Politics 16:44 25/02/2022 Armenia

Analyst: Putin himself says Karabakh conflict isn’t resolved when signing declaration with Azerbaijan

Author Lala Ter-Ghazaryan

Armenian political analyst and Voskanapat Analytical Center head Hrant Melik-Shahnazaryan spoke about the declaration on allied cooperation between Russia and Azerbaijan signed in Moscow on February 22, Armenian-Russian relations and the possible impact of the document on the settlement of the Artsakh issue in an interview with Panorama.am on Friday.

Panorama.am: On 22 February the leaders of Russia and Azerbaijan signed a declaration on allied cooperation between the two countries. Armenia is not Russia's only ally in the South Caucasus from now on. Was such a scenario expected for you?

Hrant Melik-Shahnazaryan: The processes of recent years show that Russia has revised or, more precisely, developed a new strategy for the regions adjacent to it. Moscow's actions and statements indicate that restoring Russian hegemony in the post-Soviet space is its key priority. The South Caucasus, of course, is no exception.

This presupposes non-standard solutions. My first impression is that if, for example, in Ukraine Russia solves its problems by force, in our region it’s exactly the opposite; they are trying to act as a country that brings peace and cooperation. But at the same time, I must admit that the declaration on allied cooperation between Russia and Azerbaijan was not only a surprise to me, but also an unpleasant, very unpleasant surprise.

By and large, let's not forget that at one time Russia's sales of weaponry to Azerbaijan was also presented to our society as part of a policy aimed at reducing the risks of war by ensuring a balance of power and establishing Russian control over the process of arming the conflicting parties. And what did it lead us to in 2020? Thus, things are really bad. Azerbaijan is sure to try to take advantage of these realities and now, acting as Russia's ally, will try to extort new concessions for itself in the region, in return for trying to offer Moscow such services, which were exclusively provided by Armenia previously.

Panorama.am: Has Armenia "contributed” anyhow to the signing of such a document between its ally and its enemy? Could the signing of the declaration have been prevented if diplomatic efforts had been made?

Hrant Melik-Shahnazaryan: Since the 44-day war, Armenian diplomacy has had zero influence not only on regional processes, but also on those concerning the vital interests of the Republic of Armenia. Unfortunately, this is a fact. Before the war, the same diplomacy did everything, as if on purpose, to neutralize all our political mechanisms related to security, to make them disappear. Armenia not only heavily contributed to the signing of the declaration, but became its main ‘catalyst’. Thus, I will not be surprised if sometime in the future Nikol Pashinyan is awarded by Baku for his contribution to such a great development in Russian-Azerbaijani relations.

Panorama.am: What steps should Armenia take after the signing of this document?

Hrant Melik-Shahnazaryan: The Armenian Foreign Ministry has already, in fact, welcomed the signing of this declaration. Notably, it expressed the hope that the document "would open up additional opportunities for the implementation of the provisions of the three statements signed by the leaders of Armenia, Russia and Azerbaijan, which could also contribute to the lasting and comprehensive settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmanship.” What can I say after all that? Armenia finds itself in the same situation as the citizens of Ukraine, who are welcoming the Russian troops entering their towns and villages.

Panorama.am: How could the declaration affect Russian-Armenian relations?

Hrant Melik-Shahnazaryan: You see, if Moscow had had even a shadow of doubt that taking relations with Azerbaijan to an allied level would cause problems with Armenia, they would not have taken that step.

Especially now, when memories of the 44-day war are still fresh in our country, when our servicemen are still suffering in Baku prisons. I am convinced that nothing will change in Armenian-Russian relations on the state level. And our people, unfortunately, are already used to such disappointments. But on a deeper level, of course, things will change. We need to be a bit more realistic about things. We need to understand that our interests are paramount only to ourselves, not to expect Russia or some other country to resolve our problems instead of us.

It is necessary to properly assess the current realities and to pursue a competent policy. Only then will it be possible to take such events easy and to neutralize their possible negative impacts on Armenia. After all, it is clear that in terms of long-term tactics there are many more factors linking Armenia and Russia than there are developments contributing to the current Russian-Azerbaijani and Russian-Turkish cooperation. We just need to do the right and consistent work, and, I repeat myself, adequately perceive all the realities.

Panorama.am: The first clause of the declaration says, “The parties build their relations on the basis of mutual respect for the territorial integrity of the two countries.” How will it affect the settlement of the Artsakh issue?

Hrant Melik-Shahnazaryan: Yes, the wording of the first clause of the declaration is problematic for us. But one and the same sentence can be interpreted differently in different times. Who said that the concept of "territorial integrity of Azerbaijan" implies Artsakh’s affiliation with the Baku regime? Was it Aliyev? I say no, Artsakh has no connection with Azerbaijan and its territorial integrity. And this claim is based on extensive factual evidence. Do we want Artsakh to be independent? So, we must pursue a policy aimed at solving the problem. The main problem here is not the first clause of the mentioned declaration. It lies in the person who sits in the government building located on the Republic Square in Yerevan. It is he who does not speak about Artsakh's future, who compromises our national interests and who's afraid to even think about Artsakh's independence. Whereas, for example, Putin himself declared that the Artsakh issue has not yet been resolved at the time of signing the declaration.

Panorama.am: The document also reflects on cooperation in military-political and military-technical spheres, strengthening and deepening cooperation between the two countries’ armies. Should Armenia be worried about this?

Hrant Melik-Shahnazaryan: Yes, absolutely. It could pose an existential threat to the two Armenian republics. But what to do? The answer is the same again: we have to change the situation by, first of all, changing our mindset, and only then the things around us. This is a matter of years and even decades. The same realistic way of seeing things suggests that we need a long period of rehabilitation after suffering defeat in the war. And also help, including from Russia. I would say, first of all, from Russia.

Source Panorama.am
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