Tuesday, 16 July 2019

E Editorial

New hype around the Karabakh problem

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When following the results of the Vienna meeting with the President of Azerbaijan, Nikol Pashinyan announced that the co-chairs of the Minsk Group had accepted his agenda for discussion and that he had not received answers to his questions either from the co-chairs or from Azerbaijan, a noticeable hype began around the diplomacy of the settlement of the Karabakh problem.

It was easy to guess that Baku would try to transfer the negotiation process under the patronage of Moscow. It is well remembered how, after the 2016 Vienna meeting, when Azerbaijan faced unacceptable proposals to establish control mechanisms on the contact line of troops, it persistently sought a new meeting of the presidents of the two countries with the mediation of the Russian president. It was at that meeting, held in June in St. Petersburg, that the relevance of the Vienna agreements was nullified. The leadership of Armenia ceased to insist on the implementation of these agreements, which caused bewilderment not only in Armenia, but also among observers abroad. Azerbaijan then achieved its goal.

Now facing a similar situation, Azerbaijan again pinned hopes on Russia. According to Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Mammadyarov, "with a two-to-three-fold increase in efforts with Russia, one can hope for progress in resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict." Russia, for quite a long time distancing itself from active intervention in the settlement diplomacy, naturally, had to take advantage of this circumstance. The meeting of foreign ministers was organized very quickly. However, judging by the statements made by the Azerbaijani minister after the meeting, this time it was not possible to get rid of the Armenian agenda. The same impression remains from the statements of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Lavrov -- not containing any specifics, and referring only to the previous statements of the heads of the co-chairing states of the Minsk Group. Even the impression remains that Lavrov hints at the fact that the fundamental principles of the settlement have been called into question (why was it necessary to remind that these principles remain in force and were discussed?).

But that was not the end of it. The fact that the Karabakh conflict settlement diplomacy is going through difficult days can be seen from the proposal of the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to hold the next meeting of the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia in the United States. This was announced to Warsaw by the Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, Elmar Mamedyarov. There is some talk that a similar meeting might be held in Paris. Why the co-chair countries of the Minsk Group need such “separate” activity, is not entirely clear. But one thing is clear: at the meetings with the parties of the conflict, the co-chairs do not manage to answer the questions of the Armenian side, in particular about why, in violation of the decisions of the 1994 Budapest summit, Nagorno-Karabakh was withdrawn from the negotiations. Azerbaijan cannot answer either, for what reason there is no desire to return Nagorno Karabakh to the negotiation process? And without such answers, it is impossible to resume the negotiation process - Armenia insists on receiving these answers.

Azerbaijan is also well aware that the demand of Armenia to return Nagorno-Karabakh to the negotiation process, as well as the refusal of Azerbaijan to make such a decision, makes it impossible to discuss territorial issues. This, in particular, was stated by one of the experts of the Karabakh problem, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, T. Zulfugarov, announcing that the negotiations are becoming meaningless for Azerbaijan.

So, there is something to discuss at different levels of negotiations and under different patronage. Some approaches will have to change.

The Armenian Center for National and International Studies

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Yerevan, Armenia

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