Is Baku ready for negotiations with NK? Aliyev's "dialogue" with new state minister
Aliyev-Vardanyan indirect dialogue
“I have repeatedly stressed that I renounced Russian citizenship in order to avoid accusations that I was pursuing someone else’s interests in Artsakh, except for the interests of the people of Artsakh. I believe that I fully meet the criterion of a negotiator put forward by Mr. Aliyev: he lives in Karabakh and wants to live there,” Ruben Vardanyan, recently appointed state minister of the unrecognized NKR, answered the Azerbaijani president’s statement.
Speaking of the rights and security of Armenians living in Karabakh, Ilham Aliyev said that Baku is “ready to talk about this with Armenians living in Karabakh”, “with people who live in Karabakh and want to live there”, but not with people like Vardanyan, sent by Moscow “with a very clear agenda.”
According to political scientist Tigran Grigoryan, Aliyev is trying to solve two problems at once: to show that he is ready for a dialogue with representatives of Nagorno-Karabakh, but to exclude the creation of a new international format that would deal with the Karabakh problem.
What Ilham Aliyev said, how Ruben Vardanyan reacted to his statement, how the situation is assessed in NK, and expert commentary.
Aliyev “not ready to talk with Vardanyan, sent by Moscow”
The day prior, the President of Azerbaijan received a delegation led by the European Union’s Special Envoy for the Eastern Partnership, Dirk Schuebel, during which Ilham Aliyev stated that Baku is ready to “talk with people who live in Karabakh”, “however, this has nothing to do with Pashinyan and his government”:
“If they [Armenia] want to talk about the rights and security of Armenians in Karabakh, this will not work. We are ready to talk about this with the Armenians living in Karabakh, but not with people like Vardanyan, sent by Moscow, who stuffed his pockets with billions stolen from the Russian people. He was sent there from Moscow with a very clear agenda.”
According to Aliyev, this process will develop more dynamically “if there is no interference from outside some countries” and no attempts are made to stop it.
The President of Azerbaijan also said that Armenia is trying to include in the peace agreement with Azerbaijan the issue of the rights and security of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is unacceptable to him:
“They say they recognize our territory and sovereignty. Not only do they say it, but they signed up for it in Prague and Sochi. This means the sovereignty of our entire territory. We all understand what sovereignty is. At the same time, they want to include issues related to the Armenian minority in Azerbaijan in the peace agreement. It will not happen. It’s impossible. We will not agree to this.”
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Vardanyan would like clarification on a “clear agenda”
On his Facebook page, Ruben Vardanyan published a post in which he welcomed Aliyev’s desire to start a direct dialogue with NK, but stressed that “Artsakh should be subject in this process.” He suggested that the President of Azerbaijan “move to a more constructive tone” and clarify what he means by the “clear agenda” with which, in his opinion, he moved to NK.
The State Minister welcomed the creation of a new format of direct negotiations with international mediation. Recalling the resolution adopted recently by the French Senate, which refers to the “recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh”, he stressed that France should also be among the mediators with Russia and the United States.
“War always begets war. Sometimes this happens even after a change of several generations. Aggression today is a time-bomb laid under the future generations of our peoples. This means that the leaders of the two sides must take full responsibility and, no matter how difficult it may be, sit down at the negotiating table and stop the bloodshed,” Ruben Vardanyan writes.
After his appointment to the post of state minister, in an interview with the Kommersant newspaper, businessman Ruben Vardanyan said that he had never worked in the state system, but the main function of an investment banker is to negotiate.
“My experience in business shows that I can deal with very different people,” he said.
As for the future of Nagorno-Karabakh, Vardanyan stressed that this issue should be resolved with his participation, since the Armenian leadership “does not have a mandate for Artsakh to decide how they will live.”
“Stepanakert does not agree”
Ruben Vardanyan actually expressed his readiness to negotiate on behalf of Stepanakert. Meanwhile, the foreign minister of the unrecognized republic stated:
“Stepanakert does not agree with Baku’s proposal to conduct direct negotiations with the Armenians living in Karabakh. What Aliyev says is nothing more than a final capitulation,” David Babayan told Radio Azatutyun (Liberty).
He stated that Nagorno-Karabakh is ready to negotiate with Azerbaijan, but only in the internationally recognized OSCE Minsk Group.
According to David Babayan, they did not even discuss who the negotiator would be, because there is no format for negotiations. He says that Aliyev perhaps mentioned the name of the state minister instead of the president in order to “create internal tension” in NK.
Aliyev-Vardanyan indirect dialogue
Political scientist Tigran Grigoryan believes that Ilham Aliyev had Russia in mind when he talked about outside interference and attempts to hinder dialogue with the Karabakh Armenians. In his opinion, the President of Azerbaijan was reacting to the speech of the US co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, Philip Ricoeur. During a hearing in the US Senate, he stated that “an international mechanism should be created to support negotiations on the security and rights of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh.”
According to Grigoryan, the President of Azerbaijan is trying to solve two important problems:
“One, Aliyev is trying to show that he is constructive and ready to enter into a dialogue with representatives of Nagorno-Karabakh. Two, he is trying to rule out the creation of a new international format on the Karabakh problem.”
Grigoryan says that Baku will be ready to start negotiations with NK representatives only within the framework of its own agenda. He considers it no coincidence that the Azerbaijani authorities present contacts with NK to the international community within the framework of the so-called “reintegration process”.
Grigoryan beliueves that Armenia should not sign a peace treaty until there is a written agreement with Azerbaijan guaranteeing direct Baku-Stepanakert negotiations in an international format.
He also thinks that Yerevan and Stepanakert should come forward with their proposals regarding this strategy.
“Stepanakert should not refuse direct negotiations with Baku, if they are held in the presence of an international mechanism or format,” Grigoryan believes.
Aliyev-Vardanyan indirect dialogue