EU’s Dual Approaches To Conflicts In Ex-Soviet Space, Or How Europe Pacifies Armenia

Fuad Muxtarlı Analysis 11 March 2020
EU’s Dual Approaches To Conflicts In Ex-Soviet Space, Or How Europe Pacifies Armenia

The West constantly talks about global conflicts though the long-drawn-out conflict of the South Caucasus – the occupation of the Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding districts – are rarely on the agenda of the European organisations, and if this ever happens, the approach is often neutral.

The leading organisations, of which Azerbaijan and Armenia are also members, view ways of resolution of the conflict dubiously in an effort not to harm the occupier – Armenia – and this approach makes official Yerevan to remain stubbornly and resort to all possible means to drag out the resolution of the conflict.

The EU’s approach to the conflicts in the post-Soviet nations is also different from what it is to Azerbaijan’s Karabakh problem, and this is despite Azerbaijan’s crucial role in diversification Europe’s energy supplies. Analysing the West’s approaches to the conflicts in Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and other former Soviet nations with the Kremlin and that of Azerbaijan’s, one could not but feel zealous.

We witnessed the same approach two days ago when a wide range of issues on the Armenia-EU relations agenda were discussed during a meeting in Brussels between Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and European Council President Charles Michel.

The parties focused on a large-scale reform agenda being carried out in Armenia, the press service of the Armenian prime minister reported. Charles Michel welcomed Pashinyan’s visit to Brussels and expressed his conviction that this is a good opportunity to discuss further steps of cooperation, including towards the effective implementation of the reform agenda in Armenia.

In his turn, the Armenian prime minister pointed out the importance of EU’s assistance to Armenia in the process of implementing the reforms and expressed his conviction that after Michel was appointed head of the European Council, the Armenia-EU cooperation will continue to develop productively.

"The European Union is one of the main partners of Armenia in the process of implementing the reform agenda, and we have always felt the useful assistance of the EU in this direction," Pashinyan said.

The two men expressed their readiness to further expand the Armenia-EU cooperation, including trade and economic contacts. The head of the European Council emphasized the importance of the reform path that Armenia has chosen, adding that the EU will continue to actively cooperate with and support Yerevan in the direction of democracy, including in the reform of the judicial sphere. The interlocutors exchanged views on expectations from the upcoming Eastern Partnership summit in June this year, the press release added.

The Armenian prime minister emphasized that official Yerevan will continue to move along the democratic path in order to ensure the protection of human rights in the country and the rule of law. You see, the head of the European Council did not even say a single word on the Karabakh issue. Such a position of the European Union over the years has led to the fact that Armenia defiantly refuses to implement the four UN Security Council resolutions and other documents on the liberation of the occupied territories. The European Union is, first of all, an influential regional structure, which includes many leading European states.

And such a position of the European Union on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict does not add credibility to such an important European structure, but encourages Armenia to act aggressively. The fact is that the conflict should be resolved through the participation of the leadership of the two countries, but this does not mean that one of the parties has the right to ignore the norms and principles of international law.

What is the essence of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict? For about 30 years, Azerbaijani lands have been occupied by Armenia, and the territorial integrity of our country has been violated. More than one million Azerbaijanis are refugees and internally displaced persons. The main geopolitical centers declare that they support the settlement of the conflict in accordance with international law. And international law is clearly on the side of Azerbaijan. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, who have undertaken mediation in the negotiations to resolve the conflict, have not yet achieved any real results. True, the presidents of the co-chairing countries have repeatedly stated that the status quo around the conflict is unacceptable. But the matter did not go beyond statements. Sometimes statements are made that distort the essence of the conflict.

The question is whether or not Europe is interested in the restoration of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. Pashinyan’s implacable and clearly aggressive stance was seen from the beginning. By the way, his conclusions about the involvement of the Karabakh separatists in the negotiation process and the tales that he could not speak on behalf of Nagorno-Karabakh were voiced immediately after the victory of the “velvet revolution” in Armenia.

It was obvious that these statements were made in order to slow down (and, if possible, completely disrupt) the negotiation process. But the EU is silent and this makes Pashinyan more impudent.

And impudence opens up ways for the resumption of the military conflict. Azerbaijan has recently lost two border guards at its internationally-recognized border.

The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry in a statement condemned the escalation on the border and vowed Azerbaijan’s firm response.

“The murder of our soldier, who defends the internationally recognized borders of Azerbaijan, clearly shows that the calls for a peaceful settlement of the occupying country, Armenia, are nothing more than lies and hypocrisy. Such criminal and destructive activities of the military-political leadership of Armenia directly hinder the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict through negotiations and the efforts of the international community in the person of the OSCE Minsk Group,” the statement said.

It should be said that the Armenian Goebbels’ false propaganda claims that Azerbaijan carried out sabotage in the direction of Qazax District on the Azerbaijani-Armenian border, as a result of which the military of the aggressor country, Armenia, was wounded. Another thing is that Azerbaijan was forced to respond to an outright military provocation, as a result of which an Armenian soldier could be wounded. Or did the Armenians want these provocations to get away with them? Let them not hope so!

In this case, we are not talking about provocations on the contact line in Nagorno-Karabakh, which everyone seems to be getting used to, but about the state border between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Yes, this is not the first escalation on the border at which our soldiers die. But nevertheless, this kind of aggravation brings the beginning of a full-scale war not only in Karabakh (that is, on the territory of Azerbaijan), but also along the entire perimeter of the borders of the two states. In other words, the international mediators on the Karabakh settlement should not remain silent about the military clashes at the border, let alone turn a blind eye to the deaths of military personnel.

The problem is that the unresolved Karabakh conflict and the indulgence of the aggressive policy of Armenia on the part of the international community lead to escalation at the border. And, apparently, Yerevan purposefully arranges these dangerous incidents on the state border in order to divert attention from the settlement of the Karabakh conflict.

“In general, what is happening may indicate that Pashinyan is leading the matter to war. It is obvious. It is only unclear why the OSCE Minsk Group does not respond to these attacks of official Yerevan.”

During the talks in Geneva between Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov and Armenian FM Zohrab Mnatsakanyan with the participation of mediators, it was stated that intensification of negotiations is necessary to achieve meaningful results on all issues discussed.

But is it possible to intensify negotiations in the context of ongoing provocations - both in the Karabakh conflict zone and on the border of the two countries? Therefore, as mentioned above the unresolved Karabakh issue directly affects the situation both on the border and on the situation between Azerbaijan and Armenia as a whole.

Nikol Pashinyan, in turn, immediately after the “Munich slap in the face” went to Karabakh, convened a Security Council meeting there, making cheap statements, saying “there will be no concessions to Azerbaijan”.

The Armenian prime minister drags out the settlement and jeopardizes the negotiation process. So why let him speculate in negotiations, blackmail the Minsk Group and ultimately provoke a war - and all for his own reputation?