-speaking Canada, got the right to resolve this dilemma by holding a referendum. And fortunately for Canadian citizens, regardless of nationality, Quebec remained in Canada.

And what if Azerbaijan regulates its relations with Armenia? And most importantly, the Garabaghs will be sure that they need Azerbaijan not to satisfy political ambitions, but to form civil society in the country and region as a whole? The Armenian and Azerbaijani people of Nagorno-Karabakh are now obliged to build trust bridges. Unfortunately, the process of forming the political, economic and scientific elites of two peoples of Nagorno-Karabakh, for well-known reasons, passes in isolation from each other. It would be efficient if the process of exchange between elites of two peoples went directly. Trust must be earned by actions and actions that are absent in the negotiation process on the political settlement of the Karabakh conflict.

South Caucasus countries lack a highly developed middle class. Although in recent years Azerbaijan has made significant progress in its development, formation and maturity. For example, small and medium-sized businesses in Azerbaijan began to invest in sports, show business, culture, etc. It is the investment at the expense of internal rather than external resources and will lead to the formation of a middle class - the guarantor of stability in the country and the region. Only this factor should become a strong support for the development of a mutually beneficial strategy of negotiation process, with the permission of the Karabakh branch. The middle and small businesses, and generally the middle class, are objectively interested in liberal values, namely, in the free movement of labor and capital.

Not everyone in Azerbaijan shares the point of view on a peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict. And this objective circumstance should not cause anyone any surprise or misunderstanding. According to the supporters of the radical position, it is supposed that as a result of the "blitzkrieg" of the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan, having fully restored the territorial integrity of the republic, they will enter the state border with Armenia throughout its entire length. But the supporters of this position forget that 3-I Karabakh war threatens to be even more bloodthirsty than the previous one, with a great deal of casualties and destruction.. This will only complicate the final solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh problem, since the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh will no longer be able to live in Azerbaijan. They simply leave their homes afraid of the coming army and leave for Armenia. This, in turn, will seriously hinder the conclusion of a peace treaty. The matter is that Armenians will accept the military campaign of Azerbaijani troops to liberate the occupied territories and Nagorno-Karabakh only as their own defeat and ethnic cleansing of Karabakh from the Armenians who lived there earlier. In addition, Karabakh is still, as it were, an ideological basis for the unity of Armenians throughout the world. Under such conditions, none of the leaders of Armenia will dare to sign peace with Azerbaijan. Moreover, both the Armenian authorities and the Armenians of the whole world will only think of a rematch and prepare for the 4 Karabakh war ... Therefore, Azerbaijan, as a country affected by military aggression and temporary annexation of the territory of the republic, does not pragmatically speak from the standpoint of force.

But this is all - a national approach. AND There is also a pan-European approach, consisting in the "dying out" of borders. A typical example is the EU, where all interstate controversies and claims disappeared: French-English and Franco-German, Polish-German, Romanian-Hungarian, Turkish-Bulgarian, etc. In the future, the region of the South Caucasus will also lose its internal borders, only external ones will remain. They will need to be defended by joint efforts in order to solve the following important tasks: drug trafficking, international terrorism, religious extremism, the threat of a nuclear war, etc. Only when each of the countries of the South Caucasus region will perceive threats to the neighboring state of the region as their own threat and protect the interests of their neighbor as their own, the world will reign in peace and economic prosperity.


The official Baku should offer a variant of favorable cooperation of Azerbaijan with Armenia. First of all, the Azerbaijani side should answer the following questions: in what capacity the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh sees itself as part of Azerbaijan, what security system will operate within the limits of Azerbaijan and in the region of the South Caucasus as a whole? Such a system of republican and regional security should consist of two interconnected and interdependent levels: provision of security guarantees for the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh in the territory of Azerbaijan and guaranteeing its security from the official Yerevan.

Today, official Yerevan does not hide that the Armenian security system begins with the occupied territories of Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh, representing a buffer zone that protects the borders directly to Armenia itself. Official Yerevan worries about Armenia's security, since is surrounded by Turkic republics and Turkic-language peoples. Therefore, it is necessary to provide a concrete model of security and Armenia, which ensures the independence and security of Armenian statehood.

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