What is the EU's stance on the Karabakh issue?
    Eternal peace is still possible

    ANALYTICS  28 March 2023 - 15:05

    Analytics Department Caliber.Az

    Since the end of the second Karabakh war between Azerbaijan and Armenia in 2020, both sides launched rounds of negotiation in different platforms in Moscow, Sochi, Brussels, Washington, Prague, and Munich in order to reach a consensus on specific issues related to the final peace document, albeit unsuccessfully. In order to strike a comprehensive deal and facilitate full diplomatic normalisation, Baku and Yerevan formed two separate commissions; one focused on communications and the second on border delimitation and demarcation.

    However, as of 2023, the meetings yielded very limited results, thus igniting the fragile situation on the ground in Karabakh. Azerbaijan was willing to sign a draft version of the peace treaty in 2022, but Baku was swiftly disillusioned by Armenia's attempts to delay the process. As a result, the risks of new armed escalation in Karabakh have grown inevitably. While Yerevan preferred to rely on Russia and recently on the European Union's (EU) newly launched civilian mission on the border areas as potential deterrence factors against Azerbaijani's likely counter-terrorist operations in Karabakh.

    Armenia’s claims that the status of Karabakh must be included in the negotiation agenda outraged Azerbaijan, as the latter bypasses this issue, emphasising that there is no such an issue called status.

    Moreover, Armenia's appeal to Moscow and the EU to exert more pressure on Azerbaijan to prevent further armed escalation appeared to be ineffective against Baku's assertive policy. For the last two years, the EU has attempted to boost its role in the peace process between Azerbaijan and Armenia and outfox Russia, a key stakeholder in the process.

    In 2021 and 2022, within the initiative of the EU, Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders met several times to discuss the details of the final peace treaty, though it did not yield visible results. Now the EU desperately seeks to obtain a more significant role and replace Russia as a peacekeeping force in Karabakh amid Azerbaijan’s growing pressure on the de-facto separatist regime in Karabakh and civilian protests on the Lachin-Shusha road lasting for more than a hundred days.

    The EU's efforts to push Russia out of Karabakh is another attempt of the West to isolate Russia within the context of the Ukraine war. Moreover, the recent deepened engagement of Brussels with the region motivated some EU member countries to play a more profound role in the peace process as well. For example, Germany gradually intensifies its efforts to expand its influence in the Karabakh peace process.

    As the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz stressed during his meeting with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev in Berlin, he expressed the willingness of Germany to contribute to the stabilisation of the situation in Karabakh by sending additional observers to join the civilian mission in Armenia. For example, Markus Ritter, the head of the EU Mission in Armenia, recently pointed out that if Azerbaijan did not go for escalation during the spring season, it would mean the EU’s initial victory in terms of conflict prevention.

    In line with this comment, it is fair to note that Azerbaijan halts counter-military operations in Karabakh not because of the EU's influence but due to prevent human casualties and prioritise peaceful means. Besides, Azerbaijan will unlikely authorise the EU peacekeeping mission in Karabakh following the departure of the Russian contingent. Azerbaijan's main priority is to strike a deal with Armenia before 2025, enabling both sides to open borders after three decades. Nevertheless, the peace prospects between Baku and Yerevan still seem unrealistic, given the latter's provocative statements.


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