Armenia in the realm of somnambulistic kickboxing: The clock is ticking
    Contemplations with Orkhan Amashov/VIDEO

    ANALYTICS  13 September 2023 - 18:05

    Orkhan Amashov

    In the latest episode of Contemplations with Orkhan Amashov, the author takes a look at Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s modus operandi in the negotiations with Azerbaijan. In Amashov’s view, the only persuasive power to which Pashinyan is capable of sensibly responding is the application of pressure.

    “With Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan continuing to act as an incorrigible procrastinator, the separatists in Khankendi behaving unreasonably and international mediators failing to be of sufficiently palpable consequence, the tensions on the ground, both in Garabagh and along the conditional state border between Azerbaijan and Armenia, are likely to escalate further.

    It is a positive development that, on 12 September, the truck of the Russian Red Cross finally travelled via the Aghdam-Khankendi Road, after being delayed in Barda, due to the opposition of the separatist junta and reported obstruction caused by the ICRC. 

    The arrangement was fully aligned with Azerbaijani legislation, complying with the principle of territorial integrity. But, as Presidential Aide Hikmet Hajiyev clarified earlier, it would be a misinterpretation to confuse this with the suggestion that connects lifting the restrictions on the Lachin border checkpoint with the opening of the Aghdam-Khankendi Road.

    There is still an unmistakable odour of confrontation on the ground that won’t fade away unless a breakthrough can be achieved. The separatist junta should be dissolved and disarmed once and for all. Half-measures won’t do. And the fact that Pashinyan refrained from issuing an official statement on the so-called sham elections in Khankendi could be viewed as commendable, but not sufficient. 

    Let me say a couple of words about Nikol Pashinyan and his modus operandi. He is a compulsive procrastinator and time-waster in the Azerbaijani-Armenian peace process. He is inherently incapable of constructive dialogue. Pashinyan is not a man of his promise, his words are never final, and he is always prone to backtracking.

    When he ascended to power in Armenia in 2018, surmounting the power of the actual President, there were some hopes he would be different to his Garabagh-born predecessors. International mediators and Pashinyan himself tried to persuade the Azerbaijani leadership that he would act differently, and he needed some time to show his mettle. He was given an inexorable period to do so. And what was the result? Pashinyan declared that “Garabagh is Armenia and full stop”, obstructing the whole peace process. 

    Again, a similar pattern manifested itself after the war of 2020. Baku and Yerevan decided that the sides should sign an agreement, with no mention of Garabagh and related issues, as the subject in question was recognised by Armenia as an internal issue of Azerbaijan. Again, the perceived impression was that Pashinyan needed some to prepare his local population to take action towards peace.

    And what did he do? Subsequently, the Armenian Prime Minister reinforced his demands for an international mechanism to ensure the rights and security of Garabagh Armenians, simultaneously engaging in  “remedial secession” games. His policy was and is predicated on the creed that Armenia is ready to recognise Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity across 86,600 square kilometres, including Garabagh, but there should be an international presence in Garabagh itself, monitoring the implementation of security guarantees and rights for the local Armenian population. This would effectively signal the inception of a second Minsk process, keeping the Garabagh component unresolved and a return of the unacceptable ‘no peace, no war’ situation.

    This takes us on to the question of the mutual recognition of territorial integrity between Azerbaijan and Armenia. An oral agreement was initially reached in Prague in October 2022, then specified with figures on 14 May, with further reiterations following subsequently.

    First of all, there is no legally binding agreement, as yet. Secondly, Armenia’s expressed readiness to recognise Azerbaijani territorial integrity is incomplete. Yerevan and the Armenian diaspora still continues to funnel money into the separatist junta and refuse to withdraw the remnants of its armed units from the region, with some of its official statements being rightly perceived in Azerbaijan as a territorial claim.

    In response to this, Baku’s own approach to Armenia’s territorial integrity is incomplete. The mirror effect is inevitable. The Azerbaijani-Armenian border is undelimited, and if, due to any escalation, Baku gains some positions in the grey zone between Azerbaijan and Armenia, it won’t retract. And this degree of unpredictability is unhelpful. 

    Pashinyan’s insistence on the humanitarian exclusivity of the Lachin Road is another element in his approach which does not square with his stated preparedness to recognise Azerbaijani territorial integrity. But the facts on the ground are steadily changing, despite Pashinyan’s shilly-shallying. 

    Pashinyan has retained his essential behavioural pattern - he always needs time and once that is granted, he plays for time. He is incapable of making a concrete decision. It is only under duress that he is capable of being reasonable. Application of force is the only persuasive power to which he responds. It is highly improbable he will change anytime soon.

    Dr Robert Cutler, Eurasian and European energy and international security expert, recently gave a brilliant description as to Pashinhan’s modus operandi. “It is almost as if he is going in all directions all at once, to see what works best for him. This would imply that, if he has any long-term perspective, then this is focused on maintaining and maximising his own power and influence”. In Pashinyan’s behaviour we see “short-term tactical moves not integrated into a long-term strategic plan”. He is as directionless as a myopic prizefighter and consistently inconsistent.

    And as to the Armenian public, diaspora and political classes… Mental gymnastics and self-delusional hoary thinking prevail here. Armenia is in the realm of somnambulistic kick-boxing, wallowing in a quagmire of its own making. It seems only a proper shock can jolt the nation of this detestable misery and make it see a spade as a shovel. Perhaps, that is what it needs so badly now.” 


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