Why is Ruben Vardanyan still a “Moscow project”? Analysis from Baku
Farhad Mammadov on Ruben Vardanyan
After the beginning of the protest of Azerbaijani activists in the Lachin corridor, the “state minister” of the part of Karabakh where the Armenian population lives became the object of scrutinity. According to Azerbaijani political scientist Farkhad Mammadov, the “Vardanyan project” is a desperate attempt by Russia to stop the peace treaty process and bring the Karabakh topic back into negotiations.
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The other day, in an interview with Azerbaijani news agency Turan, British political commentator Thomas de Waal doubted that Ruben Vardanyan is a Kremlin puppet: “If Vardanyan were a project of Russia, the road would be open.”
Azerbaijani political scientist Farhad Mammadov gives a chronology of recent events in the Karabakh conflict and Azerbaijani-Armenian relations, and claims that Ruben Vardanyan is indeed a “Moscow project”.
Events after Operation Retaliation
In August 2022 an Azerbaijani soldier was killed in Karabakh. The country’s Ministry of Defense blamed this on Armenian units located in the part of Karabakh controlled by the Russian peacekeeping contingent. Immediately after that, the Azerbaijani Armed Forces carried out a military operation – called “Retribution” – and captured several strategic heights.
“In order to answer the question whether Vardanyan is a project or not, one should look at the chronology of events on the Armenian-Azerbaijani scene since August, especially after Operation Retribution, after which three things became clear to everyone:
- that RCC’s lack of a mandate prevents Russia from doing anything;
- Armenia realized that Azerbaijan could act “on the ground”;
- Azerbaijan was in contact with representatives of the Armenians of Karabakh and the resettlement of Armenians from Lachin and Zabukh was carried out,” Mammadov writes.
Chronology of events
August 31. Tripartite summit in Brussels: an agreement to work on the text of a peace treaty based on the principles proposed by Azerbaijan (that is, without the topic of Karabakh), a meeting on the border and the next summit in November.
September 1. “Project Vardanyan” is put into circulation. Vardanyan renounces his Russian passport, announces his move to Karabakh and creates a fund for the “development and security of Artsakh”.
Beginning of September. Russia proposes its version of a peace treaty with a “postponed status”, that is, an attempt to unite the processes.
September 13/14. Clashes on the conditional border. A provocation by Armenia to torpedo the peace process, or a provocation by a third party through its agents in the Armenian Armed Forces.
September 27. Meeting in Washington – the emergence of the “Washington Document”. The main point is the division of the theme of the peace treaty between Azerbaijan and Armenia, the mechanism of Baku-Khankendi relations. Despite the contradictions in the understanding of the paragraph on Baku-Khankendi, it was decided to separate the processes.
2 October. Meeting of foreign ministers in Geneva, discussion of the text of the peace treaty. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group remain out of the process, that is, the bilateral agreement is fixed without the topic of Karabakh.
The 4th of October. Arayik Harutyunyan offers Vardanyan the post of “state minister”. Vardanyan says he is considering; in reality, his handlers are considering.
October 6th. Summit in Prague. The Prague Statement is the recognition of each other’s territorial integrity. Again there is no Karabakh. The process goes far … and without the participation of Russia …
Mid October. The managers of the Vardanyan project are launching a campaign in the Russian media against Azerbaijan and Pashinyan.
27th October. Putin’s speech in Valdai: exhortation to Armenia not to rush. Pashinyan immediately declares that he 100% supports the Russian draft peace treaty.
October 31. Summit in Sochi. Support for the territorial integrity of countries, it was not possible to introduce the topic of Karabakh and the mandate of the RMK, that is, it was not possible to combine the processes. The topic of a peace treaty is a priority and there is no getting away from it.
November 4th. Vardanyan is appointed “Minister of State”.
– Vardanyan pops up every time when the separation of the themes of the peace treaty and the theme of Karabakh is approved.
– With all the contradictions, if the Baku-Khankendi format becomes relevant, then Russia appears here in the person of a completely controlled Vardanyan.
– Vardanyan takes the RCC out of the criticism of the Armenian leadership and tries to get aninternational mandate for the RCC. When Arayik Harutyunyan asked for an international contingent in France (Pashinyan’s words), Vardanyan forces us to make changes – to ask for a mandate only for the RCC.”
The Vardanyan Project is Russia’s desperate attempt to stop the peace treaty process and bring the Karabakh issue back into negotiations. On the contrary, this has led to the acceleration of Azerbaijan’s control over the Lachin road.
The resources of the project are running out, it half-fulfilled the function that was laid in it. The peace treaty process has been stopped, but not removed from the agenda. And the topic of Karabakh was internationalized, but did not become an integral part of the peace treaty.
Plus, instead of uniting the Armenians of Karabakh, the “Vardanyan project” introduced splits, created an atmosphere of hopelessness and stopped the work of the only worthwhile enterprise,” the political scientist summed up his words.