Suren Sargsyan

Geopolitical Competition for Artsakh

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The situation around Artsakh remains extremely difficult. On the one hand, Artsakh is under the blockade implemented by Azerbaijan, but contrary to Aliyev’s calculations, the Artsakh Armenians do not give up and continue to fight even under these conditions. On the other hand, Artsakh cannot have any hope of support from Armenia, as the Armenian authorities have absolutely no desire to protect the rights of Artsakh Armenians, including their right to self-determination. And finally, Artsakh has become a battlefield of geopolitical competition.

There have been quite active developments in recent weeks in the negotiation process. First, Nikol Pashinyan and Ilham Aliyev met in Brussels and, according to the statement of European Council President Charles Michel, who initiated the meeting, the parties discussed the following issues: “1. Sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders once again fully reconfirmed their respect for the other country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. Based on the understanding that Armenia’s territory covers 29,800 km2 and Azerbaijan’s 86,600 km2. 2. Border delimitation. Both leaders reconfirmed their unequivocal commitment to the 1991 Almaty Declaration as a political framework for the delimitation. 3. Connectivity. On connectivity, the sides have also made clear progress over the past two months in their discussions aimed at unblocking transport and economic links in the region. 4. Humanitarian supplies. Parties discussed the situation of the Karabakh Armenian population and the situation around the Lachin corridor. The current state of affairs is clearly not sustainable and is in no one’s interest. 5. Rights and security. The population on the ground needs reassurances, first and foremost regarding their rights and security. In this context, I expressed the EU’s encouragement for direct dialogue between Baku and representatives of Armenians living in the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast. This dialogue should provide much-needed confidence for all those involved. 6. Detainees. We also discussed the issue of detainees. The leaders reconfirmed their commitment to the gentlemen’s understanding that the release of soldiers who inadvertently cross to the other side would be facilitated.”

From this text, it becomes clear that Armenia does not even talk about Artsakh’s right to self-determination, which is a principle of international law equal in significance to that of territorial integrity. There is generally no mention of the existence of that right at all. It is becoming clear that the issues of border demarcation and delimitation continue to be Europe’s political priority for now. It is also obvious that the Lachin Corridor, no matter how much the Europeans or the international institutions talk about it, will not be opened by Azerbaijan. It is also mentioned that Europe promotes the right to security and free movement of Artsakh Armenians which is also nonsense, taking into consideration the realities on the ground. As for the prisoners of war, Aliyev does not want to make any concessions either. It becomes clear from all this that the only option proposed by Europe for the resolution of the Artsakh problem is the complete and final handover of Artsakh to Azerbaijan, which will lead to ethnic cleansing or a second Armenian Genocide.

While Pashinyan and Aliyev were negotiating in Brussels, yet another interesting statement came from Moscow, a geopolitical rival of the West. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement directly blaming the Armenian authorities for such a situation on the ground: “In October 2022 and May 2023, at the summits under the auspices of the European Union, Armenia recognized Nagorno-Karabakh as part of the territory of Azerbaijan. We respect the sovereign decision of the Armenian leadership; however, this radically changed the fundamental conditions under which the Statement of the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia of November 9, 2020, was signed, as well as the position of the Russian peacekeeping contingent deployed in the region. We believe that under these conditions, responsibility for the fate of the Armenian population of Karabakh should not be shifted to third countries. It is necessary to immediately start preparing a peace treaty between Baku and Yerevan, based on the previously reached agreements. We proceed from the fact that an integral part of this agreement should be reliable and clear guarantees of the rights and security of the Armenians of Karabakh, as well as the strict implementation of the entire set of trilateral agreements between Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia, including the unblocking of transport communications and the launch of the process of delimitation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.”

Certainly, Artsakh has become an object of geopolitical competition and Europe’s haste here is understandable. As long as Russia has serious problems in Ukraine, it is necessary to invest maximum efforts to enable the problem to be solved quickly, which will inevitably lead to the reduction of Russia’s role and importance in the entire South Caucasus. This is a geopolitical rivalry that has existed between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War and will most probably not have any solution. As for Russia, Moscow is trying to delay the settlement of the issue until the end of its mandate in Nagorno-Karabakh or the end of the Ukrainian war, so that it can concentrate new resources to continue maintaining its role and influence in the South Caucasus. It is clear that the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani problems will lead to reconciliation between Armenia and Turkey which will request additional efforts to justify why the Russian military base is needed in Armenia.

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