By Vartan Oskanian, Armenia’s Former Foreign Minister (1998-2008)
The Russo-Ukrainian war has dramatically changed the geopolitical situation in the world and in the South Caucasus and around Karabakh as well.
Without delving into an analysis of world events, a few obvious facts should be noted:
- Russia, Armenia’s ally and the guarantor of the fragile status quo in Karabakh, has found itself in a vulnerable position, and isolated by the West.
- Azerbaijan’s ally, Turkey, acting as a mediator in the Russian-Ukrainian war, has been able to balance its policy in the current situation, and has found itself in a stronger position than before the start of this war.
- With the world’s attention focused on Ukraine, Azerbaijan attempts to make the best use of the situation by imposing its agenda on Armenia through negotiations or, if not possible, then by force. In order to implement this agenda as soon as possible, Baku will try to use all possible levers, taking advantage of Armenia’s weakened defense and negotiating positions.
Wars are often caused by the constant formation of expectations by conflicting parties, and in the end, the delay, breach or non-fulfillment of these expectations. These elements existed in the driving factors of the current Russian-Ukrainian war.
One of the main causes for the 44-day war was Azerbaijan’s own expectation regarding delayed and unfulfilled concessions that were to be made by the Armenian side. The same can be said today.
The Armenian side’s calls and steps for “peace” in the post-war period have raised great expectations in Turkey and Azerbaijan. Delaying or rejecting these expectations may lead to war.
Thus, Azerbaijan has chosen this very moment to make Armenia decide. On the one hand, Baku is tightening the noose around Nagorno Karabakh by disrupting the daily living conditions of its residents, and threatening their security. And at the same time, Azerbaijan is presenting Armenia with its five conditions for signing a peace treaty.
It is obvious that no patriotic Armenian government can satisfy Azerbaijan’s demand for recognition of territorial integrity. The response of the Armenian Foreign Ministry that Armenia has long recognized the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan is incomprehensible and unacceptable, both for Azerbaijan and for the Armenian people. The fact that Artsakh is Armenia is an undeniable fact. The fate of Artsakh is predetermined.
It is noteworthy that, as far as I can see, in the five preconditions presented by Azerbaijan, the word “corridor” is not mentioned. At the same time, Azerbaijan has already started the construction of a rail line and road through Iran, to ensure a land connection with its exclave Nakhichevan.
In pursuing acquisition of a corridor through Armenia’s southern Syunik region, Azerbaijan, from day one, intended to create a parallel situation to the Lachin corridor. If, however, Azerbaijan had a choice between control of a corridor through Syunik or the Lachin corridor, it would choose the latter.
Given the current situation in Ukraine and the deepening sanctions against Russia, we must be ready for such developments.
The problem of the Armenian side is that the authorities do not have a clear agenda. No one knows what we want, what issues we are bringing to the table. The pursuit of peace in and of itself is not “an agenda” if it is not undergirded by a clear national roadmap.
In negotiations, the Armenian side should not strive for peace, but for the establishment of a legitimate system, the cornerstone of which should be the satisfaction of the parties and the prospect of a just settlement. Only this can bring lasting peace.
Azerbaijan does not seek peace in the negotiations. Instead, it will attempt to finalize its unfinished demands through negotiations, in order to internationally legalize all spoils of the war. Peace for Azerbaijan can be the culmination of all that.
The sooner the Armenian side formulates and makes its agenda public, the less the possibility of war in the future. The Armenian side must set two important principles in that agenda. First is the consideration of the Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) as a whole political unit. Second is the right of the people of Artsakh to self-determination within the borders of NKAO.
I do not accept the view that raising the issue of our claims to the lost territories of the NKAO will lead to military operations.
In diplomacy, the correct, well-founded and understandable formulation of issues is the main guarantee for success. Positions which are extreme or unsubstantiated can perplex even the closest ally, evoke adversary’s anger and mediators’ resentment.
The formation of an Armenian agenda, with its political, legal, and historical substantiations, the development of effective diplomatic mechanisms, and finally, their bold presentation is the main imperative of our country today.
Read the article in Armenian.