Year-end last-ditch Azerbaijani-Armenian peace deal: How likely?
    Contemplations with Orkhan Amashov/VIDEO

    ANALYTICS  30 November 2023 - 18:00

    Orkhan Amashov

    “A framework peace deal between Azerbaijan and Armenia by the end of 2023 is now more likely than has been the case hitherto, but not sufficiently probable to be seen as a foregone conclusion,” argues Orkhan Amashov in his latest ‘Contemplations’. 

    As 2023 draws to a close, talk of a year-end last-ditch Azerbaijani-Armenian peace deal has gained some palpable urgency. 

    Indeed, subsequent to the full restoration of Azerbaijani sovereignty over Karabakh, the chances for the conclusion of an agreement have considerably increased. Armenia, after a 70-day delay, responded to Baku’s version of a peace treaty, and the 30 November meeting of the border commission is clearly indicative of the resumption of actual bilateral contacts, in addition to bilateral electronic diplomacy. 

    The delay in Armenia’s response was presumably attributable to, inter alia, two sets of circumstances. Firstly, Yerevan may have hoped for a bigger and far more consequential reaction levied against Azerbaijan, following the counter-terrorism measures conducted on 19-20 September in Karabakh. Secondly, in Armenia, there were indeed some expectations surrounding the ongoing case at the International Court of Justice, with some hoping the provisional measures of the court could cast aspersions on Azerbaijan’s sovereignty. 

    Nothing has eventuated from these hopes. With Azerbaijan demonstrating its mettle in the face of US pressure, which gave rise to a brief period of Baku-Washington tensions, Yerevan has been somewhat compelled to recapitulate that the future will be largely forged on a bilateral footing. 

    The reality the sides are now facing is that there is now a decent opportunity to sign a deal. The question is as to what kind of agreement Baku and Yerevan could sign and what could frustrate such an eventuality. 

    At this stage, we cannot talk about a detailed and comprehensive peace treaty. What is at stake is a framework peace deal, not designed to conclusively put an end to all disagreements between the parties, but one expected to be a document on normalisation, entailing principles and ending the process that started after 10 November 2020, laying the groundwork for further progress which should culminate in a full-fledged subsequent interstate peace arrangement.

    It is vital that the principles agreed are near-uniformly understood by the parties, leaving very little room for perilous constructive ambiguity, which could later give rise to frictions and a new phase of escalation. For instance, the disagreements between Baku and Yerevan as to some of the provisions of the 10 November 2020 tripartite statement caused the tensions that had not subsided by September 2023.

    There is also a question as to how far Baku and Yerevan will need to progress over the opening of communications business and how clear the position as to the Zangazur Corridor should be when the framework peace deal is signed. The document will, in all probability, entail the principle of sovereignty and reciprocity regarding communications routes, and the point is how Russia will react to the ditching of Article 9 of the 10 November 2020 statement. 

    In theory and practice, it is indeed possible for Baku and Yerevan to agree on a new arrangement bilaterally, making Moscow reluctantly acquiesce. For instance,  when Azerbaijan and Armenia agreed on the mutual recognition of territorial integrity and sovereignty in Prague, Russia was later compelled to be receptive, albeit unwillingly. There is no clear answer as to how Russia will react this time and possible obstruction from Moscow could prove deeply problematic.

    Another possible snag could be Baku-Yerevan disagreements over the question of enclaves and some positional changes on the conditional state border in the wake of the September 2022 escalation.

    My sensibility is that Baku wants a framework deal that denotes something more than declarative, encompassing definable substance. On the other hand, Yerevan wants a deal in order to be assured of the mathematical contours of its territory and to dispense with the Russian control element over the Zangazur route.

    Of course, the overall landscape of Baku-Yerevan frictions is ultimately far more complex. But, today, I needed to be brief, not just because brevity is the soul of wit, and circumlocution is unseemly, but because so many elements are yet to assume a definable shape so as to enable us to understand the likelihood of prospective framework deal. 

    To be brief, an Azerbaijani-Armenian peace deal is now more likely than ever before, but insufficiently likely for us to think of it as a foregone conclusion.


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