Op-ed: 'Armenia and Azerbaijan maneuver between Russia and the West'
Cancellation of the meeting of the commission on delimitation
Yerevan and Baku exchanged public statements that completely contradict one another. First, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev accused Yerevan of canceling the already scheduled meeting of the commission on delimitation and demarcation of borders and refusing to hold the meeting at a later date. Then the Armenian Foreign Ministry denied this statement, noting that “the Armenian side has not canceled or refused to participate in any meeting”.
Amid these conflicting official statements, the Prime Minister’s office reported that Nikol Pashinyan and Ilham Aliyev would meet in Brussels on May 22.
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“Irresponsible position causes concern” – Aliyev
“During the meeting held on April 6 in Brussels on the initiative of the President of the European Council, Mr. Charles Michel, an agreement was reached that by the end of April, both sides would create working groups that would already start work. […] However, on the last day, April 29, Armenia canceled the already scheduled meeting. It was very upsetting.
Even more upsetting was the fact that Armenia refused our proposal to hold a new meeting on May 7-11. […] Thus, we are still waiting for any new dates from Armenia to start work, because such an irresponsible position, of course, causes concern”.
The leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed in Brussels to establish a joint commission for the delimitation and demarcation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border by the end of April. The Commission will also be given the function of monitoring the situation along the borders and ensuring security. The parties have already announced that they agreed on the composition of the commissions.
During a recent meeting with Lavrov in Dushanbe, the Armenian foreign minister said that the first meeting of the commission would be held in Moscow on May 16-17. However, it did not take place. There were no announcements about the cancellation or rescheduling of the meeting.
Yerevan refutes all accusations
The Armenian side remains committed to the implementation of the agreements reached, Vahan Hunanyan, press secretary of the Armenian Foreign Ministry, said in response to the statement of the President of Azerbaijan:
“Accordingly, the Armenian side did not cancel or refuse to participate in any meeting. Within the framework of the agreements reached between the leaders of the two countries in Sochi and Brussels, the Armenian side is still ready to start the work of the commissions”.
This is not the first time Yerevan and Baku have differed in their assessments of the situation, and recent statements are quite consistent with the logic of a positional struggle, political commentator Hakob Badalyan told JAMnews:
“The parties are trying to serve their interests in a political process that has a much broader context, trying to strengthen their initial positions in the negotiations”.
Moreover, according to the political observer, there is a positional struggle not only between Armenia and Azerbaijan, but also between major players acting as intermediaries:
“Naturally, the scope of disagreements is expanding here. I think that the cancellation or postponement of the agreements, as well as the complexity of the process in general, are also caused by this factor”.
According to Hakob Badalyan, “in the sense of pure mechanics” Armenia and Azerbaijan are now solving the same problem – “trying to maneuver between Western players and Russia”:
“Another thing is that the resources for maneuvering, as well as the positional, initial states of the parties, are different. And Azerbaijan, of course, has a certain advantage. This is a challenge that Yerevan must overcome”.
Referring to the possible dates for holding a meeting of the commission on delimitation and demarcation, Hakob Badalyan says that one should not expect an early resolution of the issue, regardless of the dates when the meetings are scheduled. The reason, according to him, is not only in the different or contradictory approaches of Yerevan and Baku, but also in the sharp struggle for influence on the processes of large players:
“We have to be prepared for a possibly extremely long ‘game’ because the big players are at least capable of hindering each other over who has the most say in the process”.
The observer is sure that no agreements should be expected in the near future, but attempts to reach them will continue. In support of his point of view, Badalyan cites the tripartite format of the work of the vice-premiers of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia as an example. The expert reminds: the group was formed in January 2021 with the mediation of the Russian side, the work went on for several months – and stopped, “today there are discussions about its resumption”.