"Peace is the only viable choice for Armenia"
    Caliber.Az interview with political analyst Ali Mammadov

    INTERVIEWS  12 September 2022 - 10:10

    Huseyn Safarov
    Caliber.Az

    "Another Brussels meeting between Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan was one of the most notable," said Ali Mammadov, an MA in International Relations at the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University.

    Commenting on recent talks between the two leaders in Brussels, mediated by European Council President Charles Michel, the political analyst told Caliber.Az that the overall atmosphere, symbolic gestures such as the handshake between the leaders, and the outcome indicate that the recent Brussels meeting was a positive step forward toward a long-term peace agreement.

    "The fourth Brussels meeting was significant for several reasons, the most important of which is that both states agreed to form a group to prepare a draft version of a potential peace deal. This is an important development. Furthermore, as with previous meetings, there was no mention of status, Karabakh, or the Minsk Group, indicating that some of the major disagreements have already been resolved. Furthermore, both leaders indicated after the meeting that a comprehensive agreement could be signed soon. The meetings in Brussels and the involvement of the European Commission appear to speed the process up," he said.

    Noting the negotiating positions of the sides, the expert stressed that Baku was clearly in a better position after the 2020 war.

    "First, as a result of its military victory in 2020, Baku has increased its assertiveness and demand. Even recent agreements adhere to Baku's five principles. Second, cooperation with Azerbaijan and its main ally Turkey is in Yerevan's best interests in order to integrate with the rest of the world. The blockade imposed by Turkey and Azerbaijan has had a significant negative impact on Armenia's economy. Because of the blockade, the majority of Armenia's exports to Europe are still routed through Georgia, and Georgia has two export routes: the Port of Poti and the Upper Lars transport corridors. Neither route is convenient for Armenia because Poti takes too much time and is expensive, and Upper Lars is uncomfortable and risky. Due to the lack of diverse trade routes, Armenia would face serious problems if Georgia stopped passing Armenian goods, whether intentionally or unintentionally. For example, in 2008, a rail bridge in Georgia was destroyed, causing problems with the transportation of goods from Armenia. The situation eventually resulted in a significant increase in gas prices.

    As a result, it is in Armenia's best interests to expand transportation links in order to mitigate the risks associated with relying heavily on one country for transportation and to reduce transportation costs. In addition to exports to Europe, improved relationships will allow Armenia to transport goods to Asian countries such as Kazakhstan more efficiently through Azerbaijan's Caspian Sea ports. For a small economy like Armenia, the absence of such opportunities is too much. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan has reclaimed occupied territories, improved its economy, and improved relations with the international community. As a result, given the circumstances, Azerbaijan has more leeway, and it is clear that the Azerbaijani leadership has capitalized on its opportunities. The processes that have occurred since the war's end are clear indicators of Azerbaijan's diplomatic success."

    An agreement to form a working group is undeniably a positive and significant step forward, the expert said.

    "However, I believe it is still too early to predict whether Armenia will continue to follow through on all agreed-upon steps. And this is not surprising given Armenia's procrastination and noncompliance with the process from the start. Recent events in Lachin can serve as an example. Because, while improved relations with Azerbaijan are good for Armenia, and even though I believe the Armenian leadership understands that signing a peace agreement is in Armenia's best long-term interest, and while signing the deal may help the current administration of Armenia improve its reputation and leave a good legacy after losing the war, Armenia may still be a little hesitant because of internal political reasons and possible external influence. Hopefully, this will not take place. Even if this occurs, I believe Armenia will eventually need to find common ground with Azerbaijan in order to achieve long-term growth" Mammadov noted.

    As for the OSCE Minsk Group, which is often mentioned by the Armenian side, according to Mammadov, it can be said to have almost no function.

    "Even before the recent war, the Group was ineffective in resolving the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict due to internal challenges and other factors. The Group's ineffective participation in the process only resulted in long delays and did not resolve anything. Because of the Group’s delays and unfair treatment of Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan does not want the Group to be involved in the process again after resolving the issue through military means," he added.

    In conclusion, Mammadov stressed that the "Revenge" operation served as a reminder to the Armenian political and military leadership of Azerbaijan's military might.

    "Although it is difficult to say how much it affected the discussions in Brussels, it can be noted that the operation served as a reminder of Azerbaijan's military prowess to Armenian political and military leadership. In other words, it served as a reminder that the only viable choice for Armenia is peace and that any effort to stall the process is detrimental to Armenia itself."

    Caliber.Az

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