Washington negotiations under gunpoint of Armenian opposition

    ANALYTICS  03 May 2023 - 13:36

    Murad Abiyev

    Although the public is yet to hear even the preliminary results of the next round of Washington talks of the Armenian-Azerbaijani foreign ministers, the Armenian parliament has already jumped the gun on another scandal.

    In this vein, MP of [former President Robert] Kocharian's "Armenia" faction Gegham Manukyan raised the issue of the expediency of the presence of National Assembly Vice Speaker Ruben Rubinyan in the Armenian delegation. It is a known fact that Rubinyan is also Armenia's special representative for the regulation of Armenian-Turkish relations.

    "Question: under what circumstances, for what purpose and in what status does Ruben Rubinyan participate in the Washington talks of the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan? Are Armenian-Turkish relations included in Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations and are the two issues interconnected?" Manukyan wondered.

    As Dr Watson [a fictional character in the Sherlock Holmes stories] would say: it's a tangled story. It's hard to follow the logic in such statements. They are so absurd that it is not even clear where to start.

    "Do the Armenian authorities link the ‘settlement’ of Armenian-Azerbaijani and Armenian-Turkish relations, i.e., are they obeying another Turkish precondition? Since 1991-1992, the Turks have been saying that Armenian-Turkish relations cannot be normalized until Armenian-Azerbaijani relations are ‘normalized’...we see that the Armenian authorities have once again yielded to Turkish demands," Manukyan faction associate Artur Khachatryan continues to spiral absurdity.

    Let's start with the contrary. It is not ruled out that following the talks in Washington, the parties may adopt a certain statement. As the negotiations are being held being two countries it is only logical that the statement will cover issues of bilateral relations. Türkiye a priori cannot be mentioned in it. Even if Türkiye has some very strict conditions, which Azerbaijan hypothetically “does not need”, it will in any case fit into the format of the Armenian-Azerbaijani settlement.

    Azerbaijan, by definition, cannot sign something on behalf of Türkiye. The two countries are one nation, but still two states. And even in this case, the Armenian MPs should only rejoice that they will have a negotiator who is well acquainted with Türkiye. In this case, the Armenian officials should only welcome the presence of Rubinyan at the talks.

    Perhaps the following logic may also be behind the attack on Rubinyan: he is interested in normalizing relations with Türkiye (in the opposition’s view), which means he will betray Armenia's interests in the negotiations. But consider this, if Rubinyan is fulfilling the order of a "traitorous" government, what prevents that government from "yielding to Turkish demands" with a different delegation? On the contrary, the presence of a person well acquainted with Türkiye at the talks can only strengthen Armenia's position.

    It is also not a case where there can be any conflict of interest within the delegation. Rubinyan, both at the negotiations with Türkiye and Azerbaijan, represents the Armenian authorities and by definition should protect the interests of Armenia. According to the logic of the opponents, does this mean that if the Armenian Prime Minister negotiates with Azerbaijan, then he has no right to meet with the Turkish president?

    If we take a step back from the demagogy of the oppositional Armenian MPs and look at the issue more vastly, then Türkiye has never hidden that it coordinates all its actions to normalize relations with Armenia with Baku, which naturally affects the broader context of the settlement of relations between Yerevan and its neighbours. Not a single Armenian leader managed to get rid of this context. Armenians, surely, would like to put these two issues in different corners.

    Here’s a reminder that back in the late 90s, following the fresh traces of the occupation, Armenian diplomats unsuccessfully tried to persuade Türkiye to open the border with Armenia via the United States. The opening of the land border is naturally necessary for Armenia to diversify foreign trade. Although, Türkiye has already met Armenia halfway by opening flights with it.

    However, the volume of air cargo transportation is small, besides, they are more expensive than ground transportation. To solve the issue of diversification, a systemic solution is needed - unblocking transport communications. Türkiye will also benefit from the unblocking. However, Türkiye’s fundamental support for Azerbaijan does not allow it to compromise with a country that still does not (legally and factually) recognize the territorial integrity of its strategic ally.

    Thus, the opposition’s desire to make a mountain out of a molehill is clear here. Considering the source of the outrage being Kocharyan's "Armenia" bloc, one can guess that its curators, zealously following the mediation of the White House, are trying to use any pretext to arouse distrust in the Armenian society in the expected results of the negotiations.

    On the other hand, it is strange that the criticism is directed not at the very fact of negotiations, but at minor details. Thus, the Armenian opposition unwittingly demonstrates that the general public supports the fact of negotiations and has not found anything better than to point out the catch in some details, in which, supposedly, the devil is hiding. However, as in everything else, the Armenian politicians feel flat on their faces.


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