Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said in a recent interview that a new war with Azerbaijan was “very likely” if the two countries were unable to agree a peace treaty. “So long as a peace treaty has not been signed and such a treaty has not been ratified by the parliaments of the two countries, of course, a (new) war (with Azerbaijan) is very likely,” Pashinyan was quoted as saying. The question remains, who is to blame for the peace treaty not being signed thus far?
One of the main saboteurs of the peace process appears to be Moscow, who views Armenia’s recognition of Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan as a worrying development which could lead to their influence lessoning in the region. They watched the peace talks in Brussels with great concern, fearing that they could be booted out of the region by Western leaders seeking to punish Putin for his crimes against humanity in the Ukraine. So, Russia came up with red lines for a peace agreement, which place further obstacles in the way of a future agreement by undermining Armenia’s recognition of Azerbaijani sovereignty over Karabakh, stressing “responsibility for the fate of the Armenian population of Karabakh should not be shifted to third countries.”
It should be emphasized that this came after it was reported in various media outlets that Azerbaijan has accused Russia and Armenia of failing to full-fill their end of a cease-fire deal due to the smuggling that the Russian peace-keepers have permitted along the Lachin Corridor. Azerbaijani activist Raphael Nabizade stressed, “The trilateral statement which was signed between the leaders of Azerbaijan, Russia and Armenia ended the Karabakh conflict. According to the agreement, Russian peacekeepers were deployed to the region in order to observe the ceasefire.”
Yet he stressed that Azerbaijan “has accused Russia of not fulfilling the 2020 Karabakh deal in which the latter one had to withdraw the remaining Armenian armed groups. They have failed to do so over the past three years. On the contrary, Armenian separatists received a bunch of weapons under the observation of Russian peacekeepers through the Lachin road.”
“Baku and Yerevan are close to a peace deal with the help of the U.S. and the European Union,” he noted, even though this is a fact that is not comfortable in Moscow. “The West’s growing influence and diplomatic engagement in the region has angered the Bear. The Kremlin offered the sides to host their foreign ministers and proposed to sign their future peace treaty in Moscow.” But Azerbaijan is not entirely satisfied with this proposal, as Russia is trying to insert into the peace treaty stuff that guarantees autonomy to the local Armenian separatists in Karabakh, which angers Baku, who believes that the rights of the Armenians living in Karabakh should be guaranteed at the national level.
Following this, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko defended the position of his country as follows: “The Russian Federation has always treated the territorial integrity of the Republic of Azerbaijan with respect. At the same time, this does not cancel the task of comprehensively promoting the process of Armenian-Azerbaijani normalization, resolving all issues on the agenda, including ensuring the rights and security of the population of Nagorno-Karabakh, exclusively by peaceful political and diplomatic methods.”
Prominent Azerbaijani journalist Anastasia Lavrina explained Russia’s position as follows: “The decision to have 5-year deployment of Russian peacekeepers in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan became a kind of deadline for the final acceptance of the new reality by the Karabakh Armenians and their gradual preparation for life as part of a multicultural Azerbaijan. One of the main conditions of the tripartite statement signed on November 10, 2020 between Baku, Yerevan, and Moscow was the paragraph on the withdrawal of all Armenian armed forces from the territory of Azerbaijan, in parallel with the deployment of the peacekeeping contingent of the Russian Federation. However, this point has not yet been fulfilled.”
According to her, “Armenian militants are still on the territory of Azerbaijan, organizing provocations and laying mines. This has a very negative impact on the negotiation process on the way to signing the long-awaited peace agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Russia played an important role in the process of signing the tripartite statement on November 10, and the subsequent ones reached in Sochi and in Moscow. Baku undoubtedly appreciates this role, and Russia’s efforts to achieve a comprehensive peace. Armenia is, on the one hand, an ally of Russia, but on the other hand, it is a headache, which only intensifies due to the growth of nationalist sentiment in Yerevan.”
Lavrina noted that “Russia wants to retain its current status in the region and the role of a mediator in the negotiation process. Neither Baku nor Yerevan refuses the help that Moscow can provide. However, individual cases and statements run counter to the agenda reached in the tripartite negotiations are causing concern. Hopefully, the words “territorial integrity” and “sovereignty” will continue to serve as the basis for building a peace agenda.”
In conclusion, Ayoob Kara, who served as Israel’s Communication, Cyber and Defense Minister, stated: “It is very important for the prosperity of both peoples that a peace agreement be signed between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Everyone concern should do their maximum to ensure that a peace treaty is signed. Russia turning a blind eye to the laying of mines and the weapons smuggling in the area does a great disservice to building up the peoples trust in them as an honest broker to resolve the outstanding issues between both peoples. And when the Russian government issues statements that are more radical than that of Armenia’s Prime Minister, this harms the chances for peace and undermines Russia’s position as a mediator. For this reason, I believe both sides now are wary of Moscow, even though they have helped in the past.”
Rachel Avraham is the CEO of the Dona Gracia Center for Diplomacy and an Israel-based journalist. She is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media.”