Will Sochi summit lead to Baku-Yerevan peace?
    Five expert opinions on Сaliber.Az

    INTERVIEWS  31 October 2022 - 15:00

    Matanat Nasibova

    Even two years after the war, in which Azerbaijan won an unconditional victory, the normalisation of Armenian-Azerbaijani relations is still on the agenda of talks between Baku, Yerevan, and Moscow. To address the most serious regional issue, trilateral talks will take place between Russian President Vladimir Putin, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan at Russia's initiative in Sochi on October 31.

    The meeting is scheduled to consider the implementation of the trilateral agreements of the Russian, Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders dated November 10, 2020, January 11 and November 26, 2021, further steps to strengthen stability and security in the South Caucasus. The event is expected to focus on the restoration and development of trade, economic, and transportation ties. Separate talks between Putin, Aliyev, and Pashinyan are also planned.

    The three leaders' talks in Sochi are already the focus of the attention of the Russian expert community. Given this interest, Caliber.Az asked Russia's leading political scientists to share their opinions on the possible results of the Sochi summit, in particular, the chances of an early signing of a peace treaty between Baku and Yerevan.

    At this point in the process of resolving Armenian-Azerbaijani relations, there is a serious activation of all negotiation tracks, including European and Russian, and the main question is under whose auspices a peace treaty will be signed, according to Stas Pritchin, a senior researcher at the Post-Soviet Studies Centre of E. M. Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences, a Candidate of Historical Sciences.

    "I have repeatedly said that the signing of a peace treaty by itself does not solve the whole complex of problems that have accumulated in Armenian-Azerbaijani relations. Fixing Azerbaijan's sovereignty over Karabakh is an important, but only the first step in the settlement of relations. There are still a huge number of issues to be resolved, which were generally outlined in the truce statement of November 10, 2020. This concerns the delimitation and demarcation of borders, which cannot happen very quickly, as well as issues of ensuring the security of the ethnic Armenian population of Karabakh, even though it will be recorded as a full-fledged part of Azerbaijan.

    How to ensure the security and integration of this population into the Azerbaijani administrative and political space remains a big question. The problem of the same transport corridors is not solved in any way through a peace treaty. I would like to be optimistic about both Russian and European initiatives, but it is obvious that Armenia and Azerbaijan are inclined to sign a peace agreement under the EU auspices. Meanwhile, the EU has the same observation missions, and again it does not solve the issues of transport corridors or border delimitation.

    As a result, it will be a purely symbolic move - I won't say a Pyrrhic victory, but rather a certain step forward. Again, systematic work will be required, and the formal signing of a peace treaty conditionally in Brussels does not rule out the need and importance of involving Russia in resolving the rest of complex issues," Pritchin said.

    Commenting on the same situation, the head of the analytical department of the International Eurasian Movement, political scientist Vladimir Kireev, claims that Armenia-Azerbaijan normalisation talks have become an impulse in moving towards signing a peace treaty.

    "If Armenia was interested in prolonging the negotiation process in the hope of improving its negotiating position in the time that has appeared, Azerbaijan is attempting to achieve a more reliable agreement, which Russia is also seeking. Brussels changed the situation by removing Russia from the process of preparing a peace treaty and speeding up the negotiation process, forcing Moscow to step up its role as a mediator.

    It is difficult to say what Russia can offer as arguments for both sides that do not go beyond what was previously proposed and do not result in Baku rejecting some aspects and Yerevan others. Russia's presence in the region was a serious argument earlier. Due to this, there was a higher degree of ties with each of the parties and, in general, the entire strategic weight of Russia concentrated in the region. However, the situation in Ukraine, on the other hand, significantly limits Russia's ability to influence both sides.

    Nevertheless, Moscow cannot allow the decision to sign a peace treaty between Baku and Yerevan to be reached without its participation. Firstly, it will significantly reduce Russia's influence in the region, which is dangerous for its strategic interests, and secondly, it creates certain risks for its security. Therefore, I believe that Moscow will put forward some more arguments in Sochi. What they will be and how Aliyev and Pashinyan will react to them will become clear after the meeting in Sochi," Vladimir Kireev believes.

    Another Russian researcher, PhD, political scientist Andrey Koryakovtsev, suggested that if there was absolutely no possibility of Armenia-Azerbaijan normalisation, it is unlikely that another meeting would be planned, now in Sochi.

    "The peoples of these states do not need war. At the same time, the main customer and provocateur of conflicts between them - the collective West is now weakening. Other players in Caucasian politics - Türkiye and Iran - are also not interested in this. Therefore, I would express restrained optimism about this meeting's decisions. In the light of what has been said, I do not see any reasons preventing the conclusion of a peace treaty if we exclude some whims from Armenia caused by external pressure," Andrei Koryakovtsev said.

    Deputy Director of the Russian Institute of Political Studies Daria Grevtsova considers the upcoming meeting of the leaders of the three states extremely important, especially since European observers are in Armenia.

    "Everyone understands perfectly well that France, the European Union and the United States want to oust Russia from the regional peacekeeping process and take advantage of the moment to turn Armenia in their direction. In this regard, it is very unprofitable for Russia that Armenia works together with Western forces to normalise relations with Azerbaijan. It is also unprofitable for Baku since the strong Armenian lobby and the Armenian Diaspora in France and the United States are trying to revive the long-obsolete OSCE Minsk Group. The task of the collective West is to turn this group into zombies and force it to work again in the region, but without Russia, separating Armenia from Moscow.

    Of course, Moscow is interested in reaching a peace treaty between these two South Caucasian states and is making every effort in this direction. To do this, Armenia must recognize Azerbaijan's territorial integrity, and the process of integration of Karabakh's Armenian population into Azerbaijani society can take place in stages. I think that during the meeting in Sochi, along with this issue, options for delineating and demarcating the border, unblocking communications and creating new logistics routes will also be discussed. Armenia is likely to advocate demarcation and delimitation according to the CIS or Soviet maps since Yerevan has virtually no other options. It is also possible that having secured the support of France and the European Union, Yerevan will somehow try to blackmail Russia and Azerbaijan on some important issues in order to achieve some concessions at the talks in Sochi.

    Vladimir Putin and Ilham Aliyev, who have extensive political experience, undoubtedly understand Armenia's goals and objectives and its cunning policy well, and thanks to them, the main criterion of the Sochi meeting will still be the search for compromises and the solution to important tasks. For Russia, this is extremely necessary in order to retain the mediation mission in the negotiations and in the region as a whole," Daria Grevtsova said.

    Russian political scientist and publicist Ruslan Safarov suggested that at this stage of the settlement, the probability of signing a peace treaty between Baku and Yerevan is low due to some factors.

    "The fact is that today there is a very serious Anglo-French confrontation in the region. First, none of these countries, which are now entering the region, seeks to ensure that the status quo, which was established in 2020, is fixed. Second, the Armenian elite today is absolutely not sovereign and is forced to fulfil the obligations to France that it assumed during the 2018 revolution in Armenia. As a result, the arrival of the French in the region exacerbates the entire situation.

    There is also the British position, which is also aimed at ensuring an additional conflict in the region rather than restoring the status quo. This is already a separate line aimed at fomenting conflict along the borders of Russia, creating a second front, and so on. Therefore, now we can say that, on the one hand, there is a Baku-Moscow-Ankara line, which is focused on fixing the status quo, signing a peace treaty, closing this page and, accordingly, forming a fairly calm, deep rear for Russia, Türkiye and Azerbaijan. On the other hand, there are players who are completely uninterested in this. Taking into account these factors, I am afraid that the logic of the settlement process of the Armenian-Azerbaijani relations goes in the opposite direction, because, as I have already said, the installation of new active players in the region and pacification is not in their interests.

    Yes, Russia and Azerbaijan are interested in peace, but Armenia is not. And these new active actors dictate her to resist the world," Ruslan Safarov summed up, adding that no matter how pessimistic it may sound, most likely this is the case when you make a forecast, hoping that you will make a mistake.


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