Direct peace talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the South Caucasus context are becoming more and more vivid, as evidenced by the one-day working visit of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to Georgia.
On October 24, Aliyev arrived in Tbilisi and held consultations with Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, who has been implementing shuttle diplomacy between Baku and Yerevan since the spring of 2021, in particular, culminating in the release of 15 Armenian prisoners of war in exchange for maps of minefields created by Armenia during the occupation of part of the territory Azerbaijan in 1992-2020.
Georgia, whose mediating mission was accepted by the Azerbaijani and Armenian sides, was able to provide a confidential communication channel, which, no less than the European and Russian formats of negotiations, led the parties to sign a large peace agreement. Ilham Aliyev and Nikol Pashinyan announced their readiness to sign it during their Prague meeting on October 6, mediated by European Council President Charles Michel and French President Emanuel Macron.
“We presented our proposals to the Armenian side, which consist of five main principles. I hope that the Armenian side will also show political will and sign a peace treaty with Azerbaijan based on these fundamental principles recognized by the international community. If this happens, there will be peace in the South Caucasus and at the same time there will be opportunities for cooperation. Today, during the conversation, we exchanged views on the start of Georgia-Azerbaijan-Armenia consultations,” Aliyev said at the final press conference in the Mukhrani Palace.
“Mr. President, I also support the initiative you put forward in Prague to create a format for cooperation in the South Caucasus,” Garibashvili said.
From the total statements, we can conclude that Yerevan agreed to sign a peace agreement and start a post-conflict process in the troika format. In the past, Armenia refused the initiative to create the South Caucasus format of cooperation proposed by Aliyev.
Aliyev first proposed using the Azerbaijan-Armenia-Georgia trilateral format to consolidate sustainable peace in the South Caucasus region at the Ninth Global Baku Forum on June 17 this year.
It is intermediate between the initiative of the Six Platform (was put forward by Erdogan after the end of the second Karabakh war. It included six countries – the South Caucasian Azerbaijan-Armenia-Georgia and neighboring Iran-Turkey-Russia) and the five format (was put forward by the Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili , and included Azerbaijan-Armenia-Georgia and EU-US). The formats were codenamed 3+3 and 3+2. The first format did not suit Armenia because of the presence of Turkey in it, and the second format did not suit Georgia because of the presence of Russia.
“Our position is clear, and the position of the Georgian government is clear, that we must start dialogue and contacts. But, of course, without Armenia it will be impossible,” Aliyev said at the Baku forum. At that time, Armenia refused the proposed meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the South Caucasus countries with the mediation of Georgia.
However, a month later, with the mediation of Garibashvili, on July 16, the first direct meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan and Armenia, Jeyhun Bayramov and Ararat Mirzoyan, took place in Tbilisi. After that, the formed working groups actually agreed through their channels all the contentious issues, which ultimately resulted in an agreement in Prague on October 6 to sign a peace agreement without preconditions, the main of which was Armenia’s demand for a preliminary determination of the status of the Armenian-populated territory of Karabakh.
A reasonable question arises: Will Azerbaijan and Armenia be able to leave confrontation in the past and move on to allied relations within the “three”, at a time when the mediators – the West and Russia accuse each other of undermining the peaceful Armenian-Azerbaijani process?
Probably yes. This is supported by the fact that Aliyev’s tripartite initiative is a compromise, non-bloc and intermediate between the 3+3 and 3+2 peacekeeping formats.