EU-Mediated Meeting of Armenia, Azerbaijan Leaders:  What is at Stake and What May Come Next?

EU-Mediated Meeting of Armenia, Azerbaijan Leaders: What is at Stake and What May Come Next?

Text by: Tigran Zakaryan

 

On 22 May, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in Brussels held a meeting with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev, hosted by Charles Michel, the President of the European Council. 
The recent meeting was the third of its kind since December 2021 and another one in April this year. The statement issued by the President of the European Council  hints at specific “outcomes” reached during the talks․

 

No longer “Nagorno-Karabakh conflict”? 

According to Michel’s statement, EU official stressed “to both leaders that [in the peace agreement].” Many experts, politicians and observers regarded this as a clear sign of Yerevan’s retreat from the positions of safeguarding the Artsakh people’s right to self-determination and provision of international guarantees to that effect. On the other hand, the EC’s previous statement in April does not mention Nagorno-Karabakh at all, which could also be explained by the EU’s reluctance to avoid involvement in the region currently under undisputed Russian control.   

In any case, even if the EU has decided to play a role in the settlement of the Artsakh issue, it has become more receptive to Baku’s claims of the non-existence of Nagorno-Karabakh as a separate territorial unit and an ongoing conflict linked with it. 

 

Corridor scheme discarded

Another remarkable part of the statement is in the section “Connectivity”, which said that “principles governing transit” through both countries were discussed. The statement particularly mentioned communications between Nakhijevan and the rest of Azerbaijan as well as between different parts of Armenia via Azerbaijan. In the meantime,  there is no reference to the Lachin corridor currently under the Russian control or any specific “Zangezur corridor”, which according to Aliyev’s earlier expressed claims, should have equal status. 

 

Can this be a turning point? 

The absence of any mention of the right to self-determination and the role of the OSCE Minsk group from the statement is definitely problematic and this seems to be an alarming trend in the recent statements by both Western and Russian officials. 

It is not coincidental that immediately following the Brussels summit both Armenia and Azerbaijan announced forming border commissions which are scheduled to hold a meeting in the coming days. This is not something the Russian foreign policy would oppose, however what Moscow would insist on is its own leading role in the resolution of all kinds of conflicts between Armenia and Azerbaijan and in the broader region. 

 

Few hopes, plenty to do  

Armenian Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigoryan’s meeting with Andrzej Kasprzyk, the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office in Yerevan might seem as an unimpressive attempt to redeem the OSCE Minsk group co-chairs’ mediating role. Everything suggests that it will further erode due to the reinvigorated global rivalry between the West and Russia, where few of their interests can be compatible. Moreover, with Moscow’s problems on its western front increasing, attempts to replace the waning Russian influence will grow all across its traditional zone of influence and there may arrive a moment when Yerevan will have to face the challenging      prospect of Russian troops leaving Karabakh. 

Armenian politicians, public figures, intellectuals, and media need to consider earnestly and with utmost seriousness the dire circumstances which Artsakh and Armenia are facing at this moment and discuss all possible choices, including those which involve very bitter pills. One must understand that failure to act unanimously under such urgent conditions will bring nothing but new defeats and loss of hope to recover.