Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan hold trilateral consultations on de-escalation of border crisis
Trilateral talks on the de-escalation of the conflict at the Armenia–Azerbaijani border were held in Moscow on June 2, Russian Novosti news agency reports. The only thing known about the results of the meeting so far is that the parties agreed to further negotiations.
Reports from Yerevan
The Armenian media also covered the meeting of representatives of the three countries in Moscow. The Hraparak newspaper, in particular, reported that during the negotiations the latest events on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and the withdrawal of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces from the territory of Armenia would be considered.
The Armed Forces of Azerbaijan crossed the border of Armenia on May 12 and advanced several kilometers deep into the country’s territory towards the regions of Gegharkunik and Syunik. Azerbaijan refuses to withdraw its troops despite Armenia’s repeated demands.
Reports of the trilateral meetings in Moscow appeared the next day after the Deputy Prime Minister of Armenia Mher Grigoryan announced the suspension of the activities of the Yerevan-Baku-Moscow working group chaired by the vice prime ministers of the three countries. The group was created on January 11, 2021 in Moscow to fulfill the clauses of the statement on the cessation of hostilities in Karabakh, signed by the heads of the three states.
The main function of the group was the implement the unblocking of economic and transport communications in the region.
Mher Grigoryan stated that the communication with the Azerbaijani side was interrupted after six Armenian soldiers were captured on the territory of their own country on May 27.
The Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan has reported that a “reconnaissance and sabotage group of the armed forces of Armenia” attempted to advance its positions in the direction of the settlement of Yukhari Ayrim of the Kelbajar region.
The Armenian Defense Ministry denied this claim and stated that the servicemen were captured “while carrying out engineering work in the border zone of Gegharkunik region”.
Mher Grigoryan said that given the current situation on the border, Yerevan considers it impossible to communicate constructively in the format of a trilateral working group. At the same time, he stressed that before the capture of the Armenian military, the group nevertheless carried out its work.
Commentary from Yerevan
Political scientist Sergei Melkonyan explained the logic behind the latest actions of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan:
“For Russia, it is of fundamental importance to have all parties comply with the clauses of the statement signed in November last year [on the cessation of hostilities in Karabakh]. This way it will both be able to preserve a fragile peace near its borders and to show the whole world that this region it within its zone of influence and responsibility, and Moscow is able to establish peace there. That is why the red line for both sides [Armenia and Azerbaijan] is the opening of fire. […]
Another important element of Russian policy in the region is the preservation of its influence over Armenia and Azerbaijan (as both Baku and Yerevan are currently moving away from it). From Moscow’s point of view, this will allow both to maintain Russia’s military presence in Artsakh and balance the Turkish influence in Azerbaijan. The rest of the components are not as important for Russia.
Speaking about Armenia, it is necessary to consider precisely the logic of Pashinyan’s actions, since they traditionally diverge from the interests of the state. The de facto prime minister proceeds from the following considerations.
First, he is not convinced that in the event of an escalation, the armed forces are ready to ensure the security of the country. These fears are mainly due to lack of response to the presence of Azerbaijani forces in the territory of Armenia for more than two weeks.
Secondly, Pashinyan has traditionally been a supporter of cooperation with neighbors through unilateral concessions. Therefore, it makes no sense to doubt his intentions to open a corridor [through the territory of Armenia, in particular, to connect Azerbaijan with its exclave Nakhichevan] and fulfill other non-public agreements (surrender of “enclaves”, etc.).
Thirdly, due to serious society pressure on the issues of “corridor” and “enclaves”, Pashinyan can no longer present concessions as a victory.
He is now in a stalemate: on one hand, he promised to fulfill the agreements [to Moscow and Baku], but on the other, by going through with his promises he will surely lose in the upcoming elections scheduled for June 20.
In the case of Azerbaijan, everything is more or less clear: to achieve as much as possible while Pashinyan is still in power in such a way that cannot be reversed in case of a change of leadership in Armenia there is no way back.[…] Having received more territorial and other concessions from Pashinyan, Aliyev will be able to compensate for the impossibility of establishing control over Artsakh.
In conclusion, I would like to add one important point. It is important for Aliyev to partially balance the Turkish influence, which has increased significantly after the war. This explains the curtsey towards Moscow, as this is the area where their interests converge”.
Commentary from Baku
Political scientist Shahin Jafarli also commented on the meeting of representatives of Russia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia in Moscow:
“According to the information that I have, in Moscow the parties discussed only the situation on the state border of Azerbaijan and Armenia. I also know that the meeting was attended by the commander of the Russian peacekeeping contingent in Karabakh, Rustam Muradov”, Jafarli said.
In his opinion, Muradov’s participation in the discussions speaks of the desire of Russia’s desire to better understand the essence of the problem and resolve it.
“Russia is trying to resolve the border conflict under its own auspices. We are talking about the creation of a new trilateral commission, which will deal exclusively with the problem of establishing the state border between the two countries.
“The Azerbaijani side agrees with this condition and is ready to start discussions in a trilateral format. But the Armenian side has a precondition – they want to have all their citizens held captive in Azerbaijan return back home. Armenia refers to them as “prisoners of war”, and Azerbaijan considers them to be saboteurs. And here we are talking not only about those who were detained in December last year but also about those six servicemen who were detained the other day while mining a road on the territory of Azerbaijan”, the political scientist said.
“Today, according to the disseminated information, Rustam Muradov must visit Yerevan to meet with the leadership of this country. I think the details of the proposals voiced the day before in Moscow will be discussed there”, Jafarli added.
When asked whether the ongoing situation will result in the deployment of Russian peacekeepers also on the border of the two countries the political scientist replied:
“Russia has no problems with the Armenian side of the border. Russia has experience in protecting the borders of Armenia. As for the Azerbaijani side, I do not think that the leadership of our country will agree to such a thing”.