"Integration with Azerbaijan is out of the question." Opinion on contacts between Baku and NK Armenians
Opinion on Baku-Stepanakert contacts
Representatives of Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan met again at the headquarters of the Russian peacekeeping contingent. It is reported from NK that on March 1, issues relating to “not the political status of Artsakh, but exclusively of a humanitarian nature” were discussed. This was the second meeting of representatives of Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh recently, the previous having taken place on February 24.
It is reported from Baku that during the last meeting the parties also held “preliminary discussions on the reintegration of the Armenian residents of the Karabakh region into the Republic of Azerbaijan.” In response, the president of the unrecognized NKR, Arayik Harutyunyan, stated that “any integration process with Azerbaijan is excluded.”
Information from NK
The press secretary of the President of the unrecognized republic, Lusine Avanesyan, said that during the meeting they discussed the restoration of
- unhindered passage of vehicles along the Lachin corridor, blocked by Azerbaijanis since December 12,
- high-voltage power line, through which electricity is supplied to NK from Armenia,
- supply of natural gas.
The participants of the meeting also discussed the operation of the Kashenskoye mine, which Azerbaijan demands be monitored by their state representatives, and is the casus belli of the protest on the Lachin road.
“Discussions of this kind in order to resolve urgent issues, especially the unblocking of the Lachin corridor, cannot replace full peace negotiations necessary to achieve a comprehensive resolution of the Azerbaijani-Karabakh conflict,” the Foreign Ministry of the unrecognized NKR said in a statement.
NK denies information published by Azeri media after the meeting, including:
- on the discussion of the “reintegration of the Armenians of the Karabakh region into Azerbaijan”,
- on holding subsequent meetings of representatives of Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh “in Ganja and Aghdam without the participation of Russian peacekeeping forces.”
Judging by a photograph published by the Azerbaijani side, Secretary of the Security Council Samvel Shahramanyan participated in the negotiations on March 1 on behalf of NK. It was reported from Baku that Azerbaijan was represented at the meeting in Khojalu by the deputy of parliament responsible for contacts with Armenian residents living in Karabakh, Ramin Mammadov.
Hakob Badalyan, political commentator
Russia is trying to strengthen its position
“Contacts between representatives of Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karabakh are determined not only by the situation in the Lachin corridor, but also by activity by international parties.
We see that although such meetings were discussed as taking place under Western auspices, now they are taking place with the mediation of Russia, with the Russian peacekeepers.
One gets the impression that Russia is trying to intercept this idea, thus influence the situation, strengthen its positions, and deprive the West of the opportunity to take the initiative.
Obviously it is a proxy struggle between powers. All issues are links in the same chain, and the Caucasus as such is not and cannot be considered on a separate plane.
Communication without intermediaries excluded
“By announcing that the next meetings will be held without the participation of Russian peacekeepers, Baku, in fact, is trying to show the West that it does not agree to a separate agreement with Russia and is not ditching the West. Azerbaijan is trying to say that this is not the case when it preferred Russian mediation.
In reality, contacts without any mediation are excluded. The mediators themselves consider this a critical area of of competition or struggle among themselves.
Even with a strong desire, Baku is unlikely to be able to push anyone or everyone out of the negotiation process and communicate directly with Stepanakert.
However, it is possible that the West will consider such a possibility and will not mind if Baku tries to exclude Russia with its position. It’s no secret that Western players have such a desire. Weakening Russia’s position is one of their key geopolitical goals.”
NK needs to avoid the self-determination trap
“Stepanakert-Baku contacts are important from the point of view of solving current problems. But it is very important that they do not become a political trap for Stepanakert. A situation may arise when major players think: “The environment for contacts has already been established, so any issues can be resolved.” This will distort the situation and remove the problem of self-determination from the agenda. It is clear that the main problem for Artsakh is to strengthen the recognition of the right to self-determination at the international level. Stepanakert should keep this issue on the agenda, including in the center of international attention.
If you succumb to manipulation, then it will end up in the area that Baku is trying to promote, namely: “They are our citizens in NK, this is our problem, I communicate with them, none may interfere.” This could become a trap. And Stepanakert must skillfully maneuver along this thin line.”
Yerevan continues to work on the Artsakh issue
“I am inclined to consider Yerevan’s statements about the need for a Baku-Stepanakert dialogue within the framework of current tactical needs, based on the realities that have arisen. Not only after the 44-day war of 2020, but also based on the reality dictated by the Ukrainian war at that moment.
In my opinion, from the point of view of practical politics, Yerevan continues to work on the Artsakh issue. Yerevan regularly emphasizes the need for an international mechanism in these contacts. That is, it is very important that these contacts take place under the auspices of international structures, so that they do not turn into an internal problem and do not change the essence of the Artsakh issue.
Of course, it is still very difficult to imagine what these mechanisms could be, especially today, when we see that the existing international structures do not work, be it the co-chairmanship of the Minsk Group or others.
So at the level of rhetoric, the task is to keep the issue on the agenda and provide a certain mood and atmosphere around the issue, which is what they are trying to do.
And from the point of view of long-term development, it is still very difficult to imagine any stable prospect. It all depends on what perspective the broader geopolitical confrontation will shape. We see that at this level there is only an increase in tension so far. Naturally this, in turn, exacerbates the uncertainty of the international situation. It remains only to set certain standards and try to keep them in the spotlight of international partners.”
On the reaction of the European Union
“The manageability of the situation could be an important factor for the EU in terms of European security. But when we say the European Union, do we mean one body that has a single policy?
I am not inclined to consider individual statements by officials as some kind of landmark political impulse.
From this point of view, it was much more important for me how the US reacts. The first reaction of the representative of the State Department was that they would not comment on these contacts for the time being. It was a much more “significant reaction” than [EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus] Toivo Klaar’s statements about the situation.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price declined to comment on the March 1 meeting between representatives of Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh, saying: “If we have something to say about this, we will let you know.” EU Special Representative Toivo Klaar welcomed the talks, calling the news about the contacts “encouraging”.
“It’s good that the discussions concern both urgent problems and a wider range of issues,” he wrote on Twitter.
Opinion on Baku-Stepanakert contacts