Vienna talks: restoration of territorial integrity as prerequisite

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Baku, 30 March 2019 –

The meeting between Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in Vienna on March 29 sparked interest of experts and media. The sides hadn`t held discussions on the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict for quite a while because of a change of government in Armenia in the wake of certain political developments. The process has now been revitalized. The OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs also attended the talks. Following the negotiations, the conflict parties and the co-chairs made positive remarks. In a statement, the co-chairs openly welcomed a positive point. The Armenian prime minister also described the talks as fruitful in general. However, the Azerbaijani President gave the most accurate and comprehensive description of the issue. This article will give a geopolitical insight into the Vienna meeting.

Meeting held: format unchanged!

The Armenians are happy that Nikol Pashinyan managed to have an official meeting with the President of Azerbaijan to discuss the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Before Vienna, Ilham Aliyev and Nikol Pashinyan met in Dushanbe and Davos. But the Vienna meeting was their first official talk. The meeting that lasted for more than three hours took place on March 29.

Why are the Armenians happy? They believe that if Nikol Pashinyan managed to hold discussions with President this means that Azerbaijan recognizes legitimacy of the new Armenian government and understands the necessity of discussing certain issues with Yerevan. In fact, it is a normal case of international law, which does not cause any problem for Azerbaijan. So what is most interesting for Armenia is that Azerbaijan has not yet embarked on the military plan of liberating its occupied lands. Armenian media reports reveal that it is the prospect of war that frightens Yerevan the most.

But the reality is different because Azerbaijan never objected to peaceful resolution of the conflict, instead remaining committed to this policy through years. But the Azerbaijani army has adequately retaliated against any provocation of Armenia. The latest such provocation took place in April 2016 and then in Nakhchivan. The Armenian government understood that talking to Azerbaijan the language of force will have disastrous consequences for them. That is why they were eager to arrange Nikol Pashinyan`s meeting with Ilham Aliyev.

The Vienna talks demonstrated Armenia`s inability to give any positive impulse to the negotiations, among other issues. Armenia`s attempts to involve the separatist and terrorist regime in the talks was a complete fiasco. The Armenian prime minister did not have any other option than to sit on the negotiating table with the Azerbaijani President. And no representative of the illegal Nagorno-Karabakh Republic was present. This proved that Nikol Pashinyan`s "common security council" plan burst like a bubble. After "the joint meeting of the security councils of Armenia and Artsakh (Karabakh – editor`s note)" Nikol Pashinyan said that "Artsakh did not allow him to speak on its behalf". But in Vienna the Armenian prime minister was in fact talking on behalf of all the Armenian separatists. He was talking of humanitarian ties and the establishment of relations between nations. He happily described the Vienna meeting as positive, saying although there was no progress in the talks, "the negotiations began". The Armenian government is happy that the talks began. It is natural because once you see the power of the Azerbaijani army you hope not to face it on the battleground again. But there other side of the story.

Peaceful settlement of the dispute is undoubtedly in Azerbaijan`s interest too. The most important is to liberate the occupied lands, pull the aggressor out and make the Armenians get rid of the Turkish-Muslim phobia. But Armenian defense minister Tonoyan`s remarks in Washington demonstrate that this country`s non-constructive stance still remains unchanged. The Armenian minister shamelessly coined "a new war for new territories" phrase. Interestingly, the USA considers itself the cradle of democracy, and while there the Armenian minister declares that his country is going to occupy new Azerbaijani territories. Washington did not react to Tonoyan`s absurd statement that runs completely contrary to international law. But what would the West`s reaction be, if such a statement was made by the defense minister of Iran or any other Muslim country? The answer lies in what happened and is now happening in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and other Muslim countries.

In fact, such statements are just empty words for Azerbaijan. The Armenian army will be completely destroyed in case it makes a step in the direction of Azerbaijan. The Armenians know this very well and have no doubts that "a new war for new territories'' will bring them only new tragedies. However, while the Armenian prime minister was speaking of humanitarian relations in Vienna, his defense minister was declaring a new war in the US, which clearly demonstrates the ridiculousness of the Armenian political thought. So it is not clear what the result of the talks, which Pashinyan described as positive, will be.

Moment of truth: President characterized the talks objectively and accurately

The Armenians` views look especially silly and prejudiced against a background of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev`s accurate, objective and laconic comments. In an interview with the Russian news agency TASS, the head of state said: "As you know, the foreign ministers have held several rounds of talks. The meeting is important because a new start has been given to the negotiating process on the subject matter. We have discussed issues related to the strengthening of confidence-building measures, perhaps within the framework of contacts between people. In previous years, there were contacts between members of the public. It is too early to talk about it now, but as far as humanitarian issues are concerned, this is implied. After all, the negotiations should also be supported by humanitarian actions, of course."

This means that confidence in the negotiation process is still important. On the positive side, the talks on the essence of the issue have started. This may pave the way for the discussion of the humanitarian issues, but it is too early to speak about it now. The Azerbaijani President went on to say: "But I think that it is important that the format of negotiations has remained unchanged. The negotiations are held between Armenia and Azerbaijan, as has been the case for many years. Secondly, a new impetus has been given to the process of negotiations. This is also important. We have a positive assessment of the statement by Minsk Group co-chairs from 9 March. You are probably aware of it. It says that changes to the negotiating format can only take place with the consent of the two parties. The Azerbaijani side did not give its consent for that, of course. Therefore, in principle, we have returned to a situation when it is necessary to continue substantive negotiations."

The format of the negotiations is obviously crucial to their success. Neither Azerbaijan, nor the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs backed Pashinyan`s idea to change the format of the negotiations. This means that the Armenian prime minister was unwillingly forced to sit on the negotiating table in the previous format. Otherwise, Armenia would have suffered serious blows. Despite the Armenian media hysteria, official Yerevan failed again and seems unlikely to be able to put forward any proposal. The continuation of the talks in this format demands taking into consideration the UN Charter, Helsinki Final Act and numerous international documents on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution. This, in turn, automatically puts the condition that Azerbaijan`s territorial integrity must be restored. President Ilham Aliyev said: "And instructions have been given to the Ministers of Foreign Affairs. They will probably meet in the near future in order to continue the negotiations, which should be focused on the result. For Azerbaijan, the issue of de-occupation of internationally recognized territories of Azerbaijan within the framework of international law, the Helsinki Final Act and four resolutions of the UN Security Council, which require an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian forces from the occupied territories, is in the first place."

A very exact, accurate and clear expression – Armenian armed forces must withdraw from the occupied lands immediately and unconditionally, four resolutions of the UN Security Council must be implemented! Provided that these conditions are met, no one will object to humanitarian relations. Humanitarian relationship is not the purpose, it is a psychological factor necessary for ensuring Azerbaijan`s territorial integrity. It is high time that the Armenian society understands this reality. The positive side of the Vienna talks is that such issues are already being discussed.

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