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Analysis

Ifs, Buts of Karabakh Peace

Monday 29 May 2023
Ifs, Buts of Karabakh Peace

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Will Karabakh’s Gordian Knot Be Untied in Moscow?

Baku Making Alliances to Break Karabakh Security Blocks

Alwaght- Following escalation of tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan in recent months that have posed risks to regional peace and stability, Russia once again invited its allies in Moscow to discuss a fundamental solution to the Karabakh dispute. In the tripartite Moscow meeting that gathered together Russian President Vladimir Putin, Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev, and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on Thursday, the two sides announced their agreement to lasting peace. 

Pashinyan said that his country and Azerbaijan have agreed on recognizing each other's territorial integrity and will take steps to solve their differences within framework of the agreement. 

Aliyev, on the other side, said: “There is possibility of peace between Baku and Yerevan, especially now that Armenia recognized Karabakh as part of our territory.... Baku has no territorial claims against Armenia and at present there is a chance for peace between the two sides.”

Aliyev added that the main issue of these talks was peace deal between the two countries that should be in accordance with the international norms and any preconditions are unacceptable. 

The Russian president described as “positive” the negotiations and said that the situation is moving to a settlement, though there are some unresolved issues.

“There are some unresolved issues and we talk to our Azerbaijani and Armenian colleagues and these problems are merely technical,” Putin was quoted as saying. 

According to the Russians, the deputy prime ministers of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are going to discuss the process of border movement and traffic during a meeting in Moscow on June 1. The ambassador of Azerbaijan in France also expressed hope that the peace deal with Armenia would be signed during the visit of the leaders of Baku and Yerevan to Moldova on Thursday. The spokesman of the US State Department said that the final peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan is in the making and Washington is ready to help them towards this goal. 

Moscow agreement came as Armenian PM last week said that Armenia and Azerbaijan had recognized each other's territorial integrity and if Azerbaijan respects the rights and security of the Armenians of Karabakh, Yerevan is ready to recognize the region as part of Azerbaijan. 

Everything overshadowed by Lachin Corridor 

Though not much details of Moscow agreement have been leaked, the atmosphere of the meetings suggests that the two countries mainly focused on reopening Lachin Corridor, a sticking point that led to verbal clash of the leaders of the two countries and took Putin intervention to wind down. Pashinyan accused Baku of blocking Lachin and putting pressure on 120,000 Armenians living in Karabakh, and Aliyev claimed that no restrictions have been imposed on aid deliveries to this region. 

Azerbaijan managed to retake large part of its territories from Armenia after three decades with a Russian-brokered peace deal in November 2020, but it was not satisfied with its new boundaries and sought to annex further territories. To this end, Baku closed down Lachin Corridor that is the only lifeline to the Armenian-inhabited part of Karabakh to put strains on Yerevan. During the blockade, 120,000 Armenians faced gas and food shortage. After Azerbaijan walked back from its stances, Armenia said it was ready to return to Azerbaijan its remaining territories in order to protect Armenians living in Karabakh. 

Fear of Baku lack of commitment 

The course of developments demonstrates that in the forthcoming days, a peace agreement will be inked between Yerevan and Baku to end the dispute and tensions after three decades. But there is a question: Will Azerbaijan commit to the Agreement or like in the past infer new plans out of the peace deal like Zangezur Corridor. 

Aliyev and other Baku officials went to great lengths to construct Zangezur Corridor that is aimed at linking mainland Azerbaijan to the Autonomous Nakhchevan Republic to practically cut off Iran's link to Armenia. But the project failed due to strong Iranian, Russian, and Armenia opposition. Russian and Iranian officials said the new corridor is provocative as it will cause geopolitical changes to Caucasus. Construction of Zangezur was not mentioned in the 2020 agreement, and Aliyev, driven by ambitions and dreams, sought to seize the opportunity to implement his provocative plans. 

According to the post-war agreement, a transit route from Armenia was planned to be constructed to facilitate movement from Azerbaijan to Nakhchevan, but Baku officials interpreted the agreement in line with their interests. They, however, failed to advance their plans at the end often road and sought to reverse their failure by blocking Lachin Corridor. 

Therefore, if Baku leaders adhere to the future peace agreements in Karabakh, the region will embrace peace, but if they continue their excesses, tensions will be rejuvenated in Karabakh, and regional countries, mainly Iran and Russia, will not remain silent because to date Baku has claimed that Karabagh belongs to it and it should return to mainland Azerbaijan and probably in the peace agreements, this region will be recognized as a part of Azerbaijan forever, and there is no longer any need to continue tensions that can engage trans-regional actors in regional issues. 

In the past two decades, the European Union pushed for an end to Karabakh dispute with Minsk initiative, but despite holding several rounds of negotiations, it failed to bring their views close to each other. In recent months, it has increased its movements again and sent 30 experts to Armenia under the excuse of seeking peace in Karabakh. The US, which has always considered infiltrating Russia's vicinity as an opportunity to advance its plans, will take a long step to gain influence on the Russian borders if the the tensions go on. At a time Russia and the West are at each other's throats in Ukraine, this issue will provide a good opportunity to challenge the security of Russian borders by destabilizing Caucasus. 

Since Moscow is busy with Ukraine, it faces challenges maintaining its role as a mediator. Abusing this, the US and the EU are pushing for closeness to the sides of the dispute. By entering Karabakh, the US and the EU are trying to insinuate that Russia has not been able to make peace in the region in the past three decades. In the past year, several meetings were held in Western capitals between Yerevan and Baku to show that the Gordian knot in South Caucasus is being untied by the West, something aimed at discrediting Russian peacekeeping policy. 

Despite the Western movements, Russia never tolerates interventions on its southern borders and has already warned about such moves. In Moscow viewpoint, Washington and Brussels never seek peace in the region and their measures are demonstrative and aimed at expelling Moscow from Caucasus. Russia intends to convince its allies to end their disputes for its comfort about southern borders. 

Despite the atmosphere of optimism caused by the new round of negotiations for lasting peace in the mountainous Karabakh, the essential issue is preservation of geopolitical and historical realities of the region where any unrealistic view and unilateral ignorance of these realities at the end of the road will block comprehensive peace expected by all regional actors and consequent growth and economic advantages for two sides. 

Tags :

Kazabakh Azerbaijan Armenia Peace Russia West Caucasus

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