“There is no reason to suspect that Armenians won’t be able to live peacefully in Azerbaijan”
Luke Coffey on Caliber.Az
INTERVIEWS 21 September 2023 - 17:30
Caliber.Az interview with an American expert Luke Coffey.
Luke Coffey is a senior fellow at Hudson Institute. His work analyzes national security and foreign policy, with a focus on Europe, Eurasia, NATO, and transatlantic relations. He has testified before the US Congress on NATO, Arctic security, the war in Afghanistan and US policy in the South Caucasus.
- On September 19-20, Azerbaijan conducted anti-terrorist activities in Garabagh. We will come back to them later. In your opinion, why did Armenia not withdraw its troops from Garabagh for three years after the 44-day war?
- In my opinion, Armenia didn’t withdraw its troops from Garabagh for three years after the 2020 war, because Russia was either unwilling or unable to enforce the terms of its ceasefire agreement. Russia probably wants to keep conflict going, because it can exert influence between both sides. This is why Russian peacekeepers turned a blind eye to the ongoing presence of Armenian forces in Garabagh.
- During meetings at Western negotiating platforms, Pashinyan stated that he recognized Azerbaijan's territorial integrity together with Garabagh. Nevertheless, Armenia continued to finance the separatist regime in Garabagh from its state budget. What is the reason for Pashinyan's dual approach?
- In my opinion, the only logical answer to why Pashinyan takes his dual approach, as because he is not very powerful at home. He is competing against different interest groups inside Armenia. He is trying to balance between all these different groups and their opinions. He is unable therefore to develop a coherent and consistent policy. On top of this, he is coming under immense pressure from the Armenian diaspora here, in the United States which is very influential in Congress. They have very little interest in finding a long-term process of peace and normalization with Azerbaijan. So Pashinyan often says the right things, but he is unable to deliver because of internal reasons.
- A meeting of representatives of Baku and Garabagh Armenians was held today. Is there any chance that an agreement would be reached and the reintegration of Armenians into Azerbaijani society would begin? Is coexistence possible?
- It’s a first step in the process that will eventually lead to reintegration and reconciliation between all sides. History shows that coexistence is possible, both sides need to find a political will to persuade each other, that they can live and work together. It will be very important for Azerbaijan to make a grand gesture and go the extra mile to speak, to guarantee the rights of ethnic Armenians when it comes to religion, cultural practices and language learning. Looking at Azerbaijan has a very diverse society. There is no reason to suspect that ethnic Armenians won’t be able to live how they would like, peacefully as citizens of Azerbaijan.
- Azerbaijan, which is trying to eliminate the separatist junta in Karabagh, has been criticized. Don't you think that Baku is facing double standards? Why does the West support Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova in this regard, but criticizes Azerbaijan?
- Yes, of course, Azerbaijan has faced double standards form the West over the years. I’ve always pointed this out. I hate when people say that Russia’s invasion of Georgia was bad, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was bad, but Armenia’s occupation of parts of Azerbaijan is complicated, not black and white. I find this to be double standards, hypocritical, either a country has internationally recognized borders, or it doesn’t. And according to international law, Garabagh is part of Azerbaijan in the same way, like Crimea is a part of Ukraine, or Abkhazia is a part of Georgia. This is the way we should be looking at this problem when it comes to Western policymakers.
- Your prognosis regarding the signing of the peace treaty between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Will it be signed before the end of the year or in the foreseeable future?
- Regarding the peace treaty, we don’t know when this will be, I suspect it will take a lot of work behind the scenes. But I hope a ceasefire can be maintained until this point. And I do hope that there can be an enduring peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan. This will benefit both the Armenian and Azerbaijani people. It will bring more direct investment into the region. It will open up new transit and trade connectivity possibilities for the region, including Armenia, which is missed out on these issues and opportunities for all these years because of the frozen conflict. I also believe that normalization between Azerbaijan and Armenia can open up a new chapter in Turkish-Armenian relations.
- The fate of the Zangezur corridor. Will it be possible to break the resistance of Armenia and Iran?
- The lack of a transit link between Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan. The key part of the 2020 ceasefire agreement was the opening of transit links between Armenia and ethnic Armenians of Garabagh, using Lachin and opening up of transit links between Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan, using Armenian territory. The Azerbaijanis has looked up to its commitment in the ceasefire agreement, but today Armenia does not allow the transit over its territory to connect Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan and I think there is a growing frustration over this issue in Baku. I think all the many issues regarding the Garabagh conflict for Western policymakers, the issue over the transit link between Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan was the issue that many policymakers failed to appreciate and understand.
Interviewed by Farah Mammadli
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