One year since Karabakh ceasefire agreement. Expert commentary from Armenia
A year has passed since the signing of ceasefire agreement by the leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia that put an end to the second Karabakh war on the night of November 9, 2020. During this time, Armenia lived in tension, went through trials and shocks – from an internal political crisis and early elections to clashes on the border with Azerbaijan.
What changed in Armenia during this year, what conclusions have been drawn, where the country has come and in what direction it is currently moving. Two different opinions from Armenian political scientists Garik Keryan and Andrias Ghukasyan.
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Garik Keryan, political scientist
There are more unsolved issues than resolved ones
“The agreement of November 9 marks the end of a certain stage of the Karabakh conflict. The history of the conflict can be divided into three stages. The first stage ended with the signing of an armistice in 1994. The second stage was negotiations that lasted for about 26 years. The third stage was the military aggression of Azerbaijan which ultimately led to a non-standard situation.
The November 2020 statement on Nagorno-Karabakh formally ended the third stage of the conflict, but in fact there are more unresolved issues than resolved ones.
Azerbaijan has solved only part of the problems- by military means, it took control of seven regions around Nagorno-Karabakh [following the results of the first Karabakh war, they were under the control of the Armenian side – JAMnews].
But this cannot be considered a great achievement for Baku, since during all periods of the conflict, the Armenian side was behind the scenes both for Azerbaijan and the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairing countries [Russia, the United States and France were the mediators of peace talks on the Karabakh issue before the start of the second Karabakh war in 2020] and promised to return these seven regions after the recognition of the status of Karabakh.
But Azerbaijan chose to follow the path of thousands of human casualties, including its citizens.
At the same time, following the results of the war, the issue of the status of Nagorno-Karabakh remained unresolved, the co-chairing countries insisted on its solution. That is, the issue that worries Aliyev remains on the agenda, although he declares that the conflict has been resolved.
But negotiations have not yet resumed. Azerbaijan, which receives recipes for its foreign policy from Ankara, would not sit down at the negotiating table”.
The authorities are obliged to draw conclusions
“Over the past year Armenia has gone through serious political upheavals. The opposition’s struggle to change the current government began in November 2020 and continued until the spring of 2021.
The snap parliamentary elections [held in June this year to resolve this crisis] were the third consequent elections in the last five years. The next were held in 2017, then there were early ones – in 2018 and 2021. I would assess this situation as an unfavorable process for the country in terms of stability and resource costs.
Nevertheless, the situation after the elections stabilized, the authorities strengthened their positions, and the opposition lost hope of overthrowing the ruling party.
The authorities had to draw certain conclusions for themselves this year and adopt a new foreign policy strategy. They should have already figured out how to build strategic relations with Russia, how to contain the aggressive actions of Azerbaijan on the border, how to resolve the issue of border delimitation and demarcation, the issue of enclaves, how to resolve the issue of unblocking communications without compromising our security, etc.
We do not even have time for drawing conclusions, the authorities are faced with very complex issues, the solution of which will define the future of our statehood.
For this, the authorities must carry an effective personnel policy, give way to knowledgeable people with new views and strategic thinking, which has been absent from our diplomacy for the past 30 years. We have such people. But today people without the slightest idea of diplomacy are nominated solely on the basis of political affiliation”.
To contradict Russia is to be in the abyss
“Our orientation was determined at the beginning of the 19th century, when Armenia became part of Russia. Every time we try to change our orientation, we find ourselves in the abyss. This was the case in 1920, when our politicians did not believe the Bolsheviks, but preferred the Treaty of Sevres with large territories for Armenia, and, as a result they received today’s meager territory.
The Sevres Treaty was signed in August 1920. It has not actually entered into force, but de jure has not ceased to operate. According to it, Turkey recognized Armenia as a “free and independent state”. The western Armenian regions with an area of 95,000 km² were torn away from Turkey and annexed to the Republic of Armenia (to the territory of Eastern Armenia).
Similar scenario has happened now. Since 2016, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has insisted on signing his “5 + 2” plan [according to the number of districts around NK, which were under the control of the Armenian side following the first war, the plan encompassed the return of five districts first, and then two]. In July 2020, after the Tavush events [military escalation on the border of Armenia with Azerbaijan], they warned that if they did not sign it, a war would start.
When Russia is asked whether there were any options to avoid war, the Russians say: “Of course, we offered them 5 + 2, they did not agree”.
When we contradict Russia, we find ourselves on the edge of the abyss, and sometimes even in the abyss itself.
Russia is the only country that is capable of ensuring our existence. At the same time, we understand that Russia does not always offer us what is in our interests as it has interests of her own. We must find a balance between our national interests and those of Russia”.
Andrias Ghukasyan, political scientist
Obtain a UN mandate based on the Kosovo precedent
“The most important issues related to the settlement of the Karabakh conflict remain unresolved. There is no buffer zone that would guarantee the security of Armenians, there is no mandate to ensure control in this zone, there is no clarity about the status of Karabakh either.
The situation changed as a result of the war. Before the war it was assumed that the final status of Artsakh should be determined by the people’s referendum, and before that the legality of its authorities should be recognized, but now, obviously, it is a question of introducing international rule in Karabakh – the UN mandate for a special administration that will take over management issues before a referendum on the Kosovo precedent is held.
This issue is now on the agenda of the negotiations which are being held behind closed doors. The logic of the current situation dictates such a decision.
Russia, France and the United States must come to a consensus on a draft UN Security Council resolution, within the framework of which these issues will be resolved.
Initially, there were disagreements between them. Russia insisted that the OSCE Minsk Group change the subject of its activities, take up the coordination of humanitarian programs and leave the trilateral format (Russia-Armenia-Azerbaijan) to resolve issues related to the status, observance of the ceasefire, etc.
France and the United States were opposed to it. Immediately after the war, they threatened to recognize the Republic of Artsakh, and the United States set conditions for the Russian Federation: if Russian troops in Artsakh do not replace international coalition forces, in particular, Swedish and Finnish troops, America will place its military base in Georgia.
In this situation, Russia must make a choice that could pose a significant threat to it”.
Armenia’s policy serves Russia’s interests
“All this time, the Armenian authorities have been pursuing a policy of serving the interests of Russia, about which they have openly stated more than once that they support the trilateral statement of November 9, 2020 on Karabakh. The policy of the Armenian authorities boiled down to supporting the trilateral format [Russia-Armenia-Azerbaijan].
The Armenian authorities – both during the war and after the ceasefire – were opposed to the international community.
During the war, this was reflected in the fact that Nikol Pashinyan refused to bring in international forces, and after the war, priority was given to the trilateral format”.
Distancing from the West torpedoes Armenia’s development
“Armenia is faithful to its allied policy towards Russia, it positions itself the way it traditionally positioned itself: it distances itself from the West, maintains allied relations with Russia and expresses its readiness to continue this line, even at the cost of serious concessions.
As a result, there is no development in Armenia. There is little progress in the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement between the EU and Armenia. The European Union has decided to provide financial support for the promotion of this Agreement. But due to the fact that the actions of the Armenian side are far behind schedule, this funding in the amount of 2.6 billion euros will not be available any time soon.
In the year after the war, no reforms were carried out in Armenia. It is of particular concern that the necessary transformations have not been carried out in the military sphere.
They only talk about reforms, but in reality nothing is done”.