Azerbaijan-Armenia peace process enters a new phase
    No space for gestures

    ANALYTICS  22 November 2023 - 14:23

    Analytics Department Caliber.Az

    Amid the stalemate in the Azerbaijan – Armenia peace process, some non-regional stakeholders, namely the European Union and the United States, faced fierce criticism from Azerbaijan due to their assertive efforts of monopolizing the process while undermining the interests of regional states.

    Although the EU became a bystander during the Second Karabakh War in 2020 and the September events in 2023, it now attempts to maintain the leading role in the process. However, the statements and actions of some EU member states, including EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrel’s accusations against Azerbaijan, boosted discontent in Baku and provoked a reaction.

    For example, the official commentary of the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry from July 27 states that the "presented approach towards the situation in the region by the High Representative Josep Borrel in his July 26 statement, based on the propaganda and political manipulations spread by Armenia, is regrettable.”

    Nevertheless, relations between the EU and Azerbaijan were further strained after Baku launched the anti-terrorist operation in Karabakh to fully restore the territorial integrity and dismantle the separatist government in the region. The achieved results stirred the next round of anti-Azerbaijani campaigns in the West, with Josep Borrel’s new comments threatening Azerbaijan with "consequences of the ethnic cleansing campaign" against the ethnic Armenian community.

    Azerbaijan is irritated by its long-term partner, the EU’s indifference to Armenia's armed aggression against Azerbaijan’s sovereign territories for over 30 years, as well as its refusal to condemn the fact of over 1 million Azerbaijanis becoming internally displaced persons and refugees and the policy of ethnic cleansing.

    Consequently, in the days in between, relations between the EU and Azerbaijan appeared to have dipped to their lowest point in a decade, with Azerbaijan accusing the EU of inciting separatism.

    Indeed, the EU's recent actions are muddling the situation, undermining its reliable mediator and partner role. Moreover, the situation with the EU is not the only problematic point in the peace process between Baku and Yerevan.

    The current narrative of Azerbaijan is that the Baku-Yerevan peace process does not need foreign mediation, and the most viable option to reach tangible results is to stick with the bilateral negotiation format.

    The bilateral format will enable Azerbaijan to reach a real consensus with Armenia based on the national interests of both parties. However, the interference of third parties in the process brings additional issues to the table and raises additional questions.

    For example, the recent statements of the US State Department's top diplomat, James O'Bryan, regarding the Azerbaijan-Armenia peace process provoked harsh remarks from Baku. Thus, Azerbaijani authorities announced that it would not host high-level US bureaucrats in Baku and cancelled specific joint projects with the US.

    Moreover, Azerbaijan pulled out of planned peace talks with Armenia in Washington scheduled for November. The Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan contends that Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov won’t attend US-mediated negotiations with his Armenian counterpart, Ararat Mirzoyan, because of Assistant Secretary of State James O’Brien’s “one-sided” comments.

    In addition, the diplomatic confrontation with the US worsened with the recent announcement of Samantha Power, the head of the USAID, regarding the allocation of additional financial aid to Armenian refugees “forcefully being cleansed from Karabakh”.

    The announcement immediately stirred anti-US rhetoric in Baku as Azerbaijani President’s aide Hikmat Hajiyev condemned Power’s statements. According to Hajiyev, Samantha Power passed in complete silence over the genocide and atrocities committed by Armenia against innocent Azerbaijani civilians.

    Considering the current developments, it is likely that the US-Azerbaijan and EU-Azerbaijan cooperation formats will remain on pause for a while as official Baku would prefer to wait a bit more to pursue assertive diplomacy and proceed with the peace talks.

    In that sense, Russia’s interference also has limitations, particularly on the Armenian side amid its turn to the West for additional guarantees. Nevertheless, there is no optimism that other guarantees will soon be issued to Armenia.

    Consequently, Azerbaijan's march against the US and EU-biased position will decrease their influence over the peace process, paving the way for more intensive Baku-Yerevan peace talks.

    Caliber.Az

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