"Armenia will end up in a stalemate if Pashinyan does not reconsider his approach"
    Blogger Ishkhan Verdyan talks to Caliber.Az

    INTERVIEWS  06 March 2023 - 16:07

    Huseyn Safarov

    Caliber.Az interviewed Armenian activist and blogger Ishkhan Verdyan.

    - Ramin Mammadov, a member of the Milli Majlis, met with representatives of the Karabakh Armenian population in the town of Khojaly. What do you think about it? Do such meetings have any effectiveness? Is there a chance of reaching any kind of agreement?

    - MP Ramin Mammadov's meeting with representatives of Armenians living in Karabakh left a mixed impression. On the one hand, it must be understood that it was not the doves of the peace who communicated with Mr. Mammadov, but the very leaders of the group illegally holding power in Khankendi. These people have their own view of the situation, their own motivations, and their own goals, and these goals don't include the integration of Armenians into Azerbaijan, which was declared aloud by Araik Harutyunyan right after the meeting. There is no reason to suspect these people of having a benevolent attitude towards Azerbaijan, and there is a high probability that if they come into contact with its representatives, the outcome of these talks will be used by them for various provocations. For example, the same Harutyunyan said that at the meeting an agreement was reached on the restoration of gas and electricity supply to Karabakh and the "opening" (inverted - ed.) of the Lachin road. And if one of the mentioned cases remains unrealised, it will be an occasion for Armenia to trumpet to the whole world through mass media about Azerbaijan's "non-agreeability". For this reason, the negotiations as they are being conducted now seem to be more destructive than constructive, given the kind of forces that have volunteered to talk to Azerbaijani representatives.

    On the other hand, there is always the possibility that there is a layer of dialogue in some depth, hidden from public view: in fact, all the most important agreements are always reached in this way - through non-public dialogue on the ground. This gives hope, however small, that at least some effective groundwork will be laid. But again, given the personalities and biographies of the Armenian negotiators, there is little hope of success.

    - Can we call the dialogue that took place in Khojaly direct if it was mediated by the Russian side?

    - I would like to point out a key detail. The so-called "authorities" of Karabakh, one of whose representatives was present at the meeting with Mr. Mammadov, have never had an identity. They have always relied on and continue to rely on the Russian side and imagine themselves as some kind of proxy who promotes the interests of Russia in this particular issue. From this point of view, the physical presence of RPC representatives during the dialogue is not a decisive factor, since the people leading the regime in Karabakh are in one way or another linked to the RPC and will not act on their own. Even if the next meeting does take place in Ganja without RPC representatives, its outcome and subsequent events will be filtered by RPC. Consequently, Russia remains a party to the dialogue under the existing format, and the fact of the presence or absence of its representatives at a particular meeting is secondary.

    - Are direct contacts possible today, without any mediation?

    - If we are referring to contacts with Armenians living in Karabakh, then in the current format direct conversation is out of the question. The separatist authorities in Karabakh are in fact a single, centralized, well-functioning system of pseudo-state governance, the failure of which seems unlikely. This means that regardless of who represents this regime at meetings, the outcome will always be the same - centralised - and it will very much depend on the position of the RPC for the reasons outlined above.

    Thus, in my humble opinion, if Baku wishes to speak directly to its potential citizens who are interested in peaceful coexistence, it will need to find some other leverage tool aimed at speaking to those people whom it regards as its citizens. Today's meeting participants are not in favour of peace - they are fighting for recognition of their entity's independence and therefore no constructive dialogue with them is to be expected.

    - Do you think the Armenian leadership stands for or against an Armenian-Azerbaijani settlement? Judging by its statements, it is hard to understand its desires.

    - Nikol Pashinyan's government is in favour of a settlement of Armenian-Azerbaijani relations. I understand that it is impossible to make such a definite statement based on his contradictory rhetoric, but I have my reasons to think so. I am quite familiar with him and his entourage, I follow all his speeches in Armenian, I understand the implicit context of his words, I see his eagerness to normalise relations with Türkiye, I am in active contact with the people of Yerevan, and all this allows me to say that Pashinyan wants peace. However, the problem is that he does not understand how to achieve this peace.

    I think that the fact of total all-around pressure on him is obvious, and this pressure reduces Pashinyan's subjectivity to zero when it comes to the country's foreign policy. The situation really seems hopeless, and it will bring Armenia to a deadlock unless Pashinyan reconsiders his approaches, namely by taking the Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations to a new, independent level, without mediators. There are people who can help him do this, but unfortunately, his General Prosecutor's office considers such people state criminals and keeps them at a distance from Pashinyan.

    - Is there a chance to explain to the people of Armenia and the Armenians of Karabakh that they are being harmed by those who inspire their hopes in vain?

    - Yes, there is a very real chance, but without the help of Azerbaijan, it will be impossible to do so. Everything is too intertwined, and in this situation, unilateral action will not have the expected effect. However, in my humble opinion, if Armenians and Azerbaijanis join forces, no outside force will be able to destroy this tandem. Unilateral actions will always face contradictions and will not bring the expected results.


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