Armenia Adjusts to reality Created by Baku on Ground


Armenia Adjusts to reality Created by Baku on Ground

Interview with political analyst Tigran Grigoryan

The Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers’ unprecedented four-days-long talks in the US are over and few if anything is known about its details and possible outcomes of that unprecedented encounter. Regional Post asked the head of Regional Centre for Democracy and Security, political analyst Tigran Grigoryan for comments and insights on the pitfalls and challenges in the Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiation process and the direction they are heading to.

Interview: Tigran Zakaryan


- The talks in Washington had just finished with a half-hearted optimism by the host country’s representative, State Secretary Blinken. Is there any room for optimism at all and can come out of those negotiations?  In other words, is peace anywhere near, or we are facing yet another deception?
The purpose of this round of negotiations was to conclude some sort of document, the Americans are clearly willing to have some sort of document signed by the end of the week. However, there are several significant obstacles in the process. The sides mainly agree on the majority of the [points] in the document, however the devil is in the details. There are three fundamental obstacles that create difficulties for the progress of the peace process. 

The first one is related to the establishment of the mechanism for the direct talks between Baku and Stepanakert. As we know Yerevan sees this as a necessary precondition for signing of peace agreement. Basically Yerevan announces its readiness to sign the document – which by the way is an Azerbaijani draft document. There is lots of misperception in Armenia about western proposal; in fact the West doesn’t have any proposal and few, if any ideas on proposed to the sides documented on paper. Yerevan’s position is that we need to agree on the establishment of the direct mechanism of talks between Baku and Stepanakert, which should be an international and providing for the continuity of talks and Yerevan insists that it should be clearly mentioned in the document to be signed. Yerevan is ready to sign a document provisioning mutual recognition of territorial integrity provided that there is such a clause in it. For Azerbaijan this is a non-starter and they exclude any kind of international involvement and see this as a purely domestic affair and want to pursue their “integration” agenda. Probably this is the most fundamental difference between the sides. If the Armenian side doesn’t make any concessions on this matter I don’t see any possibility of signing any peace agreement any time soon. 

The second obstacle is related to the understanding of the concept of territorial integrity. The question is what maps should be at the base of negotiations. Armenia’s positions that the maps indicating the situation as of 1991 should be taken as the starting point, while Baku avoids indicating any particular map. There even have been proposals by the mediators to clearly indicate maps to be taken as starting point for delimitations and Baku rejected delimitation based on the 1991 maps. This is a fundamental problem and there are issues linked to it. For instance the issue of withdrawing troops from the Armenian territories since May 2021. I personally don’t think they are going to do that and this is a very significant obstacle to the peace process. 

And finally the third one is related to the Armenian government’s perception that there should be a sort of mechanism of guarantees or guarantors in place to ensure Baku’s adherence to the treaty provisions. I don’t think this is feasible at this moment because the Americans clearly don’t want to take any responsibility and overall the international environment is not conducive to the creation of such mechanisms. Even the Armenian prime minister is talking about the collapse of the international security architecture so under such conditions placing guarantees or guarantors is a bit far-fetched.

Any document is possible if the Armenian side makes in any or all of these three key points. As far as I understand the first day of negotiations were quite positive, they were called “constructive” but as the turn came to discuss those very important details the difficulties arose and it is unlikely that there was some sort of breakthrough. We have seen statements by the Azerbaijani president on an intention to work out a sort of roadmap which has to be implemented before signing of the peace treaty. 


- Why would the USA engage in a peace process where it abstains from acting as a guarantor of some kind? Why would at all US initiate talks which are almost certainly doomed to failure and why Armenia would sign a treaty without any guarantor?

First of all, we need to clarify some definitions. I don’t believe the US is engaged in mediation. What it is engaged in is facilitation and this is indicated by them in public statements. They don’t have their own proposals and at times they can even be absent from the actual talks, but they provide the venue, bringing the sides together.  They are doing this because they see some sort of “historic opportunity” for peace in the region, as State Secretary Blinken likes to call it since last spring. There are two factors contributing to the understanding of this term, the first is that the decline of the Russian influence in the region while Moscow also has a great potential of obstructing the process and this is the general impression in the West. The second factor is Nikol Pashinyan’s speech of April 13 2022 on “lowering the bar of expectations” which marked a turning point the Armenian official position. This shift of the official Yerevan’s position which had existed for decades gave lots of optimism to the decision makers in the West. But this optimism is also ambiguous because it does not imply any engagement or involvement into the process, let alone assume any responsibility for its possible failure. I think if ultimately something is signed it will be done through EU’s mediation. 


- Why would Armenia sign an agreement at all if there is no guarantee that it won’t be violated the next day and what can be any better for us if we reject signing such a document at all? 

I think the calculus if that by engaging in the process and by signing a document Yerevan can have the backing of the international community in case of a large-scale attack against Armenia. Nikol Pashinyan’s speech of 2022 I mention just a moment ago also mentions some kind of an international consolidation on the issue. There is the naïve understanding that international community can defend one’s borders instead of a country itself. In my private conversations with high ranking officials I came to hear that the main objective of the Armenian foreign policy is to adjust its position with the international community’s one in the hope that the latter will in its turn defend Armenia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. The international community, as we see it, basically accepts the facts on the ground and Azerbaijan is the party which is changing them, creating new facts in Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia as well all the time. So Azerbaijan is adjusting the international community to the reality it creates on the ground, while Armenia is adjusting itself to the international community’s position shaped by Azerbaijani actions. In the final account this means Yerevan adjusts itself to the facts created by Azerbaijan. In fact the whole peace treaty agenda is imposed on not just Armenia but the international community as well, by Azerbaijan. There was no talk of any peace treaty before the start of the Russo-Ukrainian war. Instead there was talks about specific directions in talks, such as Karabakh, demarcation of borders, opening of communications etc. Now everyone talking about the peace in the region always mentions a peace treaty as its chief prerequisite. In fact the reality is much more complex. You can sign a peace treaty but there are lots of outstanding issue which need to be resolved, however understanding of that is not shown even by the mediators.     

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