The Armenia-Azerbaijan peace course of continues to battle as a result of latter’s insistence on a “hall” via Armenia and the previous’s stance that the West act as mediator within the talks.
Whereas Azerbaijan desires to start out direct negotiations with Armenia, the latter insists on holding them with the involvement of Western governments – one thing Azerbiajani President Ilham Aliyev not has any curiosity in. Aliyev lately refused to satisfy his Armenian counterpart, Nikol Pashinyan, in Granada and Brussels, citing perceived bias in opposition to Azerbaijan within the trio format.
Paris is the most important concern for Baku, which claims that the method was “hijacked by France.”Azerbaijani officers particularly resent France’s sending of weapons to Armenia, which makes it unimaginable for Paris to be an sincere peace dealer.
Germany can be reportedly dangling a bunch of cash to entice Yerevan to take anti-Russia steps, equivalent to purging the federal government and armed forces of anybody harboring pleasant views in direction of Moscow. Berlin, already struggling financially, may wish to rethink its provide because the tab may get run up rapidly contemplating there may be fairly a couple of Russia-friendly people in authorities contemplating the 2 international locations’ lengthy historical past.
“Sadly, in Europe there have additionally been those that have at all times fueled revanchism and Armenian nationalism,” Deputy Overseas Minister of Italy Edmondo Cirielli admitted lately in an interview with the Italian publication Formiche.
France, which is the house to the biggest Armenian diaspora neighborhood in Europe, is taking part in that position in the intervening time, in line with Azerbaijan.
“France is the nation that arms Armenia, provides them help, trains their troopers, and prepares them for an additional battle,” Aliyev advised native media in January 2024. If exterior events should be concerned, Baku proposes a broader “3+3” framework, involving Russia, Iran, Türkiye, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia.
Apart from Armenia insisting on EU involvement, the principle roadblock to any deal between Baku and Yerevan stays the Zangezur Hall – a transportation connection between Azerbaijan and its Nakhchivan exclave wedged between Armenia, Turkiye, and Iran.
On January 10, Aliyev said that, if this hall stays closed, Azerbaijan refuses to open its border with Armenia wherever else.
The nine-point ceasefire settlement signed underneath Russian mediation that ended the 2020 battle included a stipulation that Armenia is chargeable for making certain the safety of transport hyperlinks between the western areas of Azerbaijan and the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic, facilitating the unhindered motion of residents, automobiles and cargo in each instructions. Azerbaijan and Turkiye have latched onto that time, insisting they’ve the suitable to arrange transportation hyperlinks via southern Armenia.
Baku desires journey of individuals and cargo between Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan to be freed from inspection and customs and expects Yerevan to comply with the deployment of Russian border guards alongside the hall.
Moscow agrees with the deployment of its border guards, even when it doesn’t see eye to eye on the customs concern (it desires the Russians to conduct the safety checks. On January 18, Russian Overseas Minister Sergei Lavrov mentioned the next:
“Armenia is having problem opening the route as specified by the trilateral assertion. Yerevan is placing ahead extra safety necessities for the route. It doesn’t need Russian border guards to be there, although that is written within the assertion that bears Pashinyan’s signature. He doesn’t wish to see non-aligned customs and border management. He desires Armenia to run it, which contradicts the settlement.”
Lavrov additionally criticized Western interference, which he faulted for holding up the implementation of the agreements. He’s not incorrect.
Because the Caucasus sit on the key crossroads of East-West and North-South transportation routes, any alteration to its ecosystem would have far-reaching penalties. Due to this fact the Armenia-Azerbaijan standoff over Zangezur is drawing in exterior actors from close to and much, together with Iran, India, the EU, Russia, Israel, and naturally, Uncle Sam.
Outdoors Actors Make Peace Extra Elusive?
The scenario can be tough sufficient to resolve in good occasions, however with the present breakdown into East-West camps, it’s changing into near unimaginable because of exterior actors.
Simply to recap:
Towards the backdrop of the Ukrainian battle and the brand new Chilly Conflict, mediating international locations started to compete for the standing of the principle moderator of the Armenia-Azerbaijan negotiations.
Yerevan started to favor the West, and talks principally moved to Western platforms. It was throughout these conferences that Armenia agreed to formally acknowledge Nagorno-Karabakh as a part of Azerbaijan.
As soon as Armenia did so (and PM Pashinyan declared so publicly), the die was solid. The area was (and is) acknowledged as Azerbaijani territory by the worldwide neighborhood however was overwhelmingly populated by ethnic Armenians. Roughly 100,000 of them fled to Armenia after Azerbaijan blockaded the area for months after which moved militarily to claim management in September – an operation that resulted in lots of of deaths.
Regardless of shifting the negotiation course of underneath the steering of the West and publicly recognizing Nagorno-Karabakh as Azerbaijani territory, the Pashinyan authorities has sought to put all of the blame for its loss on the ft of Russia. And Pashinyan now largely refuses to take part in summits with Russia.
Baku, regardless of assuming management of Nagorno-Karabakh underneath the steering of the western course of, now needs to disinvite the West from the method. Why is that?
A variety of possible prospects embody some mixture of the next:
The heavy handed involvement of the French who started rising army help for Armenia final 12 months.
Baku was being requested to make concessions in different areas, virtually definitely having to do with Russia. Azerbaijani officers determined this was not of their curiosity and/or Moscow utilized stress. (Baku and Moscow share robust ties. In simply the power sector, Russian corporations’ massive investments within the Azerbaijani oil and gasoline sector make it one of many larger beneficiaries of Brussels’ efforts to extend power imports from Azerbaijan with a view to exchange Russian provides. Azerbaijan can be importing extra Russian gasoline itself with a view to meet its obligations to Europe.)
The West was utilizing the method as a method to transfer Armenia squarely into the Western camp, an end result that no nation within the Caucasus desires.
It makes zero sense for the West to play such an integral position as a result of its options may not consider (or may actively go in opposition to) the pursuits of different international locations with main stakes within the end result, primarily Iran and Russia.
It might appear that Azerbaijan is refusing to play its position within the West’s try to direct the play. For instance, when the brand new US ambassador to Azerbaijan, Mark Libby, was swiftly dispatched to the nation in December, one in every of his first actions was to go to the Alley of Martyrs devoted to these killed by the Soviet Military throughout Black January 1990. Azerbaijanis weren’t falling for it.
And now the West has reverted to hardball techniques.
France is already upping its army help for Armenia, sending 50 Arquus Bastion armored personnel carriers, Thales-made GM 200 radars, and Mistral 3 air protection programs. There are additionally discussions to ship CAESAR self-propelled howitzers.
The US State Division signaled that it’s going to pause the supply of all army help to Azerbaijan. USAID, nonetheless, is changing into extra energetic within the area, and media campaigns are revving up in opposition to the federal government in Baku. Azerbaijan simply ended its engagement with the Parliamentary Meeting of the Council of Europe after it started criticizing Azerbaijan’s home affairs and made allegations of ethnic cleaning in Nagorno-Karabakh. Final month, the US put Azerbaijan on its watchlist on spiritual freedom.
These efforts are more likely to show fruitless as Aliyev has the complete help of Türkiye, in addition to Russia, and easily doesn’t want the West to get extra out of the present scenario. And the US, by butting into the method, has helped Azerbaijan and Iran put apart their variations in an effort to maintain the Individuals out.
Speaking Peace, Making ready for Conflict
Whereas Armenia ups its army spending, getting weapons from France and India, Azerbaijan additionally stays in preparation mode. Aliyev lately mentioned the next:
“The method of constructing our military will proceed. Armenia ought to know that regardless of what number of weapons it buys, regardless of how it’s supported, any supply of menace to us will likely be instantly destroyed. I’m not hiding this, in order that tomorrow nobody will say that one thing surprising has occurred.”
Regardless of the current increase from Paris, Armenia continues to be thought-about to be at an obstacle. That has lengthy been the story, largely due to its geography. That truth and the lengthy shadow of the Armenian genocide feed into Armenian nationalism that has arguably solely worsened the nation’s predicament within the post-USSR years.
Among the extra hardcore nationalists based a bunch referred to as ASALA (Armenian Secret Military of the Liberation of Armenia) in 1975. Amongst its objectives to pressure Türkiye to acknowledge the 1915 occasions as genocide, pay beneficiant compensations to the Armenian victims and their households, and cede territory to Armenia. To realize these objectives, ASALA killed dozens of Turkish officers within the 70s and 80s. (Türkiye had its personal paramilitary forces concentrating on ANSALA). This extra radical pressure of Armenian nationalism was additionally turned in opposition to the USSR, together with 1977 explosions in Moscow that killed seven folks.
Following the USSR collapse, Azerbaijan joined the nationalists’ enemy listing and have been equated with Turks as the 2 new international locations fought over their border and Nagorno-Karabakh. Though Armenia received management of the territory, it got here at a excessive price.
Yerevan had no different selection however to completely embrace Russia as safety guarantor. The Armenian democratic motion didn’t view Moscow as a buddy, nevertheless it wanted protectorate standing with a view to guarantee victory.
So Armenia emerged from the battle with the Nagorno-Karabakh exclave (internationally acknowledged as Azerbaijan territory), principally surrounded by enemies, and reliant on Russia for cover (it’s additionally reliant on Russia economically). This has solely served to extend Armenia’s isolation ever since.
Over the previous twenty years Armenia discovered itself remoted from the most important infrastructural initiatives within the area, such because the Baku-Tbilisi-Jeyhan oil pipeline, Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gasoline pipeline, Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, in addition to many extra worldwide initiatives promoted by the Türkiye-Georgia-Azerbaijan triangle.
The identical dynamic is liable to taking part in out immediately with rising transportation hyperlinks. An absolute nightmare situation for Armenia is that Azerbaijan and Türkiye open the Zangezur hall by pressure, thus excluding Armenia. If Yerevan is banking on the West saving them, they might be upset. A extra sensible hope is that Iran prevents such a situation because of its concern of getting its connection to the north severed by a Turkish-Azerbaijani line. But when Azerbaijan, Türkiye, Iran, and most critically Russia resolve that that is the very best path ahead, that’s what will occur whatever the West’s objections – and one purpose it may occur is Yerevan’s inviting of the West into the area.
It was beforehand standard knowledge that the concern of such an end result and Yerevan’s reliance on Moscow for cover meant it couldn’t flip West, however that was upended final 12 months when PM Pashinyan started to undertake the gambit whereas nonetheless at odds with Azerbaijan and Türkiye.
Pashinyan may be making an attempt to vary that, however at what price?
On January 19, he referred to as for a brand new structure, which may remove sure hurdles to signing a peace treaty with Baku as the present structure accommodates territorial claims in opposition to Azerbaijan, in addition to Türkiye.
Any such effort is bound to obtain important opposition from extra nationalist forces in Armenia already reeling from the lack of Nagorno-Karabakh. Pashinyan has managed to deflect a lot of the blame for that debacle onto Russia. Would he achieve success twice?
Following Ukraine Down A Harmful Path
There are broad-strokes parallels with the pre-war path of Ukraine and the one Armenia is now on.
Each international locations have been previously a part of the USSR and maintained robust (albeit sophisticated) ties with Russia after independence. Each international locations skilled a seesawing between the West and Russia. For instance, in 2013, the Armenian authorities was getting ready the affiliation settlement with the EU, however on the final second refused to signal it and as a substitute joined the Russia-led Eurasian Financial Union (from which Armenia is now slowly exiting).
In each international locations, sure factions within the authorities develop into satisfied that Russia is the supply of their issues and/or that they need to reorient their nation in direction of the West rapidly and in any respect prices. And possibly most concerningly is the presence in each international locations of figures held up in some quarters as nationwide heroes: Stepan Bandera in Ukraine and Garegin Nzhdeh in Armenia.
Each additionally occurred to be Nazi collaborators throughout World Conflict Two.
Final month, Russia condemned a miniscule march of neo-Nazis that passed off in Yerevan on Jan 1.
The gathering was small, nevertheless it’s attention-grabbing to notice that the chief of the group, Hosank, is Hayk Nazaryan, a 34-year-old Armenian-American born and raised in California. He graduated from California State College with a grasp’s diploma in physics and moved to Armenia in 2016. A part of the group’s ideology is that Armenia is being changed into a Russian province, and the one method to forestall it’s to develop into a nation-army.
So one can perceive Moscow being cautious of such a small gathering, particularly in gentle of how Bandera grew to become a determine sure forces rallied round in Ukraine, and there now seems to be an increase in anti-Russian fascist attitudes from the Balkans to the Caucasus. It’s additionally not the primary time Moscow has criticized Armenia’s celebration of the Nazi collaborator. Again in 2017, the hostess of a program on Russia’s TV Zvezda, a station affiliated with the ministry of protection, mentioned the next a few statue of Nzhdeh erected in Yerevan:
“The affiliation with the European Union is just not the one factor Armenia is doing like Ukraine — it’s tough to consider, however Yerevan is also valorizing fascist collaborators.”
She additionally referred to Nzhdeh as “Armenia’s Bandera” and in contrast the insignia of the ruling Republican Celebration of Armenia to that of the Nazi Third Reich. You be the decide:
TV Zvezda later apologized. However even present Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan admitted again in 2019 earlier than his flip to the West that the limitless veneration of Nzhdeh is a part of an effort to drive a wedge between Armenia and Russia.
The date of the neo-Nazi march in Yerevan additionally occurred to happen on the birthday of Nzhdeh. These days, monuments are erected to him, and streets, squares, instructional establishments, and strategic facilities named after him.
On the threat of being overly temporary, right here is Nzhdeh’s story:
Over a interval of a long time, he fought all Armenia’s foes, together with Ottoman Türkiye and early Soviet Russia. When World Conflict Two broke out, Nzhdeh threw his lot in with the Third Reich, providing Germany his help and offering proof that the Armenians have been an Aryan folks. He aligned Armenian fighters with Germany in opposition to the Soviet Military and made positive the Armenian legion adopted the orders of the Nazis within the Caucasus, Crimea and France. He was arrested by Soviet authorities and died in captivity in 1955.
Does his later collaboration with Nazis tarnish his earlier work preventing for Armenian independence? Not within the eyes of many Armenians. The argument goes that he was a patriot of the Armenian nation who struggled for Armenia’s independence all his life and allied with the Nazis to additional that aim.
The factor is, it’s an argument that might be prevented altogether as there are already different Armenian liberation fighters and statesmen who’re nationwide heroes, equivalent to Basic Andranik (who doesn’t come with out his personal baggage but in addition didn’t ally himself with Nazi ideology).
It’s not an ideal comparability, however wouldn’t it be all that dissimilar to France these days erecting monuments to Marshal Philippe Pétain who was a nationwide hero of WWI solely to move the Vichy puppet authorities, put in place by the Nazis through the sequel? (The final Rue Pétain disappeared in 2011.)
The hazard for Armenia now, following the lack of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is seen domestically as a humiliating defeat to Azerbaijan, and the following blame being positioned on Russia for that loss, is that this ideology of anti-Russian and Nzhdeh veneration spirals uncontrolled. As Armenian-American historian Ronald Grigor Suny mentioned again in 2017:
All post-Soviet international locations are rewriting their historical past in the intervening time. Those that have been heroes at the moment are enemies; former enemies, even fascists, at the moment are heroes. That is occurring within the Baltics, and in Armenia. Some individuals who collaborated with the Nazis, equivalent to Garegin Nzhdeh, at the moment are thought-about heroes. And the individuals who murdered Jews in Latvia and Lithuania are not denounced, as they have been through the communist period. So this can be a sophisticated subject, and historians should work independently of the state and the federal government to create actual histories, not nationwide mythology.
In some ways, it’s becoming that Nzhdeh is taking part in a task from the grave in immediately’s brewing battle. He’s credited in Armenia for his efforts in securing Zangezur by main rebels in opposition to Turks and Soviets in 1920.
Somewhat greater than a century later, and the scenario is basically again firstly. Armenia, particularly the southern a part of the nation, is on the middle of worldwide competitors. EU, Russian, and US flags are flying, Iran opened a consulate there final 12 months, and the French are contemplating doing the identical. The names may need modified, however the geography stays the identical: it’s an important route via the Caucasus in all instructions.