Nagorno-Karabakh conflict: Against a background of Russian President`s Baku visit and Dushanbe Summit of CIS

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Baku, 4 October 2018 –

There is no need to prove how crucial it is to find a solution to the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The whole world realizes this. Unfortunately, the Armenian leaders find it very difficult to understand the significance of settling the dispute in a peaceful manner. Nikol Pashinyan`s government makes controversial statements on the conflict. Against this background, Vladimir Putin`s visit to Baku, which was immediately followed by the summit of the CIS heads of state in Dushanbe, is of particular importance from several points of view. Experts are studying possible connections between vital statements made by the Russian President in the Azerbaijani capital and Pashinyan`s aspiration to speak with Ilham Aliyev in Dushanbe. The Azerbaijani President agreed to talk with the Armenian prime minister, which made the Armenians very happy. They described the fact that President Ilham Aliyev and Pashinyan reached agreement on some issues as a step forward. We would like to look at the current situation in the light of Vladimir Putin`s Baku visit and the summit in Dushanbe.

Ceasefire: What made Nikol Pashinyan happy?

The fact that the Russian President visited Azerbaijan and did not go to Yerevan has sparked heated debate in Armenia. The Armenian media believe that it is not occasional, and consider it as Vladimir Putin`s diplomatic move. They think that the Russian leader gave a message that certain corrections may be made to Moscow`s geopolitical priorities in the South Caucasus. Cooperation with Azerbaijan has taken on an added geopolitical importance for Russia. Relations between the two countries may rise from the level of strategic partnership to the level of alliance.

Indeed, Vladimir Putin`s visiting Azerbaijan and his talks with President Ilham Aliyev demonstrate Russia`s serious political interest. Moscow seems determined to elevate relationship with Baku to a new level. And the main reason for this was highlighted by Vladimir Putin in Baku. The Russian leader said: "Russia-Azerbaijan relations are built on equal cooperation of two independent states based on mutual respect.'' All issues are addressed on the basis of this principle, including the talks to find a solution to the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Against a background of these warm relations, some experts speak of the possibility of Azerbaijan`s joining the Collective Security Treaty organization and the Eurasian Economic Union. But these experts either took a one-sided approach to the issue, or they do not properly realize the nature of Azerbaijan-Russia relationship. The point is that Azerbaijan is not looking for an elder brother in order to liberate its historical lands. Baku is trying to restore its right through pursuing an independent foreign policy. Azerbaijan does not need to join any military, geopolitical or economic organization. But in case such a need arises necessary steps will be taken to the benefit of the national statehood.

This side of the point is not so important. What is more important is that certain comparisons can be made between Vladimir Putin`s Baku visit and the summit of the CIS heads of state in Dushanbe. This comparison gets an added topicality in the context of the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

According to the media reports and official statements, Ilham Aliyev and Nikol Pashinyan had a brief talk in Dushanbe, which was initiated by the Armenian prime minister. Pashinyan immediately and happily shared the news on his Twitter account. He was happy because Ilham Aliyev agreed to observe the ceasefire regime. But he once again distorted the real situation because it is Armenia that violates ceasefire and does not keep its promises. The Armenian armed units are regularly committing provocations on the frontline, forcing the Azerbaijani army to retaliate. So by distorting the situation Pashinyan is trying to play another trick. He wants to create a wrong impression that it is not Armenians who violate the ceasefire and that "finally, ‘aggressor’ Azerbaijan was forced to observe the ceasefire''. And who "persuades'' Azerbaijan? Of course, it is "democrat'', "street hero'' and "guarantor'' of Armenian independence Nikol Pashinyan.

Forbearing Baku: Towards a historic victory

But the real situation is obvious. Pashinyan has already started to realize that speaking the language of force with the Azerbaijani leadership is useless. The president of a superpower such as Russia says that relationship with Azerbaijan is built on the principles of equality and mutual respect for national interests. In addition, Moscow is expanding and deepening its cooperation with Baku in all areas. So it is clear that Russia does not want Azerbaijan to be weakened, and on the contrary, is interested in its becoming stronger because every state wants its partner to be reliable and keep its word.

These simple comparisons show that the Armenian prime minister`s attempt to communicate with the Azerbaijani President was absolutely expected. Armenia is completely confident that sooner or later it will be forced to withdraw from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. Russia is demanding this too. So the only reasonable way for Armenia to save its face is to liberate the occupied lands through negotiations.

On the one hand, Pashinyan is trying to save the Armenian armed units from the deadly strikes of the Azerbaijani army, while on the other, he is trying to build himself an image of a savior in the Armenian society. This is why he wrote "it is the first time I had a good sleep since becoming prime minister'' on his Twitter account.

There is a logical connection between Vladimir Putin`s visit to Baku and a brief talk on the Nagorno-Karabakh in Dushanbe. The dynamics of the development of Russia-Azerbaijan relationship reinforces Baku`s standing in CIS. Armenia cannot get much anticipated support within CIS. And the recent developments demonstrated that none of the CIS member states intend to build relations with Armenia in a format proposed by Yerevan.

This has forced Armenia to give up their demands and try to find some common ground with Azerbaijan. Otherwise, it will face big catastrophes.

Vladimir Putin`s statements in Baku have undoubtedly seriously affected Nikol Pashinyan`s behavior. In fact, the Armenian prime minister faces a dilemma: he has to either give up his failed stand or receive a powerful blow. And which option to choose is up to Yerevan.

Interestingly, the Armenian media are again trying to distort the reality. They dubbed the brief talk in Dushanbe as a diplomatic triumph.

The Armenian media seem to be trying to earn Pashinyan some points in his confrontation with the parliament. But everybody knows that one day they will stop doing this. So we do not believe that the media`s "Dushanbe show'' will run for long. They will soon start criticizing Pashinyan for what they commended him.

Azerbaijan is pursuing a consistent policy. Ilham Aliyev has repeatedly said that he wants the conflict to be solved based on the principles of Azerbaijan`s sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of borders. To achieve this the Azerbaijani diplomacy is doing its utmost. Baku has always acted within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group and in compliance with the documents adopted by international organizations. Azerbaijan is also trying its best to ensure full obedience to the principles set forth in the documents adopted by mediators and international organizations. So the will of the Azerbaijani leadership dominated in Dushanbe, and the Armenian side well realizes that it has nothing to do but remain silent.

At the same time there is one thing that Azerbaijan will never make any concession on – territorial integrity. This means that no second Armenian state can be established on the Azerbaijani soil. In addition, "NKR'' can never be legalized, and no inch of land will be given to the aggressor. And finally, Pashinyan`s rushing to call from Dushanbe to the head of the separatist regime in the Nagorno-Karabakh to congratulate him is nothing but a cheap promotional move. It is a well-known fact that Bako Saakyan is a member of Serzh Sargsyan`s team, and Pashinyan declared them enemies. So the Armenian prime minister is firing blanks. Separatists like Saakyan know very well that the destiny of the Nagorno-Karabakh will be decided by the People and Army of Azerbaijan. And it is not Pashinyan who decides when, where and at whom to fire.

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