Azeri, Armenian Leaders In Moscow For Crucial Post-Karabakh Meeting

Fuad Muxtarlı Feature 11 January 2021
Azeri, Armenian Leaders In Moscow For Crucial Post-Karabakh Meeting

After week-long far-fetched speculations about a meeting between the Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders in Moscow on January 11 with the mediation of the Kremlin strongman, it was officially confirmed a day prior to the crucial meeting.

Russian President Vladimir Putin held a Security Council meeting on Nagorno-Karabakh settlement on January 10, the Kremlin reported. 

Prior to the meeting with President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan, Vladimir Putin held a meeting to discuss the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement and the developments in the South Caucasus, the report said, adding that taking part in the meeting were Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, Director of the Federal Security Service Alexander Bortnikov and Director of the Foreign Intelligence Service Sergei Naryshkin.

The Kremlin press service, however, failed to report what specific aspects of the conflict was discussed at the meeting with only Putin’s inner circle.

Today’s meeting comes 61 days after the Second Karabakh War, in which the Azerbaijani army had won a spectacular victory, liberating the most of the territories Armenia had kept under occupation for nearly 30 years.

The Moscow meeting is expected to discuss a large variety of issues that are highly topical for the parties to the Karabakh conflict that left thousands of Azerbaijani villages and towns in ruin with historical and architectural monuments razed to the ground.

The first news of a meeting in Moscow came from the Armenian opposition camp, blaming Nikol Pashinyan for the devastating defeat in the 44-day war. The fact that the news of the meeting was leaked out to the media in Armenia indicates that the government has had a problem with keeping state secrets after the war.

The reason for this might be the fact that people in the government want to sit in two chairs with one butt and therefore, anticipating the departure of the government they also provide the opposition with sensitive information to preserve their posts in future. Another indication of such a development is that the prime minister’s opponents can obtain such confidential information in various ways.

It is no coincidence that since the news was leaked to the media, Pashinyan has been pressured, criticized and even threatened over this meeting. His critics and opponents are claiming that he would sign a document to surrender territories. This suggests that those who can penetrate into the prime minister's office, where secret documents are kept, either know or assume that an agreement would be signed. The Pashinyan government, of course, has consistently denied reports.

The Kremlin confirmed the meeting was initiated by the Russian president but did not give any information on the topics to be discussed or documents to be signed at the meeting.

Three points of the November 10 statement

The November 10 document had three main goals: to end the war, to place peacekeepers in the conflict zone, and to evacuate the three occupied districts of Azerbaijan from the Armenian occupation. In principle, it cannot be said that the document has been fully implemented except for these three points.

Of course, it is impossible to resolve the 32-year-old armed conflict between the two archenemies with a single document. Therefore, there was a serious need for such a meeting and Russian President Putin, as the guarantor of the signed document, understands this very well. Achieving a roundtable meeting 61 days after the end of the war, which resulted in heavy casualties on both sides, is certainly an additional point for Russia. Presumably, all issues of concern to the parties will be put on the table at this meeting. Undoubtedly, some confusion about peacekeepers and problems of concern to Azerbaijan should be clarified at this meeting.

There are many politically oriented problems in the Armenian-populated part of Karabakh. They are the Araik Harutyunyan factor, the "NKR" army and there is no special need to rearrange these problems. The Supreme Commander-in-Chief, Ilham Aliyev, who knows the exact location of almost every stone in Karabakh, who ended the war with victory, is well aware of the problems that concern the people. It is no coincidence that the president revealed important issues of public concern in Karabakh at his latest cabinet meeting: illegal visits of Armenian officials to Karabakh and Armenian armed terrorists.

We can summarize the issues that the Azerbaijani president will raise at the Moscow meeting. 1. Preventing Armenian officials from going to Xankandi via Lachin. 2. The withdrawal of Armenian or Armenian armed gangs from Karabakh. 3. The subject of communications, the definition of borders. 4. Specification of the status of Russian peacekeepers.

Azerbaijani military police in the Lachin corridor?

It is obvious that the Lachin corridor remains a decisive factor in the Karabakh settlement. The president said at the meeting that the peacekeeping forces have well-defined functions there. Aware of the discontent in Azerbaijani society, such as "peacekeepers are building houses for Armenians," the president openly said that the document signed on November 10 did not contain a clause on such humanitarian activities of peacekeepers. "Nevertheless, we allowed it to happen. This indicates to nobility of our soul, magnanimity," the president said.

"I think the November 10 statement should be the basis for future action plan. Apart from this statement, no other document has been signed. It is known that the shortest road from Yerevan to Xankandi and vice versa passes through the Lachin corridor. According to the infographic posted on the official website of the Russian Defense Ministry, six checkpoints have been set up from the Lachin corridor to the entrance to Susa. The joint military service of the Azerbaijani military police with peacekeepers can prevent illegal visits from Armenia.

By the way, according to reports, not only peacekeepers, but also the Armenian military police are stationed on the 11-km-long road between Susa and Xankandi apart from the peacekeepers.

Communications, withdrawal of Armenian militants from the region

As for communications, this issue is also in the economic interests of Russia, and in this matter, there is an opportunity to influence Armenia, to speed up technical issues. First, Armenia needs to neutralize illegal armed groups and remove them from the region where peace is fragile. Because such armed groups are not only dangerous for the Azerbaijani army and Russian peacekeepers but their provocations could bring Armenia back into the conflict, the consequences of which can be very difficult for both the Armenians of Yerevan and Karabakh.

For this reason, Nikol Pashinyan should declare illegal the presence of these groups in Karabakh, rather than embrace them and demand them back when they are detained by the Azerbaijani army as terrorists. By the way, Armenia is demanding the return of members of the terrorist group arrested in Xocavand.

Putin, Macron discuss trilateral Karabakh talks

Vladimir Putin has held a phone conversation with France's President Emmanuel Macron as part of coordination of the actions of the co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group, in the course of which they discussed certain issues connected with the forthcoming trilateral meeting of the Russian, Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders on 11 January, the Kremlin said

Taking into account the subsequent implementation of the joint statement of November 10, 2020 and stabilisation of the situation around Nagorno-Karabakh, it was noted that the main thing to be looked at in this meeting will be further steps towards fostering normal life in the region.

The French president expressed his support for Russia's efforts in furthering the Nagorno-Karabakh peace settlement. The importance was stressed of immediate rendering of humanitarian aid to the population which has suffered from military clashes, including that given by leading international organisations, the report added.