There is a tug-of-war between Moscow and Ankara, and Armenia is caught in-between the two.

The 44-day war was necessary for Russia to return its military force back in Azerbaijan. It was also necessary for Turkey to deliver a victory to Azerbaijan, in return, to buy its sovereignty.

For a long time, Turkey had been looking for just such an opportunity. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is more elated with the victory than President Ilham Aliyev because a historic Turkish dream is coming true. That is why Mr. Erdogan evoked Enver Pasha, who had tried to build a Turanic empire a century ago, during the victory parade. Now, one impediment on that road map has been removed with the declaration signed by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, President Vladimir Putin and Aliyev on November 9, 2020, the centerpiece of which was the building of a road between mainland Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan through the southern tip of Armenia.

The declaration has not yet been fully interpreted. The Turkish and Azerbaijani sides claim the roadway should operate under extra-territorial rights, supervised by Russian peacekeeping forces, while Armenia insists on its normal use when all transportation routes are unblocked for all parties.

Turkey controls Azerbaijan militarily and politically, which in the long term will turn into economic control. Ankara has been quick to extend Azerbaijani oil and gas lines to the Balkan countries and the rest of Europe, gradually weaning those countries from dependency on Russian energy.

Therefore, Moscow, in addition to its military adventure in Azerbaijan, has been trying to entice the latter to join the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) bloc. Technically, Armenia can veto Azerbaijan’s membership to that economic club, but under the current circumstances, when Armenia has become the underdog, Russia will not give a hoot for Yerevan’s opinion.

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That treatment was even manifested in the protocols accorded to Aliyev and Pashinyan when they arrived in Moscow for the tripartite summit on January 11.

There was tremendous apprehension in Armenia about Pashinyan’s trip to Moscow to meet with Putin and Aliyev, because a justified fear existed that Pashinyan might be forced to sign another agreement without any consultation, leading Armenia to experience even deeper problems, in addition to the ones already inflicted by the November 9 declaration.

But as it turned out, the meeting was for setting up a mechanism to implement the terms of the November 9 declaration.

Welcoming his two guests, President Putin expressed his satisfaction that the principles of the November 9 declaration were being implemented under the supervision of Russian peacekeeping forces and that 48,000 displaced Armenian refugees from Karabakh had returned to their homes.

To put it in perspective, before the war, the number of Armenians living in Karabakh was at 150,000.

And investments were being made by Russia to return life to normal in the amputated enclave, Putin added.

The meeting agreed to work towards “unblocking all economic and transportation routes in the region.”

Toward that end, the parties agreed to form a Working Group comprising the vice prime ministers of the three countries.

A timetable was set for the Working Group to hold its first meeting on January 30, and to submit a plan for the “implementation and security of international traffic carried out by the Republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia” by March 1.

A protocol for the implementation of the program may have been signed in Moscow, but that in and of itself does not mean much, since basic problems remain unresolved.

Before his Moscow trip, President Aliyev made some provocative statements, on the occasion of the visit of Armenian’s Foreign Minister Ara Aivazyan to Karabakh. Aliyev has requested that all Karabakh visitors first seek Baku’s permission. He has even threatened to kill any visiting politicians by drones. Russian peacekeepers, and for that matter, Moscow, have kept silent.

If the roads will be unblocked and supervised by Russian peacekeepers, why the threat? Aliyev has announced that very soon, roads will be constructed through Armenia to begin traffic between mainland Azerbaijan and the exclave of Nakhichevan.

It has also been reported that Turkish aircraft are now entering Armenian airspace to fly from Turkey to Azerbaijan. If point 8 of the declaration has not been implemented yet, why is there this unilateral rush to take advantage of its provisions?

Following the signing of this new document on January 11, the three leaders have made contradictory declarations.

Putin has expressed his satisfaction that both sides have been honoring the terms of the declaration. Aliyev has announced that the problem is behind us and it is time to open up the roads and develop businesses in the region. Pashinyan has complained that the issue of prisoners of war has not yet been resolved, making it impossible to implement the other terms.

Indeed, those roads cannot be built over the ashes of Armenian martyrs.

As for the Armenian prisoners of war, Azerbaijan is holding them as hostages and is hampering the work of finding and identifying the dead soldiers to cause more pain for the Armenian public, with the full knowledge that not releasing the POWs will cause further destabilization in Armenia.

He has also started to characterize the Armenian POWs as terrorists to find an excuse — or justification — for not releasing them, or worse.

The speeches following the signing of the document sounded like three deaf people had spoken to each other.

Russia believes that it has created facts on the ground and that is final. President Putin announced time and again that the status of Karabakh will be determined at a future date. Pashinyan reminded those present of the status issue but there was no response from the other parties.

If one of the principles of the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has been met, namely the restoration of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, then it is time to address the other issue, that of Karabakh’s self-determination. The future is now.

Putin has been offering some lip service to the Minsk Group, believing that the co-chairs will go along his actions. It does not seem that it will happen.

President Emmanuel Macron of France has been pursuing the issue on behalf of the other two co-chairs, as the US is caught in its own domestic debacle.

Before the Moscow meeting, Mr. Macron had taken the initiative to call Putin and Pashinyan, stating that the political aspects of the Karabakh problem have to be addressed.

A public announcement from the Russian Foreign Ministry states that Macron and Putin have discussed the humanitarian aspects of the war, with no mention of the political aspects.

Talking to President Putin, Macron stated that in addition to the humanitarian issues, the Minsk Group should also address the political solution of the problem and reminded him of the resolutions passed by both chambers of the French legislature recognizing Karabakh’s independence. He also made clear that under no condition would unilateral solutions be accepted by the other co-chairs of the Minsk group.

Now that France has forcefully taken a pro-Armenian position, who is the skillful diplomat who could reach out to France and extend the country’s position to the entire Minsk Group?

After his meeting in Moscow, Pashinyan was planning to meet with Armenian business leaders in Moscow. Instead, he faced a hostile demonstration outside the Armenian Embassy in Moscow and returned to Armenia empty-handed to face more hostile groups.

Thus, it is a mission impossible for Pashinyan.

In addition to the 17 parties, President Armen Sarkissian has announced that he is planning to lead Armenia toward the Fourth Republic, hoping to form a transition cabinet of technocrats.

Resignation calls have been getting louder for Pashinyan and his team as they have demonstrated that solving Armenia’s current problems are beyond their capacity. They lack diplomatic skills but their arrogance matches their ignorance. Against all the calls for resignation, they have stuck to their position that only snap elections can dislodge them from office, with the firm belief that they control the state apparatus and can win the elections just as former leaders Serzh Sargsyan and Robert Kocharyan did.

The 17 parties include the Republican Party and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, whose records are well documented. Additionally, Pashinyan’s propaganda machine has demonized them enough to discredit them.

President Armen Sarkissian seems to be the only viable alternative but he is also the victim of the government’s vilification machine.

Armenian society is gravely polarized and social media networks are working overtime to further aggravate the situation.

Both the government and the opposition have their well-oiled social media networks to throw mud at their opponents, at the cost of the erosion of public trust.

If all-powerful President Trump’s Twitter account can be silenced to forestall an insurrection, why can’t Armenia do the same to reduce tensions and create a more positive atmosphere for public discourse?

Only after the toning down of this rhetoric can the public heal its wounds, pull together and think about Armenia’s perilous future, before their own.

Until then, Armenia faces its own mission impossible.

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