Pashinyan’s imponderable zingers and the question of self-sufficiency
    Contemplations with Orkhan Amashov/VIDEO

    ANALYTICS  08 December 2023 - 11:00

    Orkhan Amashov

    In the latest episode of ‘Contemplations’, Orkhan Amashov reflects on the ‘contrived intractability’ of the Azerbaijani-Armenian peace process and on Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan’s ‘imponderable zingers’, one of which is a vague and substance-free project marketed as “the Crossroads of Peace”.

    Life is a complicated affair. We all know it. We also probably know that there is no point in over-complicating situations whilst trying to find a solution to earthly quandaries.

    The prospective Azerbaijani-Armenian framework peace deal is not a simple affair; it is fraught with complexities. But it is not rocket science, by any measure.

    There is nothing intractable in concluding a document on normalisation, but it requires intensive efforts, goodwill and a modicum of mutual trust to be able to advance the tapestry of peace agenda items.

    More than anything, it requires a certain amount of self-sufficiency from both sides. Direct talk is not the magical panacea to all the Azerbaijani-Armenian woes, but it is the only way forward.

    Azerbaijan, by withstanding the combined US-EU pressure and by neutralising Russia’s sanctimonious and self-serving interference, has cleared the stage for such a mode of interaction. However, Armenia is not madly keen on direct talks, save perhaps for some meetings of the border commission on delimitation and occasional one-to-one encounters between the foreign ministers on the margins of bigger conferences, or within trilateral convocations mediated by the Western actors or Russia.

    It is abundantly clear to most of us that Yerevan needs a geopolitical heavyweight to prop up its low-rise edifices, and also needs a security guarantor of some kind to keep a beady eye on the process of normalisation. This goes against the grain of Azerbaijan’s vision of the House of Caucasus, wherein the regional actors should decide for themselves, without any outsider imposing conditions upon the parties.

    When Azerbaijan hears an ineffectual Eurocrat in the personage of Toivo Klaar, EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and crisis in Georgia, say that Baku should be magnanimous and behave as a bigger and stronger party vis-a-vis Yerevan, making gestures to the latter, one cannot help but discern the highest pitch of humbug and hypocrisy that would befit Scrooge himself.

    During the nearly 30 years of Armenian occupation of Azerbaijan’s sovereign territories, Baku was repeatedly told to take into account the factual reality on the ground, to submit to Armenia’s illegal pretensions and cow to the consequences of the unseemly Russian-engineered aggression. And, now, Baku is required to be noble and magnanimous at the expense of the geopolitical advantages gained subsequent to the Second Karabakh War of 2020. 

    The question is one of moral equilibrium and the necessity of being disinterested, whilst mediating between the sides. Toivo Klaar could retort here and argue that he, or the EU itself, as such, was not involved during the protracted negotiations under the auspices of the beleaguered and besmirched OSCE Minsk Group. But then a smart aleck with attention to detail could retaliate, inquiring as to why the self-same gentleman was against the installation of an Azerbaijani border checkpoint at the entrance to the Lachin Road back in early 2023, instead of advocating for giving the Russian contingent additional instruments in the shape of scanner devices to check the goods entering Azerbaijan.

    Could it be that this was attributable to the EU’s desire to augment the Russian contingent’s functional prowess for the sake of inheriting the self-same powers, once Moscow’s troops were replaced by an international mission? Given that this, by and large, appears the only viable answer, then is it not the case that the EU did not act at the time as a disinterested party, but as a player intending to project greater influence in the region at the expense of Azerbaijan’s sovereign rights? Well, enough of rhetorical questions. Let us move on.

    Armenia’s mode of action regarding direct talks seems to be one contingent upon being as unreasonable as humanly possible, thereby proving that Baku and Yerevan are incapable of sorting their problems out on a bilateral footing. By responding to Azerbaijan’s peace treaty suggestions after considerable delays, and then replying with versions, which are not, in fact, answers to Baku’s proposals, but the reiteration of their earlier variations, Yerevan gives the simulacrum of negotiations in a manner befitting a Myna Bird reciting Shakespeare.

    On its own part, Azerbaijan, by means of insisting on results-oriented direct bilateral talks, eliminating any unhelpful external influence, continues to exercise the art of finely-calibrated coercive diplomacy. One small but telling example is that, for three years from 2020-23, Baku insisted on the Zangazur Corridor and Armenia denied its responsibility, as stipulated under Article 9 of the 10 November 2020 tripartite statement.

    In October 2023, Azerbaijan declared that the idea had lost its appeal, due to the lack of success in ensuring the land passage via Armenia, emphasising the alternative Iranian route. And then Pashinyan sprung to action like a primed Jack-in-the-box, offering a vague and largely insubstantial “Crossroads of Peace” project in order not to be excluded from the regional integration agenda. Again, the unseemly truth was that the Armenian Prime Minister was capable of acting relatively reasonably only under duress. Sadly, this remains true today. He can only function with his back against the wall.

    Pashinyan, a chameleonic time-waster, also likes to utter imponderable zingers that are ultimately propping up the disingenuous contrived intractability of the Azerbaijani-Armenian peace deal. Suggesting “a peace treaty is possible within weeks” or that “the bulk of the work is complete and final touches are to be added” are some of those zingers that serve no purpose and are solely a waste of rhetoric. 

    The project “Crossroads of Peace” is itself a type of zinger. It sounds big and lacks substance, much like a Goliath in the heat of battle. This is what it is. In the context of the Azerbaijani-Armenian peace process, there are enough ‘ponderables’ ‘fixables’ and ‘discernables’ that, once focused upon, will produce results. It is not a rocket science and has never been. 


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