Baku, Brussels, and Washington's interests regarding checkpoints coincide 
    Caliber.Az interview with Ahmad Alili

    INTERVIEWS  27 February 2023 - 10:55

    Huseyn Safarov

    Ruben Vardanyan's "resignation" means the process of Armenian-Azerbaijani settlement has got off the ground, director of the Caucasus Centre for Political Analysis, international governance expert Ahmad Alili said while speaking to Caliber.Az on the recent events.

    The political researcher noted that there has been some silence in the public space lately, with no progress on a high level.

    "However, the Munich Security Conference and the subsequent resignation of so-called 'State Minister' Ruben Vardanyan is an indicator that certain issues have been discussed and there is a step forward in the Armenian-Azerbaijani settlement process," Alili stressed. - This is unlikely to have happened all of a sudden. Most likely, very important talks were held behind the scenes. Azerbaijan's calm reaction to the fact that Armenia has not signed a peace agreement until late 2022, as expected, and has not fulfilled any of the requirements, indicates that there are certain processes that take place out of public view. And the EU and the US are playing an active role in these processes."

    Speaking about the progress on the results of the Munich conference, Alili points out as a significant result that Baku managed to solve the issue of the format of the meetings.

    "Baku is satisfied with the Munich platform, but for Armenia the Munich platform is unprofitable. It, as well as the format itself, turned out to be unsuccessful for Armenia. It was not for nothing that Pashinyan refused to participate in a panel discussion with Ilham Aliyev for a long time. As we know, Yerevan often puts forward its own conditions regarding the format of meetings and mediators. For example, at one time, it insisted on negotiations in Prague on the margins of the summit of the European political community with the participation of French President Emmanuel Macron. However, this time Baku has set its priorities very clearly, and its preferences are taken into account by European and American actors, unlike the preferences of Armenia," our interlocutor said.

    In Alili's opinion, in the case of the Munich talks, the Armenian leadership understood that it was necessary to concede to Azerbaijan.

    "Of the demands put forward by Azerbaijan, Armenia chose Ruben Vardanyan's 'resignation' in order to possibly obtain concessions in the process of installing a checkpoint on the Lachin road in the future. Yerevan has decided that after meeting Baku's second most important demand, i.e. Vardanyan's dismissal, international mediators will put pressure on Azerbaijan - saying that Yerevan is making concessions and Baku is not. But the thing is that the interests of Azerbaijan, Brussels, and Washington coincide regarding the checkpoint. I think that Baku, Brussels, and Washington will insist that Azerbaijan and Armenia establish clear borders. It will be very difficult for Yerevan to succeed in this issue.

    Moscow, by the way, also refused for a long time to discuss the issue of the checkpoint in its peacekeeping zone with Baku, as they believed that the issue should be resolved in a trilateral format, i.e. with the participation of Armenia. But Azerbaijan had good reason to refuse this because the territory where the Russian peacekeeping contingent is temporarily located belongs to Azerbaijan and therefore there is no point in discussing it with Armenia. For this reason, Moscow and Baku have long been unable to find an appropriate format for such talks, and a kind of stalemate has developed. Since last December Russia has ignored Azerbaijan's requests. Perhaps now that the issue is being discussed under the moderating of Brussels and Washington, Russia will show initiative. Besides, in late February Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will visit Baku, and I think the checkpoint issue will be discussed in more detail. Let's see what may come of it," the expert said.

    As to Ruben Vardanyan, Alili supposes that he fears for his safety.

    "It seems to me that Vardanyan hasn't left Karabakh at all and has been there all this time. Despite the fact that Vardanyan's 'resignation' followed the Munich Conference, his fate had been predetermined long before that. The trigger in this issue was Baku's demand that as long as Ruben Vardanyan was in Khankendi, Azerbaijan would not negotiate, let alone make concessions. The Karabakh Armenians began to accuse Vardanyan of being the reason for Baku's increased pressure on them.

    I think he will stay in Khankendi for some time yet. After rumors circulated in the press that Vardanyan is running for the premiership, it is dangerous for him to go to Armenia, as Pashinyan's people may be waiting for him there. If he appears in Armenia, there is no telling what his fate will be. At the same time, he is not needed in Karabakh either. It is possible that Baku will create conditions for Vardanyan to leave the territory of Karabakh publicly and go, for example, to Russia," Alili summed up.



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