MYSTERIOUS TALKS ON KARABAKH
The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk group on the settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict in the person of Igor Popov (Russia), Andrew Schofer (USA), Stefan Visconti (France) and personal representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-office Andrzej Kasprzyk once again visit the region. They visited Yerevan, where they held talks with the Armenian leadership. This time, the agenda includes such issues as the formation of «a stimulating atmosphere for the establishment of peace in the context of the importance of implementing the agreements reached at the Vienna summit», the need to strengthen the ceasefire and the exclusion of escalating actions.
It is clear that this negotiation program will be played by the OSCE Minsk GROUP when visiting Stepanakert and Baku. If any agreements are reached, they should, of course, be discussed specifically at the talks between the Foreign Ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia, and then retransmitted to the level of negotiations between the heads of state. However, there is a lot of uncertainty. Earlier it was reported that the Foreign Ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia Elmar Mammadyarov and to grab Mnatsakanyan can meet in Washington, but so far the Americans have not specified their invitation. Us Secretary of state Mike Pompeo, congratulating Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on the Day of the Republic, also bypassed this issue, getting off with General words. «As co-chair of the OSCE Minsk group, we will continue to assist the parties in the search for a peaceful and sustainable settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, — Pompeo wrote in his congratulatory letter. — We highly appreciate the recent meetings of the parties to resolve the conflict through negotiations, as well as efforts to create favorable conditions for fruitful discussions and preparation of the peoples for peace.» In other words, it is a fact that the previous intensive negotiating dynamics on the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict at the level of foreign Ministers and heads of state has been interrupted, and a pause has been formed, which is recognized by the conflicting parties themselves. Pashinyan at a meeting with representatives of the Russian media and said:
«We won’t be in a hurry.»
Mammadyarov spoke about the talks with Yerevan no less mysteriously: «We have a certain temporary pause for the new political leadership of Armenia to get acquainted with the details of the negotiation process. This transitional stage has been completed, negotiations have resumed both at the level of the leaders of the two countries and at the level of the foreign Ministers.» And further: «This year I have already met twice with my Armenian counterpart — in January in Paris and in April in Moscow, where our meeting was held in a trilateral format, with the participation of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The dialogue is taking place in the existing format on the existing agenda, which is encouraging. At the same time, statements from the Armenian side, which are very ambiguous and cast a shadow on the entire structure of the political settlement, are often heard almost in parallel with the meetings in the framework of the negotiation process. Unfortunately, they are not isolated. This, of course, is alarming.» In other words, Baku classified the entire negotiation cycle of 2018 on the settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict as «familiarization» for Armenia. Pashinyan talked about this in January 2019 after an informal meeting with Aliyev on the sidelines of the world economic forum in Davos as follows: «At meetings with the President of Azerbaijan, we do not discuss any specific details, we just exchange views.»
Recall that in 2018 Pashinyan spoke and pushed the project on the need to include Stepanakert in the negotiation process for the settlement of the conflict, which was met with hostility by Baku at the official level. As English political scientist Thomas de Waal said, «Pashinyan insists on changing the format, he believes that the process should be expanded to include Karabakh Armenians as well.» According to him, «Karabakh Armenians used to participate in the negotiations in the early 1990s, and the current format, where virtually everything is decided by the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan, has existed for 20 years since Robert Kocharian began to meet with senior Aliyev.» Therefore, there is every reason to assume that Aliyev, during his personal meetings with Pashinyan, conducted a targeted and purposeful historical discussion on the negotiation process. Moreover, there is no doubt that Aliyev received the materials of the discussion in the Parliament on September 12, 2018 between Pashinyan and the Deputy (Republican party) Armen Ashotyan after the Prime Minister at the rally accused the former Armenian authorities of readiness to cede the territory around Nagorno Karabakh without any guarantees about the status of the Republic. Here is a small fragment:
«Ashotyan: «You said, ‘They have come to surrender the land. And I know that according to the documents because I can see who said what». I asked you in writing to clarify at what stage of the negotiations something like this happened. You said you had no right to divulge the secret of the negotiations. I turned to Serzh Sargsyan and learned again that under him the status of Nagorno Karabakh was the main core of the negotiations.»
Pashinyan: «There has never been an option on the negotiating table where the status of Karabakh is clearly indicated and guaranteed. You know that. And in recent years, the status of Nagorno-Karabakh has been pushed further to the side. And I inherited an option where there is nothing about the status of Karabakh at all. Only the following is said: Azerbaijan needs to return territories. Known to you. And I’m telling you this officially. I am not saying that such a document was signed. I say it was the last option on the table.»
We will make an important clarification. Baku experts refute Pashinyan’s thesis that the former leader Sargsyan intended to «return territories to Azerbaijan» for no reason. In their opinion, then Yerevan allegedly offered territories in exchange for consent to the accession of Nagorno-Karabakh within the Soviet borders to Armenia (Miatsum). Here is what Professor of the West Caspian University Fikret Sadykhov says: «the Idea of Miatsum has evolved from the initial requirement of direct subordination of the Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous region to Yerevan to the subsequent change of tactics to the gradual achievement of the same goal through the preliminary separation of this area from Azerbaijan and its final accession to Armenia with the intermediate stage of the so-called «independent Republic». But in Armenia, after Pashinyan (speaking about Baku’s refusal to talk to Stepanakert) stated that «if Karabakh is part of Armenia, I must represent it, let’s document it», the political scenery began to change. The first step towards the creation of a United Armenia is the reunification of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, the Cilician Catholicos Aram said. In this regard, the Armenian portal «Lragir» believes that Miatsum «again becomes the detonator of a new movement in Armenia».
However, so far only one thing is obvious: what is happening has nothing to do with the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and Pashinyan demonstrates a surprising «maneuverability»: if earlier he was looking for all sorts of excuses in words to unhook Karabakh from Armenia, now hints at the readiness of its absorption by Armenia to declare Stepanakert a «failed state». According to Sadikhov, «apparently, some forces controlled from Yerevan are trying to create a new situation related to the accession of Nagorno Karabakh to Armenia. In order to implement their plans in a new format.» In turn, he is a political observer of the Baku portal Minval. az nurani rightly believes that «Pashinyan intends first of all to solve his domestic political problems and tries to reformat the situation in Karabakh»: the first attempt to «dump» Karabakh President Bako Sahakyan with the help of «popular unrest» failed, the second one was thwarted, now the slogan of Miatsum is again thrown into the masses. In this sense, it is difficult not to agree with the editor-in-chief of IA REGNUM modest Kolarov, who believes that «Nagorno-Karabakh today and at first deserves recognition of its right to «a worthy state existence», and not the promised accession to Armenia, which in fact will destroy its statehood — before it could be done by the military machine of Azerbaijan».
By the way, some experts in Baku believe that if at the first stage Azerbaijan manages to return seven districts, then at the second stage «we will solve the problem of Nagorno Karabakh, and their statements about the creation of some political forces there play absolutely no role for us». So Mammadyarov’s «pause» works so that it can cause Pashinyan’s «tears».