Baku-Yerevan peace treaty by yearend: expectations and reality
    Expert opinions on Caliber.Az

    INTERVIEWS  25 November 2022 - 16:39

    Samir Ibrahimov

    There is little more than a month left until the end of the year and by this time, as we remember, Azerbaijan and Armenia should sign a peace agreement according to the expectations of the Western mediators. At first, after the meeting in Prague, there were quite optimistic statements on this matter from Baku and Yerevan, but then everything went back to normal. The skirmishes on the conditional border between the two states occur again, Yerevan again overstates the requirements to the text of the potential peace agreement, thinking that some provisions on the Armenian population of Karabakh should be included in it as a separate line. Baku, of course, rejects these irrelevant claims. And this is understandable - the Karabakh conflict is over, Karabakh is an internal affair of Azerbaijan, and Armenia should not care about it.

    But first of all, why did Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan and his entourage change their rhetoric, sometime after Prague and Sochi, and noticeably increased their demands to the text of the potential agreement?

    Secondly, is it possible under such realities to hope that by the end of this year the parties will have time to overcome all differences, agree on the text and sign a peace treaty?

    Prominent foreign experts answered these questions for Caliber.Az.

    Stanislav Pritchin, Ph.D. in history and senior fellow at the Centre for Post-Soviet Studies at IMEMO RAS (Moscow), immediately noted that, in many ways, the European settlement track was not as productive and effective as it initially looked.

    "Because the first meetings even this year in this format were very promising and there was a feeling that this is probably the most effective format (at least, that's what the press wrote and experts said), which will allow overcoming a huge number of contradictions in the near future, including on the peace treaty. But as the practice has shown, especially the events of September when just two weeks after the meeting of the leaders in Brussels and the agreement reached there to intensify the negotiation process, we saw a serious escalation, things are not that smooth. And again, the same European mission is largely used as a tool for Armenia to strengthen its position on the border issue," Pritchin said.

    It's hard to talk about the likelihood of signing a peace treaty before the end of the year because in many ways it is more of a political project, our interlocutor said.

    "So, the peace treaty is only a document that fixes the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, but does not resolve key issues, such as how and under what guarantees to integrate the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh? The peace agreement recognizes the territorial integrity of the two states, but it does not solve the border issue, which is probably the most difficult issue to solve today because there is almost no progress on it. The peace treaty does not solve the issue of opening transport corridors. That is, only part of the agreements is considered there. The European Union would very much like to achieve the signing of this agreement, to make it happen on the European track of the negotiation process, and to show that it is the EU that is the main mediator. But again, I will stress that, as such, the peace agreement does not fundamentally solve the issues between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and even the EU has no practical tools for the implementation of most of the agreements due to the fact that there is no understanding of the depth of the specific problems on the ground, no tools on the ground.

    As for the position of the Armenian leadership, it is difficult for me to judge and speculate why Yerevan at some point stopped supporting this optimistic rhetoric. I can only assume that Armenia was counting on the fact that the European and American tracks would strengthen its negotiating position, and therefore supported these promises to sign a peace agreement, but in the end, it probably came to the conclusion that these tracks were not as effective and did not strengthen its position as Yerevan would like them to be. That's the feeling, and that's why now we see how intensively same Russia has returned as a negotiator, and Armenia is open to working with the Russian leadership on settlement issues, too," Pritchin said.

    "I think the assumption that a peace treaty could be concluded before the end of the year was more of a figure of speech, maybe, or some negotiating argument," says Vadim Dubnov (Prague), a Russian expert on European post-Soviet states and journalist for Radio Liberty/Ekho Kavkaza. - Because I don't think anyone seriously believed that it would be possible to solve this problem by the end of the year. In fact, that's the eternal bane of this whole settlement - the contradiction between the package and the individual articles. Because the attempts to single out certain segments and tracks of the settlement and to solve them separately from the others, which are undertaken by Armenia in this case, are unsolvable. I think that is impossible. And this is a package of demands, joint variations, which Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and to some extent the West are working on. But I think that is the difficulty, which will not allow all this to be done quickly enough."

    However, Dubnov doesn't think there's any escalation going on right now.

    "I reckon it's a process of about the same level of intensity, and quite dangerous, but I wouldn't talk about any systemic escalation right now, although some sporadic increase in activity is possible. I think the risks certainly remain at that level.

    I don't think Armenia is raising its rates. This is a continuation of the negotiation process, a continuation of Russia's game, for which the issue of unblocking transport communications is primary, and all other issues are instrumental. For Armenia, what is instrumental for Russia is important and primary. Azerbaijan, accordingly, has its own system of priorities, which does not coincide with the Armenian and Russian ones. In general, shuttle diplomacy does not work so far, but maybe next year there will be some variations.

    One last thing. I am not so skeptical about what happened in Prague, Sochi, and Washington, because some kind of underlying work is going on there and the positions are somehow, if not converged, then at least formulated in a more or less accessible way," Dubnov concluded.

    Caliber.Az

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