Alwaght- The continuation of Azerbaijan-Armenia tensions over Karabakh region that have drawn trans-regional powers to Caucasus region is severely worrying the Russians and this is the motivation for the Kremlin inviting leaders of the two countries to Moscow to discuss a solution to the three-decade crisis.
Russian foreign ministry said that Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov discussed on Tuesday with Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov and Armenian counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan the ways for de-escalation in the disputed region.
"They want to discuss the preparation of a peace agreement between Yerevan and Baku; an agreement that can be a solution to the existing issues between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and Russia is ready to provide maximum assistance in this regard,” Russian foreign ministry stated before the meeting.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have been at odds for the control of the disputed region of Karabakh since 1992, and despite numerous international and regional meetings in the past three decades, the fire of war still casts a shadow over this region, and over the past year, the prospects of peace have grown dim as President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan continues his ambitions.
Moscow, a guarantor of the implementation of the 2020 agreements on Karabakh, has repeatedly tried to defuse tensions and make peace by mediating between Baku and Yerevan. In the tripartite meeting of the leaders of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, which was held on May 19 in Moscow, Baku and Yerevan recognized the territory of Azerbaijan with an area of 86,000 square kilometers and the area of Armenia with an area of 29,000 square kilometers, which should be respected. The recognition is considered an important step forward to establishing stability and peace in the region, finalizing the text of the peace treaty and delimiting the borders. Despite the closeness of the positions of the two sides, tensions have re-erupted in recent weeks, dimming the prospects of peace.
Moscow meeting is held while several meetings between the officials of Yerevan and Baku have been held in Washington and Brussels in recent weeks to end the tensions, but they have ended without tangible results. Even the Prime Minister of Armenia Nikola Pashinyan said that last week's talks with Aliyev and Charles Michel, the head of the European Union Council in Brussels, did not produce any progress, adding that due to Baku's insistence on its demands, a new round of conflicts between the two countries is likely.
Baku's anti-Russian accusations
Despite Moscow meetings, in recent days, the differences between Russia and Azerbaijan over the way of looking at Karabakh security issues have heightened. Azerbaijan has recently accused Russia peacekeepers of declining to completely fulfill the tripartite agreements in Karabakh mountainous region, something drew Moscow's reaction.
“Russia has always respected the territorial integrity of the Republic of Azerbaijan, but this does not negate the need to resolve all issues on the agenda, including guaranteeing the rights and security of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, exclusively through peaceful political and diplomatic means,” a Russian foreign ministry's statement said.
Azerbaijan looks at Karabakh developments through its own political lenses and claims that any agreement should be written in favor of its interests and this conflict of views makes a big obstacle ahead of peace. Baku government is not ready to end the tensions in the region in order to achieve its ambitious demands, on top of them the Zangezor corridor construction, and using various excuses and accusing Armenia and recently the Russians, it is trying to blame all the dispute on others and paint itself the rightful and victim side.
The construction of the Zangezor corridor, which the Azerbaijani authorities claimed was agreed upon in the 2020 peace deal, was supposed to connect mainland Azerbaijan to the Nakhchivan Autonomous Region. With this corridor, the borders of Iran and Armenia will be completely cut off in practice. But the corridor idea did not materialize due to the opposition of Armenia, Iran, and to some extent Russia, and this infuriated Baku's officials, and after finding themselves standing alone behind a regional barrier, they sought to take revenge in Lachin region.
Since December 2022, in order to put pressure on Armenia, Azerbaijan has blocked the Lachin crossing, which is the only way to deliver goods to the Armenian part of Karabakh, and has taken the lives of 120,000 Armenians hostage to achieve its demands. Armenia said that if Lachin is reopened and the rights and security of the Armenians living in Karabakh are guaranteed, it will recognize this entire region as a part of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, but the Baku leaders are not satisfied with this and have goals beyond limits of the terms of 2020 agreement.
One of the factors driving Azerbaijan to tensions with Russia is Turkey's policies in Karabakh. Turkey which has been the main backer of Azerbaijan in the Karabakh dispute and even supplied it with military assistance in the 2020 war still supports contentious Baku policies and this is making the later more temerous. Turkey, which has recently moved closer to the West and has begun to distance itself from Russia, is pushing to realize Aliyev's ambitions in Caucasus. Meanwhile, Zangezor corridor is a priority. In recent weeks, Turkey argued that the corridor is meant against no country and blamed Iran as the main cause of failure of this project.
Iran has repeatedly warned against any geopolitical changes to the borders of Caucasus, saying that it will use all its power to prevent this action, and holding exercises on the borders with Azerbaijan in the past year was a kind of warning shot to Baku that Tehran is ready for any scenario.
The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is serving his last term as a president, over the past decade sought to realize the ‘Turkic world’ idea and Azerbaijan is the linking ring of this world from Turkey to Central Asia. This gives it a reason to strengthen Baku's positions hoping to bring to materialization the Turkic world project.
From another perspective, Azerbaijan, which these days is moving to build convergence with Israel, imagines that it can push forward its agenda on the strength of the Israeli support. Aliyev seems to not know that he is grabbing a rotten rope as Tel Aviv is itself grappling with serous home crises.
West fishing in troubled waters
The continuation of Karabakh tensions has facilitated involvement of international powers in the region. Over the past two decades, the European Union has sought a solution to the dispute via Minsk initiative, but despite holding several rounds of negotiations, it declined to find a settlement. It once again ramped up its movements in recent months and sent a number of its military experts to Armenia under the excuse of seeking peace.
The US, which has always regarded a foothold in Russian vicinity as making an opportunity serving its plans, will take a long jump to build influence on Russia’s southern borders under the ruse of peace should the tensions linger. Holding two rounds of meetings between the officials of Yerevan and Baku in Washington was also in order to play an important role in this tense case and to pretend that the knot of Karabakh security case is to be untied by the West in order to impair Russia's role in the Caucasus. The claim of the White House officials that the outcomes of the meetings in Washington were positive comes to paint as effective the American efforts, but the verbal clash of the officials of Azerbaijan and Armenia proves otherwise. At a time when Russia and the West are at each other's throats in Ukraine, this issue is a good opportunity to challenge the security of Moscow's borders by making Caucasus insecure.
Despite the European and American movements to deal blows to the Russian interests, Russia does not tolerate any intervention on its southern borders and has repeatedly warned about this. From Moscow's point of view, the real goals of Washington and Europe are not at all to seek reconciliation or balanced solutions in the region, but their actions are propagandistic and aimed at challenging Russia's security interests in Caucasus. This is why Vladimir Putin is trying to persuade his allies in Caucasus to end the conflict for him to feel comfortable about southern borders.
Russia is worried that Azerbaijan follow Turkey in moving close to the West, and this can give the Europeans and Americans a foothold in Caucasus. Armenia is now relatively in the Western camp and if Azerbaijan aligns with the US, it will pose a new challenge to the Russian national security. So, while tied down in Ukraine, the Kremlin wants to put an end to Karabakh dispute which is one of its security concerns. Earlier, it had said that the West strives after opening a second front with Russia, and so Russia does not to give the US a pretext by allowing Baku-Yerevan tensions to continue.
Experience of past years shows that the two countries at the negotiating table pose as peace advocates, but when they step out, they clash verbally and exchange fire on the borders, which means that this time, too, no white smoke comes out of Moscow.