Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict: Questions exceed answers

Diplomacy against a military backdrop

Two years have passed since the second Nagorno-Karabakh war. The parties were scheduled to meet again in November this year with the mediation of the European Union. However, the new clashes on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border reduce hopes for the constructiveness and substance of future negotiations on the signing of a peace treaty. Although regular meetings are held between the parties at the ministerial level, it does not seem convincing that these meetings will end with a concrete result.

After new forces came to power in Armenia, serious peace negotiations with Azerbaijan are being conducted on the basis of the ceasefire agreement signed on November 10, 2020.

But despite the change of power in Yerevan, Russia continues to keep these countries in its sphere of influence through the conflict zones. However, no matter how strong this influence is, it is possible to say that at least one of the countries – Azerbaijan, is able to continue it.

In the tripartite statement signed between the President of Azerbaijan, the Prime Minister of Armenia and the President of Russia on November 26, 2021 in Sochi, Russia, it was decided to establish a bilateral commission on border delimitation and demarcation. However, the activity of this commission is still not visible.

The start of new military clashes in the region on September 12-13 of this year reduces confidence in the completion of the work on border delimitation and demarcation. After the latest clashes, Russia decided to send the organization’s mission to Armenia, a permanent member of the CSTO, at an extraordinary meeting of the CSTO Council held via video conference on September 13 to investigate the situation in the region. It was stated that the purpose of the visit was to assess the situation related to the escalation of the situation on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. It is said that the operation group has already started its activities.

It can be said that the role of other forces in the region is increasing. Representatives of Western countries, especially France, visited the countries of the region. It was noted that on October 1, Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau, who chairs the OSCE, and French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna discussedthe conflict on the Armenian-Azerbaijani borderand it was noted to discuss the potential possibilities of sending an OSCE mission to the region. Just recently – on October 6, meetings between the parties (Armenia-Azerbaijan) were held within the framework of the “European Political Community” Summit in Prague. However, it should be noted that Russia does not want the West to return to the region. For this reason, Russia is trying to prevent projects that can be implemented in the region without the mediation of Russia. Therefore, it is not excluded that Russia will re-apply its mediation mission to the countries of the region against the background of increasing threats. It is assumed that after the possible new clashes, official Moscow will once again deploy its troops on the Armenian side of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border under the name of peacekeeping contingent.

The finalization of border delimitation and demarcation determines whether Armenia will recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as a part of Azerbaijan. Also, the parties have not yet reached an agreement on which of the 1920 maps or the proposed 1991 maps should be used as a basis for the delimitation and demarcation of the borders. In this regard, the process is very slow.

The road to Zangezur

The Azerbaijani side demands the opening of the Zangezur corridor in accordance with paragraph 9 of the tripartite statement signed on November 10, 2020.

However, there is no agreement between the parties yet. The Armenian side supports both the result reached in the tripartite agreement, as well as the demands made in its statement on January 11, 2021 – the opening of all types of economic and transport communications in the region.

However, in its subsequent statements, the Armenian side states that instead of the corridor, it proposes the opening of transport routes without any status.

Russia’s attitude to the issue has not yet been disclosed, Kremlin officials continue to make cautious statements. Although Russia is looking for new transit routes in the war with Ukraine, no real steps have been taken yet to open a corridor that could connect the western regions of Azerbaijan with Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. The connection of the corridor with Turkey and the lack of full control over the corridor are one of the main factors preventing official Moscow from opening this corridor. In this regard, the recent processes suggest that Russia may allow the opening of the corridor only after the deployment of Russian peacekeeping forces on the Armenian side of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.

The possibility of new clashes in the region is also high, and only in this way can Russia deploy its troops on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border under the name of peacekeepers. Also, with this, Russia wants to weaken the mediation mission of the European Union in the region. But during the last meeting held in Prague, the Armenian side considered it is necessary for the European mission to come to the region for a period of two months (to participate in the resolution of border issues!). This means the arrival of a limited contingent of European peacekeepers in the region, and political observers predict that Russia will not be satisfied with this step of its ally.

In the end, it should be noted that military clashes in the region are not excluded, because ceasefire violations after “peaceful” statements are a common occurrence here. Moreover, Russia’s growing presence in the region poses serious threats to the region’s security – Moscow would not want the European Union’s mediation to end successfully…