Azerbaijan's kind consent to Washington meeting
    Calculated move

    ANALYTICS  10 July 2024 - 18:40

    Murad Abiyev
    Caliber.Az

    Media reports indicate that today, on the sidelines of the NATO summit, a trilateral meeting is expected involving US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov, and Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan.

    In recent months and weeks, various representatives of official Washington have emphasized the urgent need for a swift peace agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia. These statements have consistently shown support for Yerevan, sometimes accompanied by hints of pressure on Baku. For example, US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs James O'Brien mentioned an independent investigation into the circumstances of Armenians relocating from Azerbaijan to Armenia in an interview with Armenian Radio Liberty. Almost simultaneously, a report by the American "human rights" organization Freedom House was released, accusing Azerbaijan of ethnic cleansing against the Armenian population. Concurrently, assistance to Armenia from the United States is openly provided across all fronts.

    Washington's activity runs parallel to Baku's broadcast demands for amendments to Armenia's Constitution, specifically the removal of clauses asserting territorial claims against Azerbaijan. This stands as one of Azerbaijan's main prerequisites for signing a peace agreement.

    The White House is not keen on seeing Yerevan pursue peace on this matter, and Yerevan itself lacks the will or clear determination to convincingly persuade its society of the necessity for such constitutional amendments. Yerevan's motivations are understandable—the sudden shutdown of the “miatsum” (unity) reactor that fuels the collective unconscious of Armenian society was never anticipated. Armenian authorities must also consider this, even if they are sincerely convinced of the need to amend the fundamental law. However, Washington's position demands deeper consideration, though it too becomes understandable upon closer examination.

    In its actions, Washington is guided by two main considerations. Firstly, Americans aim to maintain tensions between countries to exert influence over the region through conflict management. Support for Armenia becomes increasingly relevant for Washington because Georgia, the third South Caucasus country, albeit not without risks, is pursuing a course to eliminate Western interference in its internal affairs. Secondly, and no less important, on the eve of perhaps the most dramatic U.S. presidential elections in modern history, Democrats are keen not to lose the support of the Armenian diaspora—several hundred thousand actively voting citizens. If the Biden administration could persuade Baku to sign a peace treaty with Armenia without preconditions regarding the Armenian constitution, this would be a credit to the Democratic Party. The 44-day war and Azerbaijan's victory occurred during the Republicans' tenure, and Democrats sought to portray themselves to Armenians as the "correctors" of the situation.

    The installation of the Lachin checkpoint, anti-terrorism measures on September 19-20, 2023, and the subsequent voluntary resettlement of Armenians to Armenia occurred during the Democratic administration and dealt a heavy blow to their prestige in the eyes of the Armenian population in the United States.

    We can assume that now, in an attempt to catch up and prove to American Armenians that "not all is lost," Washington is likely also trying to persuade Baku to include a provision in the agreement ensuring the unconditional return of Armenians to the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan.

    Baku's position is clear. Yerevan must remove from its constitution any clauses containing territorial claims against Azerbaijan. The country also rejects any mention of "Armenian Karabakh" in the peace agreement. If Armenians wish to live in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, they must accept Azerbaijani citizenship. Furthermore, this issue must be resolved reciprocally, meaning the 250,000 Azerbaijanis expelled from Armenia should be granted a similar right to return to their former places of residence. Pressuring Baku is futile. To understand this, one needs only to recall the events of previous years when Azerbaijan managed Western pressure under less favourable conditions—first, the occupation of 20% of its territory, and then the presence of part of the Karabakh territory under the responsibility of Russian peacekeepers.

    So what does the meeting in Washington imply in this case, considering that Blinken, unlike German Chancellor Scholz and Kazakh President Tokayev, not only provides a platform for the parties but also intends to attend himself?

    As Azerbaijani political analyst and head of the South Caucasus Research Center Farhad Mammadov writes in his Telegram channel, Azerbaijan has acknowledged the meeting due to substantial US influence, prioritizing US opinion over the negotiation process with Armenia.

    Indeed, from this perspective, we again observe not a reactive but a proactive strategy from Baku, which, while rejecting the format of trilateral negotiations, still does not refuse the meeting, allowing its American counterparts to fully reveal their cards. Azerbaijan remains committed to strengthening its sovereignty and international standing. There is no room on this path for momentary grievances against world powers, nor is there a desire to please one more than another.

    To complete my thoughts, let me quote to quote Farhad Mammadov again: “Azerbaijan's position is clear and logical, and it will be reiterated in Washington. Immediate signing of a peace agreement, as transmitted from Washington, is not expected... And so, after the strategic partnership with China, a visit to the US is just what is needed...”

    Caliber.Az

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