Former Foreign Minister of Armenia (1998-2008) Vardan Oskanyan, in an article sent to the media, analyzes Azerbaijan’s new military attack on Armenia and offers solutions to get out of the situation.
Anyone with long-term experience in the negotiation process, seeing today’s events, can very clearly imagine the answer to the question that has been troubling the Armenian society for two years: what was discussed on November 9-10, 2020.
There is no doubt that Aliyev was the main dictator of the agenda on that day, at those hours. After entering Shush, he had the opportunity to occupy all of Artsakh within hours. It is not difficult to understand that in those positions, that night, Aliyev put his maximum demands on the table: Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan, a corridor in Zangezur, and a solution to the demarcation of borders in favor of Azerbaijan, including the enclaves. In the negotiation process, even in the weakest positions, the party is given an opportunity to save face. My guess is that those three issues were left out of the written cease-fire declaration, but a verbal agreement was reached, of which Putin was the witness and also the guarantor.
Now, when the implementation of these agreements is delayed, Aliyev is resorting to forceful methods. If we proceed from this reasonable assumption, Pashinyan has no room to maneuver in this situation, and Russia’s silence becomes, if not justified, then at least explainable. Putin’s hands are tied not only by his weakened geopolitical position but also by being a witness to the verbal promise given on November 9. Therefore, the appearance of a new negotiator, i.e. a new leader of the country, becomes the imperative of the day.
If we put emotional labels aside and start from the assumption that the situation created for Pashinyan is not pleasant and desirable, then he should either deny this thesis, say that he did not promise anything verbally, and with his direct steps, that is, by drastically changing the logic of politics, prove it or resign.
Recent events have shown that a military solution is not the easiest and most desirable for Azerbaijan, so Pashinyan has a chance to maneuver here. If he doesn’t do that, then it remains to assume that there are bonds of promise.
The appearance of a new negotiator will not only free Armenia from that shackle but also free Russia’s hands to start a new round of negotiations instead of hasty and unprofitable solutions.
As for the West, it is obvious that it sees the tendency to abandon Karabakh in the policy of the Armenian government, and sees in it the shortest way to achieve peace, which will contribute to the weakening of Russia’s presence and its gradual withdrawal from the region. This can perhaps explain the positive role played by the West during the Azerbaijani aggression, the pressure on Azerbaijan as a result of the fragile ceasefire achieved.
However, the West is also a hostage of the promise made by the Armenian authorities. In the end, it is obvious that Erdoğan’s belligerent statements against EU member Greece and many other circumstances should not make anyone doubt that the West also has no goal, desire and reason to want the complete victory of the Turkish-Azerbaijani side.
Therefore, under the conditions of a new negotiator and with the new approaches and diplomatic team formed around him, the pursuit of Armenian interests will undoubtedly create an opportunity to change the approaches of the West in this matter in a short time, and the West will also be interested in starting negotiations for a more balanced solution instead of quick solutions. But for this, again, a new negotiator is needed, who will formulate a new negotiation agenda for both Russia and the West.
What should be the foreign policy support of the new negotiator?
A) Complementary policy. There are people who claim that this is not possible today, given the contradictions between Russia and the West. But here they forget at least two circumstances.
First, the conflict between East and West today is not a conflict of blocs, but of individual countries. Russia – West, China – USA. It does not imply and does not oblige the countries with good relations with one or the other side to make a choice. And, by the way, Turkey and Azerbaijan benefit the best from this.
Second, that today Armenia can establish cooperation of any depth with this or that partner. Regardless of the reasons or circumstances, it is a fact that after the 44-day war and recent events, widespread disillusionment with Russia has developed in Armenia. Armenia, taking care of its interests and maintaining the quality of its relations with Russia, has the opportunity to make the best use of all kinds of opportunities provided to it by other countries without hesitation.
B) The new negotiator and his team do not need to completely abandon the prospect of concluding a contract. It is simply necessary to change the existing context created around it and perceived by others. For Azerbaijan, this document is a means for the legalization and international recognition of the military spoils acquired and expected as a result of the war.
Armenia’s approach should be the same. For Armenia, this document should be the means by which it will be able to achieve recognition and start of a serious negotiation process by including provisions with logical, non-extremist wording. It is necessary to include in the document the provisions on which there will be a need for real negotiations: the withdrawal of the Azerbaijani armed forces from the territory of the Republic of Armenia; the issue of the future status of Nagorno Karabakh; the return of captives; the negotiated, not hasty, implementation of border demarcation that satisfies only the Azerbaijani side.
Otherwise, what is happening today is not a negotiation, but coercion on Armenia to give up Artsakh, which it will have to accept only if there is peace. And both Russia and the West do not oppose this wording for different reasons, mainly due to the above-mentioned inability of the Armenian side to give another wording.