Russia not to let Armenia leave its sphere of influence - expert
    Andrei Petrov on Caliber.Az

    INTERVIEWS  14 February 2023 - 17:38

    Vadim Mansurov

    The next round of Azerbaijani-Armenian negotiations is likely to take place in Moscow. The Kremlin is preparing the ground for them, as evidenced by both indirect signs and statements coming from Yerevan, where they are clearly coordinating something with Russia. However, how productive the negotiations resumed after such a solid break will be a question of a different order. Will they become a continuation of Yerevan's hackneyed game of fiction of its "unstoppable desire for peace" or will Russia really push the Armenians to some kind of progress?

    To be impartial, there is a certain dynamic: Igor Khovaev, the special representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry for supporting Armenian-Azerbaijani normalisation, visited Yerevan and Baku, and a little later the chairman of the permanent parliamentary commission on foreign relations, MP from Armenia's ruling Civil Contract party Sarkis Khandanyan made a remarkable statement: they say that official Yerevan will not put forward the precondition for the opening of the Lachin road for the start of negotiations at the level of the Armenian, Russian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers.

    The Armenian MP, in particular, recalled that Russia itself had previously stated that it was preparing a meeting at the level of foreign ministers. "Whether Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan will take part in this meeting will depend on the situation. Nevertheless, there is no problem for us regarding participation in meetings organised with this or that mediation, including the Russian one," Handanyan seemed to clarify, letting even more fog.

    Armenia seems to be working on the text of a peace treaty with Azerbaijan. At least this was reported by Armenian Security Council Secretary Armen Grigoryan and the same Handanyan. Moreover, as the latter noted, "work is currently underway on these proposals... When our proposals are ready, they will be sent to Azerbaijan."

    Meanwhile, Baku has a lot of questions – first of all, why does Armenia allow itself such a mentoring tone and what does "possible participation of Foreign Minister Mirzoyan" mean? Although it is clear that Azerbaijan is not satisfied with the "remote work" and it does not intend to give any preferences to Yerevan. And Moscow is unlikely to agree to a reduced format, threatening it with an even greater loss of authority.

    And then, what kind of preconditions related to the Lachin road can we talk about at all, and what right does Yerevan have to even stutter on this topic? Especially after Armenia recognised Azerbaijan's territorial integrity at the talks in Prague. And somehow, very reluctantly, with great difficulty, work is underway on the text of the peace treaty in Yerevan: how much can you insert your proposals or redo paragraphs, engage in endless red tape? And after all, by and large, the peace treaty is much more important for Armenia than for Azerbaijan, so you should not test Baku's patience.

    However, in Russia, apparently, serious hopes are pinned on the trilateral meeting in Moscow. In any case, Andrei Petrov, the deputy director-general of the Vestnik Kavkaza news agency and a Russian political scientist, believes that despite everything, the issue of Armenia's return to the negotiating table and preparations for signing a peace treaty are increasingly real. As he noted in an interview with Caliber.Az, this is due to two reasons. And the first is that Armenia has played too much into parting with Russia, "so much so that it has begun to seriously annoy the Russian authorities".

    "Recently, we have seen many such warning statements from Moscow - that Armenia will not leave Russia anywhere and Russia will not leave Armenia anywhere, no matter what the current authorities in Armenia do. For example, Russian State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin meeting Azerbaijani Speaker Sahiba Gafarova in Moscow uttered the phrase that 'those who strongly flirt with structures such as PACE and the European Parliament may eventually lose the country'. Considering that he said this while talking to Gafarova, there is no doubt that the signal is directed towards Yerevan," the Russian political scientist stressed.

    And this is undoubtedly an opaque hint at a new, now two-year EU mission arrival in Armenia soon. The message about this so-called mission was received with undisguised indignation by Moscow, and it is now taking very unambiguous steps against its ally to stop behaving like a state hostile to Russia, Petrov said.

    The political scientist believes that Yerevan has already lost not only the support but even the neutral position of Russia in the Azerbaijani-Armenian negotiations.

    "Russia now unequivocally stands on fair Azerbaijani positions, and supports Azerbaijan in its demands, since Russian-Azerbaijani interests at the moment generally coincide - both sides want this settlement to finally move to its conclusion and end with the full-fledged stabilization of the South Caucasus. The only one of the parties to the agreement that opposes this is Armenia," Petrov said.

    Accordingly, in his opinion, both Russia and Azerbaijan are determined to force Armenia to move in the right direction. In addition, the expert notes that "Armenia does not receive the support from Western countries that it would like".

    "We see how along the Lachin corridor, which Armenia is strenuously promoting as part of the Armenian-Azerbaijani agenda, although in fact, it is exclusively an internal matter of Azerbaijan, it receives nothing from the West except statements. And even those are heard only from persons associated with the Armenian diaspora, and the people who voice them, in principle, do not affect anything," the Russian expert stressed.

    Petrov also believes that the European Union is now fundamentally interested in developing economic relations with Azerbaijan because this is a profitable cooperation in the field of energy resources for him. Which are now in great deficit in the EU.

    "And here, on this wave, there are new trends – representatives of many European companies interested in economic cooperation with Baku come to Azerbaijan. For example, [Azerbaijani President] Ilham Aliyev recently inaugurated the construction of a new hydroelectric power station, which will be built jointly with Italian partners," the political scientist noted.

    That is, if the West has a specific economic interest in Azerbaijan, then there is nothing similar for it in Armenia, except for a mutual desire to squeeze Russia out of the South Caucasus. As Petrov put it, Armenia simply cannot offer, that is, sell anything to Europeans and Americans, except its promise to leave Russia.

    "But at the same time, Armenia cannot part with Russia, and, as I have already said, Russia will not let it go anywhere. Thus, a situation is emerging when Yerevan has no real support from any side for all its plans to slow down the peaceful settlement and move towards revenge. Now nobody in the world is fundamentally interested in this, and even the Armenian diaspora does not have enough resources to somehow promote revanchist plans. Armenia is now, in fact, left alone in the face of Azerbaijan and Russia, who demand its return to the negotiating table. In this sense, Yerevan has no room for manoeuvre today, because its policy has always been built on finding some kind of patron, a suzerain who would solve its problems for it, that is, dragging chestnuts out of the fire with someone else's hands.

    Now there are no foreign hands, there is only a weak will of the Armenian lobby, which cannot compete with Azerbaijan's Iron Fist and even more so with Russia's will," the political scientist is sure.

    So, according to Petrov, Armenia has no choice but to gradually lower its rhetoric, play on some contradictory statements, and move closer to the negotiating table.

    "Therefore, I think that on the horizon of several months, most likely this spring, there will finally be a meeting between the diplomats of Baku and Yerevan on the substantive consideration of all the details of the peace settlement and their solution. The meeting, as it seems to me, can take place both in Moscow and in Tbilisi – in this sense, I also see a trend towards warming Russian-Georgian relations. Therefore, in my opinion, the outlines of a peace treaty, despite all the negotiating fog from Yerevan, are becoming more and more real simply because none of the centres of power is interested in slowing it down and supporting Yerevan's revanchist ambitions," Petrov summed up.


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