As the June 20 parliamentary elections approach, the parties have been digging up dirt on each other. But what Michael Minasyan recently divulged went beyond the limits of the election campaign and dealt directly with some existential issues regarding Armenia. Minasyan is Serzh Sargsyan’s son-in-law and was Armenia’s former ambassador to the Holy See in the Vatican. He holds sway in Armenia’s media; although he lives in exile, he has been able to wreak havoc in Armenia’s political scene with some sensational revelations and vitriolic criticism of the administration of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. He has proven time and again that he has close relations with political quarters in Armenia and in neighboring countries.

Pashinyan was caught by surprise when the secret document was released. One of the opposition leaders, Edmon Marukyan, took Pashinyan to task by requesting a special session of parliament, where he asked that any international agreement could become valid only after the vote by parliament or by public referendum.

Pashinyan, surprised, had to acquiesce to the fact that indeed, there was a document under consideration and that he is ready to sign it, because the agreement is 100 percent in Armenia’s favor.

Neither Pashinyan nor Marukyan revealed the content of the document.

Pashinyan was asked why the document was kept secret from the Armenian people if it were so favorable. His answer was that the details of the agreement were still being negotiated and that it was not right to publicize them while they were still in the process of study and negotiations.

He also took the opportunity to take pot shots at his nemesis, Minasyan, whom he accused of dealing with the Azerbaijani government, which might be the culprit in releasing the document to unauthorized people to throw a monkey wrench in Armenia’s election process.

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It turns out that even Foreign Minister Ara Ayvazyan and Minister of Defense Vagharshak Harutyunyan were not aware of the existence of the document.

Pashinyan is desperate to remain in power and that is why he has been signing such humiliating documents to prove his relevance to Russian interests.

One thing was made public about the document: that the document was to be an “addendum” to another one, perhaps part of the verbal agreements which Pashinyan has made with Azerbaijan or with Russia. Thus, after all, the agreement document turned out to be no secret, thanks to Minasyan. However, the back-and-forth shook the entire political establishment in Armenia.

Armenia has vowed to sign the document, he says, if Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev delivers on his promises. The public has yet to find out what Aliyev has promised to Pashinyan, but his public pronouncements do not inspire much confidence. He has been creating one problem after another to drive into the minds of the Armenians that their very existence is in danger and that they have to fight against that danger, rather than worry about the status of Karabakh.

He has repeated many times that the status issue is a non-issue as he has resolved that by force.

He has offered to Armenia to sign a peace treaty whereby Azerbaijan recognizes Armenia’s territorial integrity, while Armenia must recognize Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, with the addition of Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan.

This is a take-it-or-leave-it offer, which means that if Armenia does not take the offer, it has to be ready for the next war.

In the meantime, Azerbaijan is creating new realities on the ground; since May 12, Azerbaijani forces have crossed the border into Armenia’s sovereign territory and have advanced 3.5 kilometers into Syunik and Vardenis provinces.

In Syunik, they had taken over Sev Lij (Black Lake), which is the water resource for Armenians in the region and according to an authorized Soviet map it belongs to Armenia. The location where Azerbaijan had invaded was not chosen at random. It was calculated to be the shortest distance (40 kilometers) from Nakhichevan. Azerbaijan was itching for an armed conflict with Armenia to justify a new aggression, which would cut through Syunik and join it with Nakhichevan. That would make Aliyev’s threat a reality, since he had threatened not long ago that if Armenia does not voluntarily accept it, he was ready to cut that corridor by force “through the historic Azerbaijan land of Zangezur.”

There were two reasons Aliyev did not carry out his plan: Armenia did not resort to an armed response, be it for diplomatic reasons or lack of military resources, and second, there was an international outcry calling on Azerbaijan to move its forces out of Armenian territory. The warnings came from the US, European Union, Greece, Cyprus, Iran and India.

We are not convinced that Aliyev has changed his mind. He will certainly wait for another opportunity to make good on his threats. We have seen that in the past year he has become emboldened.

The secret document, which is no longer a secret, turns out to be a new ploy by Russia to give Armenia the runaround and at the end, expect an expression of gratitude toward Moscow that it saved Armenia from mortal danger. The September 27 war was encouraged by Moscow, and at the end of it, Moscow sought gratitude for President Vladimir Putin’s efforts in achieving a ceasefire.

The document calls for another tripartite committee of representatives of Armenia, Russia and Azerbaijan to finalize the borders between Armenia and Azerbaijan through demarcation and demilitarization. It is ironic that the proposal is coming from Moscow, which has treaty obligations to Armenia to defend the latter’s territorial integrity.

Armenia was not allowed to bring the issue of Azerbaijan’s incursion to the forum of the UN Security Council, as had been proposed by France. The only other option left was to appeal to the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Russia-led security organization. Its latest session was held in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, and four resolutions were adopted. Armenia’s complaint was not even on the agenda. Instead, the secretary general of the CSTO, Stanislav Saz, made some remarks about the border tension between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Moscow is courting Baku to join CSTO, as revealed by Andrei Rudenko, deputy foreign minister of Russia, and Armenia has to pay the price.

After signing the ceasefire agreements on November 9, President Putin warned the parties that if any of the nine points in the post-war declaration were not carried out by any party, that meant suicide for them. Well, Azerbaijan refuses to release the 200 Armenian prisoners of war and its leader is still alive.

Then, after all the international outcry, Azerbaijani soldiers are still on Armenian territory. If anything, their numbers have doubled, rising from 300 to 600. Does that suicide clause apply to Armenia only?

Tectonic political shifts are taking place in the Caucasus. That is why the parties have been trying to consolidate their gains and some others are jockeying for new positions.

Some fundamental understandings have been reached between the US and Iran in order to revive the nuclear deal which had been canceled by President Donald Trump. That may ease some sanctions and Tehran may recover from its political and economic depression and return to the international political forums to take a more assertive role in the region.

This latter development has many underlying reasons, one of which seems to be Washington’s exasperation with Turkey.

It has dawned on political planners at Foggy Bottom that Turkey has irreversibly chosen its independent political course and will not return to the Western fold, all the while using the NATO umbrella as a shield or even a weapon.

Turkey’s separate deals with Russia in such strategic areas including Syria, Libya and the Caucasus and its insistence on acquiring Russian S-400 missiles mean that the US can no longer rely on Turkey as a “trusted ally,” particularly after the latter threatened to hijack 50 American nuclear bombs on its territory at the Incirlik Airbase. On the other hand, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s bombastic rhetoric against Israel and its leader, Benjamin Netanyahu was okay, as long as it intended to gain brownie points in the Muslim world, but to project that rhetoric all the way to Washington, accusing the US and President Biden of having “blood on its hands,” was beyond the pale. This now endangers the Biden-Erdogan summit on the next NATO meeting sidelines.

It turns out that even Russia is displeased with the rapprochement between Tehran and Washington, because if Iran returns as a player in the Caucasus, where Moscow and Ankara have had a free hand in shaping the power structure in the region, it can only hurt the two.

Conversely, with the return of Iran to the region, some balance will be restored and Armenia may find some space to maneuver.

Iran is already nervous that Turkey has attained a dominant role in the region. Iran’s foreign policy establishment is working overtime to secure its border with Armenia and forestall further advancement by Turkish and Azerbaijani forces.

Iran’s Minister of Roads and Urban Development Mohammad Eslami is in Yerevan to revive the prospects for a North-South corridor to connect the Persian Gulf to the Black Sea through Armenia. And next week, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif will be in Armenia to discuss relations between the two countries. Russian sources have released the news that ten Iranian generals have visited Armenia secretly to discuss the border issues.

It looks like Armenia has been taking advantage of those new developments to shake away the Turkish-Russian chokehold. Foreign Minister Ara Ayvazyan has invited three ambassadors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group, that of the US, France and Russia, to reactivate the group on the issue of Karabakh, expanding on Pashinyan’s intention to sign the not-so-secret deal.

The Foreign Ministry has issued a statement that it will not join negotiations for the demarcation of the borders before Azerbaijan withdraws its forces from Armenia, releases the prisoners of war and begins the negotiations on the issue of Karabakh within the principles and framework of the OSCE Minsk Group.

Although divulging the secret document created some noise, it looks as if it has also generated some common sense and political initiative in this most trying of times.

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