Russia’s Lavrov Under Fire As Baku Views His Karabakh Remarks Antagonistic To Moscow's Official Stance

Fuad Muxtarlı Analysis 15 November 2019
Russia’s Lavrov Under Fire As Baku Views His Karabakh Remarks Antagonistic To Moscow's Official Stance

Efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group, as a collective peace broker for the long-drawn-out Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and of those individual nations, if they were authentic, have again reached an impasse by the Kremlin behest.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has again soured Russia’s relations with Azerbaijan to regain intentionally cooling heart of the new Armenian government.

As if in a reaction to Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov’s “progress is made in words” assessment vis-a-vis the Karabakh conflict, Russia’s Lavrov has done everything for the conflict to reach the impasse once again.

Powered by Lavrov’s Yerevan remarks, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan claimed that “Azerbaijan refused to engage in direct negotiations with Karabakh and that it wanted the territory of Karabakh without its people” – the unfounded and biased approach the Armenian prime minister uttered, letting all interested parties know that the aggressor nation has no plans to return the lands under the control of its army. 

Actually, Moscow has sent a clear message to Azerbaijan that the Kremlin remains loyal and hails in all way possible the occupation of Karabakh. And by saying the separatist regime should be a party to the bogus talks, it wants them – Armenia and the separatist regime – win time, dishearten the people of Azerbaijan about a possible peaceful way of returning Karabakh.

Lavrov on Karabakh conflict settlement

Lavrov’s visit to Armenia has encouraged the local establishment and actually disheartened the Kocharyan and Sargsyan supporters that the Kremlin is not backing Yerevan. Russia plays the role of the "first violin" in the Karabakh conflict settlement is what the current government supporters believe now.

Lavrov showed that apart from the Minsk Group, there is another Armenia-Russia-Azerbaijan format for the conflict settlement, and most importantly, he showed that Russia will guarantee the conflict settlement, the news agency claims.

Lavrov’s outright backing of Armenia reveals the philosophy of the Kremlin foreign policy. When the current government came to power, anti-Russian protests were on the rise on Yerevan’s streets with protesters carrying slogans, reading “We do not trust Russian media”, “Speak the truth”, “Lying Russian media” and so on, an indication that Armenia was going out of Moscow control.

Similarly, the Russian media blamed the Pashinyan government for receiving grants from anti-Russian NGOs and governments. However, less than two years, Lavrov’s visit and the tone of Yerevan’s statements show that neither Yerevan managed to run away from the Kremlin sphere of influence, nor Yerevan got the much hoped all-out western backing and has to roll back to Moscow’s embrace.

Baku reacts to Lavrov without naming him

In response to Lavrov’s Yerevan statement, Baku reiterated its position that any solution to the conflict must take into account the interests of Azerbaijani refugees from the breakaway region.

"Of course, Karabakh’s Azerbaijani community is an integral part of any proposed plan to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Leyla Abdullayeva said.

"Only the return of the Azerbaijanis expelled from this region to their homes in Nagorno-Karabakh can open up real possibilities for resolving the conflict within the borders of Azerbaijan on the basis of high-level self-governance status, which provides for the coexistence of both communities in the region - Azerbaijanis and Armenians, in conditions of peace and security" Abdullayeva said. 

Lavrov in Yerevan also directly showed the Karabakh separatists and Armenians how to kill time and avoid finding a common denominator, that is, a hint to Karabakh’s place in the talks without mentioning the Azerbaijani community of the same region.

"It is clear to everyone that without the consent of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, the population of Nagorno-Karabakh, it will not be possible to formalise any agreements. Armenia simply will not sign them," Lavrov said.

Lavrov also said that a final solution to the Karabakh issue should bear in mind the principles of territorial integrity, a nation's right to self-determination and peaceful resolution. "Neither Yerevan, nor Baku dispute that. Next comes an art of diplomacy, or, actually, readiness for compromises," he said.

"Any agreement, especially on such a complicated issue, is a compromise. And we, as OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs, are making efforts to make sure that this compromise is a fair one and reflects the true balance of interests, the fair balance of interests," Lavrov said, the point which lays bare hypocrisy and deep-rooted interest of Moscow to keep the conflict unresolved as long as possible.

Armenian media reactions to Sergei Lavrov’s remarks were overall positive, attributing them as Moscow’s support of the option that will be acceptable to the parties involved in the Karabakh conflict settlement – “Armenia, Karabakh, and Azerbaijan.

"Remarks by Lavrov reaffirmed the main principles for the conflict settlement, that is self-determination, territorial integrity, and rejection of the use of force," armtimes.com said, seeing Lavrov's comments as "a response to Azerbaijan's warmongering and unconstructive rhetoric". 

The Russian foreign minister has apparently assumed huge responsibility to convince the conflicting sides to agree to one of the provisions discussed in Kazan, which does not stipulate any status-quo for Karabakh, but includes a definition with a legally binding force to hold a referendum. If this is the case, then Lavrov or another top Russian diplomat will travel to Baku before the meeting of Armenian and Azeri foreign minister in early December. Otherwise, it can be clearly stated that Lavrov was not able to prove anything in Yerevan, the news agency says.

Lavrov’s optimism

Against expectations of the current Armenian opposition parties, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s description that Yerevan's foreign policy is "balanced" and Russia is optimistic about its relations with Armenia upset the Kocharyan and Sargsyan supporters.

"In our opinion, Yerevan's foreign policy is balanced and responsible. We note the commitment of our Armenian friends to preserving and strengthening their strategic partnership and alliance with Russia, the energetic participation in various multilateral associations on the post-Soviet space," Lavrov opined.

Speaking about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement, Lavrov said that Russia welcomed the preservation of relative stability on the border and along the contact line. He said the further reduction of tensions could help create a favourable atmosphere at the peace talks.

"As for the final legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh, this is one of the most complicated issues. The heads of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chair states have repeatedly stated that the status must be determined at the talks by political means and based on the legally binding expression of will. The sides still have to negotiate the parameters of this work, including its organisational aspects," Lavrov was quoted as saying.