Will the format of the negotiations on Nagorno-Karabakh change?

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https://www.turan.az-Every serious clash between the armed forces of Azerbaijan and Armenia will certainly affect the negotiation process and multiply the talks about changing its format. Large-scale clashes in July directly on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border were no exception. There are assumptions about the possibility of two duets (Turkey – Azerbaijan and Russia – Armenia), which, in case of initial successes, could gradually pull the entire negotiation process over to their side. It seems that there is not even a need to endow the new format with any official powers. It is characteristic in this regard that the new Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, Jeyhun Bayramov, made his first visits to Turkey (08.11.2020) and Russia (08.26.20). What can you expect?

Official reports do not clarify much the agenda of the discussed issues. However, it can be expected that at the meetings in Ankara the talk was not just about strengthening military cooperation between Turkey and Azerbaijan, but also about mechanisms of direct resistance to any aggression against Baku, an element of which may be the appearance of military bases on the territory of our country. After the large-scale exercises, this task was largely facilitated in connection with the introduction of military contingents and weapons of Turkey.

Although the second trip of the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister could rely on some dividends received in Turkey, it is clear that the final formula for the further course of the conflict resolution process as a whole depends on the agreements between V. Putin and T. Erdogan, which, apparently, have not been completed at this point. Perhaps that is why, following the talks in Moscow, J. Bayramov stated, “no progress has been observed in the settlement of the conflict.”

What exactly did K. Lavrov say? It is clear that it is necessary to intensify the negotiations, without resorting to changing their format. This naturally includes the rejection of Armenian claims to include the de facto authorities of Karabakh in the negotiation process, but also, possibly, Turkish claims to expand its influence in one format or another. One should not be deceived by the words that the accumulated base of agreements on the Karabakh settlement should remain, since just it that successfully led the negotiations into a standstill end without turning them into substantive, excluding imitation. Therefore, Bayramov’s demand that “all actions and all statements that are made and which serve to undermine the negotiation process should be condemned both by the international community and, first of all, by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs, sounded like a cry in the desert.” When it was? And if so, what are the consequences?! At the same time, Bayramov, according to reports, did not touch upon significant military supplies to Armenia before the crisis (which, it turns out, Russia knew about in advance) and until today.

Lavrov, meanwhile, did not fail to designate at least indirectly the initiator of the beginning of the July clash, confirming that Moscow was transferring weapons to the aggressor. How long can Russia’s ambivalence continue? Obviously, this will largely depend on the relationship between Ankara and Moscow. In this regard, attention is drawn to a number of publications of the Turkish press (“Cumhuriyet”), in which the issues of cooperation between the two regional powers in one format or another are being lobbied. Mehmet Ali Güller (07.21.20) believes that the new authorities of Armenia are asleep and see their country in a political and economic union with the West. Therefore he  makes a rather bold conclusion that  behind the July escalation was not  Russia, but the United States, at one time contributing to the “color revolution” and seeking to win over Yerevan (with the help of the diaspora) to their side. The conflict became a good reason for the implementation of such a plan: “if Russia provides assistance to Armenia in accordance with the CSTO charter, then Pashinyan will succeed in opposing both Azerbaijan and Turkey and will use this success in domestic politics. If Russia does not intervene in the problem so as not to clash with Turkey, Pashinyan will be able to convince the public in the country of the need to interact with the United States. The Turkish journalist ends his free thoughts with the resurrection of the Astana platform, since the 3 + 3 formula (Russia, Turkey, Iran) proposed by Tehran will solve all the problems of the South Caucasus.

More straightforward is the “Milliyet” newspaper (Turkey, 08.19.20) according to which Erdogan and Putin realize the high cost of the senselessness of the clashes between the two countries, taking into account the “intention of other states”. These intentions lie in the fact that the policy of NATO expansion in the Balkans, the Black Sea, the Caucasus and Eastern Europe is aimed at encircling not only Russia, but also Turkey. Therefore, it is possible that an improvement in relations will lead to the collapse of NATO’s southeastern wing in favor of Russia. In these conditions, Ankara and Moscow will be able to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict (we would like to add – just like in 1920 – autonomy within Azerbaijan).

Against this background, the position of the former co-chair of the Minsk Group Matthew Bryza looks more balanced, believing that Ankara and Moscow can fill the diplomatic vacuum and convince their allies to return to the negotiating table (Atlanticcouncil.org, 27.08.20). He supports the version that the Armenian side initiated the July clashes in Tovuz. The motive is the creation of a threat to the strategic transport routes of Azerbaijan, which the United States has been promoting for twenty-five years to help its European allies reduce their dependence on Russia, while avoiding Iran. Bryza could not avoid the topic of road and rail lines, airspace, which constitute an important channel for the United States’ material and technical supply to Afghanistan. This moment, in turn, closely affects the Chinese initiative “One Belt, One Road”, which is trying to replace the western transit lines of communication in Central Asia and the South Caucasus.

Bryza believes that the special relationship between Tehran and Yerevan makes it possible to expand the trade corridor to Armenia and further to the post-Soviet and European markets thanks to Armenia’s membership in the Eurasian Economic Union. In addition, Iran delivers fuel to Nagorno-Karabakh via Armenia, and its airspace was used to deliver weapons by Russia to Armenia after the July clash with Azerbaijan.

Because the conflict is going from Karabakh to the border zone of the two countries, Matthew Bryza believes that it is time for Moscow and Ankara to fill the diplomatic vacuum. Apparently, Azerbaijan should develop its own plan for resolving the conflict, since most of the existing proposals take into account our interests in the last place.

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