Baku steps up pressure on Yerevan as PM beats about the bush on Karabakh solution

Fuad Muxtarlı Analysis 8 June 2018
Baku steps up pressure on Yerevan as PM beats about the bush on Karabakh solution

Forlorn hopes for an early breakthrough under new Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan for the South Caucasus’ long-drawn-out Karabakh conflict are fading away even without the negotiations are resumed.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s unpredictable sweep to power after popular protests in April-May 2018 renewed hopes for a swift peaceful resolution to the conflict as the protests in the poverty-stricken nation were also triggered by economic hardship, mass exodus of people and the military aggression against the neighboring country coupled with the financial and military burden it has to shoulder at the expense of ordinary Armenians.

However, judging by Pashinyan’s controversial statements on the Karabakh conflict, it is crystal clear that the Armenian prime minister has own agenda and is set to remain loyal to his predecessor’s aggressive policies and drag a solution out to the conflict endlessly. This is not novelty for people familiar with malicious acts of Armenians against Azerbaijan. Armenians have not kicked off the military aggression against Azerbaijani lands to hand it back through negotiations and they will not do so even the Pashinyan government agrees to resumption of the stalled talks under pressure by the OSCE Minsk Group for certain compromises. The scenario has been already repeated by previous rulers of Armenia and remains an option for Pashinyan, too

Experts in Azerbaijan and Armenia as well as the governments of these countries never believed and do not believe that the Karabakh negotiations would result in a mutually acceptable solution. Official Yerevan has been doing everything to reduce efforts to nil and retain the Azerbaijani lands under aggression. This uncertainty benefits Russia as the key supplier of billions of worth of weapons for Azerbaijan and Armenia.

On June 7, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan reiterated his call for the Karabakh separatists' involvement in the peace talks, saying that he cannot represent Karabakh.

"I have reiterated that the talks on the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict cannot be considered complete and effective as long as one of the full parties to conflict - the Karabakh leadership - does not take part in the talks," Pashinyan told the parliament.

After 1998, Armenia's representatives held negotiations on behalf of Karabakh as well. It is another issue whether that was wrong or right. But they had reasons for that, he said, adding that former Armenian presidents, Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sarkisian, were once Karabakh officials.

Therefore, they could have had, or ascribe to themselves, a mandate to negotiate on behalf of Karabakh, irrespective of what attitude we have towards it. I cannot do the same thing. With the best will in the world I cannot entitle myself to conduct talks on behalf of the people of Karabakh as there are no legal, political and moral grounds for that, Pashinyan said.

"The people of Nagorno-Karabakh do not participate in elections in Armenia; they do not participate in forming the government in Armenia. They have their own authorities, their own national assembly, government and president, and they can only be represented by someone who has legal and legitimate grounds for that," Pashinyan said.

Obviously, Nikol Pashinyan is beating about the bush, avoiding bringing the problem to the forefront. A host of difficulties are believed to be behind Pashinyan’s cautious approach to the problem. First, he, though cannot admit, knows that Azerbaijan has achieved military superiority and Armenia has to reckon with it. Second, he is not hopeful about all-out Russian military support as was the case up to now. Third, Moscow does not rely on him as his anti-Russian rhetoric on the Kremlin role in Armenia has not been forgotten. Fourth, he has not been a member of the political establishment and cannot fully trust security agencies shaped under the Karabakh mafia groups led by Kocharyan and Sarkisian for over 20 years. Fifth, his entire government members are pro-Western politicians, who were recipients of scholaships of anti-Russian foundations.

Pashinyan’s career now has reached the top and wherever you go from the top, you will always go down. No matter what Pashinyan started to do in power, his actions will cause disappointment - simply because it is much easier to lead the opposition than to solve the systemic problems of the state where the elites have already formed as well as the mechanism for their reproduction.

It does not matter that there is a political party behind Pashinyan. He cannot lean on it in the matter of recruiting personnel - a clan system has shaped in Armenia. Pashinyan cannot reanimate the Karabakh problem solution process stalled by previous administrations.

Speaking a fast-breaking ceremony at the Office of the Caucasus Muslims, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, for the first time indirectly appealed to the new Armenian leadership, expressing the hope that the Pashinyan will not repeat the mistakes of the former authorities.

"I hope that the new leadership of Armenia will not repeat the mistakes of the previous governments, do serious work to resolve the conflict as soon as possible, and start a real, and not for the sake of imitation, negotiations process. The problem can find a solution. We want this, we demand a settlement to the conflict, we have the right to it, we hope that this issue can soon be solved through negotiations," Ilham Aliyev said.

Judging by the speech in the Armenian parliament on June 7, Nikol Pashinyan again made provocative statements that threaten to disrupt the negotiations. Nobody here expects that the new government will immediately withdraw the occupying forces and immediately rid the Armenian society of myths and hatred towards Azerbaijan. This evil is so ingrained in national ideology and so embedded in the consciousness of the masses that it is impossible to get rid of it overnight.

Pashinyan should realize that the only way out is to negotiate with Azerbaijan. And these negotiations should be based on goodwill. The Azerbaijani society is really ready to rise against the invaders at any moment, and if Armenia is hoping for the absence of a national spirit in Azerbaijan, they are completely wrong.

The Sargsyan regime has for many years demonstrated a stubborn policy in the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and as a consequence, the problem has not been resolved. The position of Armenia in the issue of war or peace depends only on how much its government is able to organize its society, which is easily subjected to aggressive slogans.

Pashinyan added that he is ready to negotiate with the Azerbaijani president within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group. He added that he felt obliged to do everything possible to make the negotiations efficient but that would be difficult if the previously reached agreements remain unfulfilled. Pashinyan also claimed that he was confident that there was no military solution to the Karabakh conflict.

"However, I also want to emphasize that any adventure by the opponent will receive a crushing counter-blow of our armed forces and all Armenian people," he added.

In response to the remarks, the Azerbaijani FM spokesman said that the Armenian leadership's statements are non-constructive and aimed at thwarting the peace negotiations and maintaining the status-quo based on the occupation.

Haciyev urged Yerevan to implement the UN resolutions on the Karabakh conflict adopted in the early 1990s. "If the Armenian leadership are concerned that the reached agreements remains on paper, then it must implement the UN Security Council's relevant resolutions.

Those resolutions demands that the occupying troops be immediately withdrawn from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan," Haciyev said. He added that Azerbaijan has already made a concession to Armenia. Yerevan should understand that Azerbaijan's biggest concession is the 25-year talks with Armenia, the invader and aggressor country, Haciyev concluded.