"Armenia has no impact on the peace deal content but delaying its signing"
Caliber.Az talks to Stanislav Tkachenko
INTERVIEWS 06 June 2023 - 15:25
At first sight, the intensification of the negotiation process between Baku and Yerevan, which was attended by almost all international mediators - Moscow, Washington, Brussels, seems like good news - there is more chance that it will force Armenia to finally take real steps for signing a peace agreement, will warn against empty accusations towards Azerbaijan. However, it is not as simple as that - the unspoken rivalry between the centres of power for moderating the negotiations is, of course, dictated by each of their own interests. Therefore, a "swan, pike, and crawfish" situation emerges, with each dragging the negotiations in its own direction, reinforcing the overall imbalance in the process.
But how does the Kremlin feel about such active moderation by the West? Especially now, when Yerevan itself has been very active in blocking Russian participation. Take, for example, the recent statement of Secretary of the Armenian Security Council Armen Grigoryan claiming that not Russian but Armenian militaries will exercise control over the security of the Zangazur corridor. That is, Yerevan openly admits that it is not satisfied with the provisions of the Trilateral Statement of 2020. Meanwhile, it is Moscow that actively supports the launch of the Zangazur corridor, which can help it to ease the sanctions blockade by increasing the import-export of goods.
According to Stanislav Tkachenko, a Russian political scientist, doctor of economics, and professor at St. Petersburg State University, any expert on negotiations knows that "their most dangerous part, where many seemingly successful agreements fail, is the final stage".
Tkachenko told Caliber.Az that this stage comes when the parties seemingly are ready to reach an agreement. It is at this moment that the negotiating parties are trying to solve a secondary issue at the initial stage of discussion – how to convince their leaders, their parliament, or their people of the benefits of future agreements, how to make the desired agreement help solve additional tasks facing the state, its domestic or foreign policy. And such a situation, according to the political scientist, fully corresponds to the current stage of negotiations on a peace agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia lasting for many months. And such a situation, in the opinion of the political analyst, is fully consistent with the current stage of the months-long negotiations on a peace agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
"Azerbaijan's extrinsic goals at this stage are moderate and realistic. Baku seeks to reaffirm its multi-vector international strategy, so it engages all external actors with influence on the security sphere in the South Caucasus - Russia, the US, and the European Union - as mediators. These states should clearly and unambiguously support the future peace agreement, thereby increasing its international legal weight. Of course, Russia's relations with the EU and the USA are hostile, close to freezing. But Moscow, Brussels, and Washington are generally happy about a future peace in the South Caucasus, so they are actively seeking to bring it closer," the expert believes.
But, according to Tkachenko, similar goals for Armenia, external to the text of the future peace agreement, such as the issues of transit, etc., are more complex and even contradictory: Yerevan is generally ready to recognize the state borders and Karabakh's belonging to Azerbaijan. It is also ready for the transport communication between Baku and Nakhchivan to pass through the Zangazur corridor and be operated freely in accordance with the rules of international carriage of goods and passengers. "But the immediate recognition of these issues, almost resolved at the negotiating table, would entail severe political consequences for the leaders of present-day Armenia.
And many of those politicians in Yerevan who are now empowered to negotiate and make final decisions could find themselves on the margins of their country's political system. Hence the attempts by Armenian government representatives to increase the number of foreign countries involved in the negotiations, including an active but entirely futile effort to make India a mediator. They are delaying the signing of the agreement, but have no effect on its content," Tkachenko said.
However, Russia, he said, is more interested in peace in the South Caucasus than any other extra-regional state or association of states.
"Moscow is now an ally of Armenia, is linked by large-scale economic ties with Azerbaijan, and is making active efforts to normalise relations with Georgia. In this context, the question of Russia's interest in opening the Zangazur corridor for cargo transit between the two parts of Azerbaijan, as well as for international cargo is obvious, as these steps will help start the process of restoration of economic ties in the South Caucasus and increase its transit potential. And any delays on this way, including the protection of the corridor already at the first stage exclusively by the Armenian military, without the involvement of Russian peacekeepers, will require additional consultations between Moscow and Yerevan," our interlocutor says.
In Russia, according to Tkachenko, there is no unified position on the current stage of negotiations between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
"In Moscow, they know that only an agreement that the two states will voluntarily sign, seeing in it the best way out of a conflict that has lasted for more than three decades, will lay the foundation for long-term peace. It is also important that this agreement is accepted by the Armenian people, who realise that peace in the region is the main condition for the stable development of their state. This is not an easy goal, and only politicians who put their ratings above the interests of the majority of the population can hinder its attainment. Moscow is trying its best to persuade Yerevan to act constructively, but so far it is not succeeding very well," the Russian political analyst summed up.
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