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Why Armenia Should Sign A Peace Treaty With Azerbaijan – OpEd

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For the last three decades normalising diplomatic relations with Azerbaijan and Turkey was impossible when Armenia occupied twenty percent of Azerbaijani territory in 1994-2000. But the situation has radically changed following the 44-day Second Karabakh War allowing Armenian nationalists to give up their fantasies about a ‘Greater Armenia’ composed of eastern Turkey and western Azerbaijan (Karabakh), a goal which the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF)/Dashnaks has long supported. The Dashnaks traditionally held a strong influence over the Armenian diaspora and continue to hold influence over Armenia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs as seen its continued support for the right to ‘self-determination’ of the so-called ‘Republic of Artsakh.’ 

With Azerbaijan now in control of Karabakh and seven surrounding districts an opportunity has arisen for Armenia to negotiate a post-conflict peace treaty with Azerbaijan. The basis for this would be Armenian nationalists dropping their fantasies about a ‘greater Armenia,’ accepting Azerbaijani sovereignty over Karabakh and ending demands for ‘self-determination’ of the ‘Republic of Artsakh.’ 

Since becoming an independent state in the early 1990s, Armenia has oriented towards autocratic and imperial Russia and theocratic Iran. 25,000 Armenians in Karabakh are holding three million Armenians to ransom. Both countries are under extensive international sanctions. Armenia pursued a pro-Russian foreign policy and joined Russian-led integration projects, such as the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organisation) and Eurasian Economic Union.

Armenia has no land border with Russia and overland trade must go through Georgia with whom relations have been poor. With Yerevan’s support for a ‘Greater Armenia’ through miatsum (unification of Armenia and Karabakh) it is not surprising Georgians are suspicious of separatist sentiment among its Armenian minority.

Armenia shares a small 44 km border with Iran with whom it has sought (unsuccessfully) to balance against over-reliance on Russia. Armenia’s much longer borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan have remained closed because of its occupation (until last year’s 44-day war) of a fifth of Azerbaijani territory. 

Armenia should sign a comprehensive post-conflict peace treaty with Azerbaijan which would bring five strategic benefits to Armenia. 

Firstly, Armenia could begin to pursue a balanced foreign policy between Europe and Eurasia, thereby reducing its reliance on rogue states Russia and Iran. Russia has no interest in seeing an economically prosperous Armenia as the Kremlin only views the country as part of its Eurasian sphere of influence and as a territory to locate Russian military bases. 

Secondly, Armenia could participate to a far greater extent in the European Union’s (EU) Eastern Partnership which would be far more beneficial to its development than Vladimir Putin’s Eurasian Economic Union. Armenia has until now straddled between the Eurasian Economic Union, which it is a member of, and the EU. The normalisation of relations with Azerbaijan followed by that with Turkey would provide Armenia with increased opportunities to integrate into the EU’s Customs Union through the DCFTA (Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Association). 

Armenia should take its cues from Ukraine which has massively increased its trade with the EU since signing an Association Agreement in 2014. The EU accounts for nearly half of Ukrainian exports. Boosting trade is one important benefit but what are also important are other benefits to the Armenian economy, such as the EU’s demands for higher standards, less corruption, fewer regulations, and better-quality products.

Thirdly, the opening of Armenia’s borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan would massively boost regional trade and thereby economic growth. Armenia would be able to reduce the dominance of Russia and Iran in its trade by joining regional integration projects from which it has been hitherto excluded. Participation in these would greatly benefit the Armenian economy and reduce the outflow of its population seeking employment and a better life elsewhere.

 Two million Armenians live and work in Russia. This is a huge number considering there are only three million people in Armenia.

Azerbaijan and Turkey have a combined population of 92 million which represents a huge potential market. Both countries are next door to Armenia and therefore exports to them would dramatically reduce transportation costs compared to trade with far away Russia and Iran. 

Fourthly, reducing ties to Russia and Iran would improve Armenia’s poor international image. Armenia has voted, together with rogue states North Korea, Syria, Myanmar, Iran, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, against every UN resolution denouncing Russia’s occupation of Crimea. Armenian politicians of cues demand the right to the ‘self-determination’ of ‘Republic of Artsakh based on Russia’s discourse on ‘self-determination’ of Crimea.

Reliance on Iran coupled with a stagnant economy has given Armenia the temptation to assist Tehran to bypass international sanctions imposed by the US and other Western countries. Armenia has acted as an intermediary for Bulgarian arms to Iran which Tehran transferred to pro-Iranian terrorist groups in Iraq, and which were then used to launch attacks against US troops. Armenia has supplied biochemical equipment to an Iranian front company in the UAE.  Armenia has assisted in deception schemes to provide aircraft which mysteriously undertake ‘emergency landings’ in Tehran and are then corporate raided into the country’s civilian airline fleets.  Armenia has been sanctioned by the US government for providing air services and banking services respectively to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, designated a ‘foreign terrorist group’ by the US, and Iranian government.

Fifthly, Armenia would be able to participate in regional energy projects, such as the Southern Gas Corridor thereby negating Armenia’s reliance on imports of gas from Iran. Until now pipelines have bypassed Armenia by exporting gas and oil into Europe via Turkey and Georgia though the Baku-Tbilisi-Supsa, Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum, and Trans-Anatolian pipelines. 

The potential is enormous for Armenia to participate alongside its Azerbaijani, Turkish and Georgian neighbours in these expanding energy hubs, pipeline projects and exports. 

The ending of Azerbaijan’s occupation of Azerbaijan territory in last year’s 44-day war has opened the potential for Armenia to escape from its reliance on rogue states Russia and Iran. Armenian politicians and nationalists should negotiate a post-conflict peace treaty which recognises the former Soviet internal republican boundaries as post-Soviet international borders. This would require relinquishing claims to Karabakh and support for the self-determination of the so-called ‘Republic of Artsakh.’

 Armenia could choose to not sign a treaty but this would lead to a continuation of decades of economic stagnation and international opprobrium. Or Armenia could accept the new realities brought about by the end of the Karabakh conflict, become less reliant on Russia and Iran and boost its economy, standards of living and trade by participating in regional and European integration.

*Professor Taras Kuzio PhD, Department of Political Science, National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy and Non-Resident Fellow, Foreign Policy Institute, Johns Hopkins University.Member of editorial boards of Demokratizatsiya, Communist and Post-Communist Studies, Eurasian Geography and Economics, Central and European Migration Review and The Ukrainian Quarterly.

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3 thoughts on “Why Armenia Should Sign A Peace Treaty With Azerbaijan – OpEd

  • September 10, 2021 at 11:06 am
    Permalink

    Mr. Kuzio, your readership notes you selectively didn’t equate Ukraine’s “losing” its sovereignty over Crimea, considering its parallel, with Armenians losing partial sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh.

    Mr. Kuzio, you claim Armenia should follow in Ukraine’s footsteps. That path is lead today by fascist followers of Stepan Bandera – yet you deign to castigate Armenians demanding reparations for their genocidal extermination by Turkey and Azerbaijan. For Armenia to follow Ukraine would require the Armenian government and oligarchs to be even more corrupt than they already are, matching those in Ukraine. Some people have facts; others promulgate political drivel. Let’s quickly review your five claims, introduced to you by friends in Baku’s Topchubashov Center think tank, such as Russia Huseynov, its director. Your fatal error was to advertise your connections with Baku in previous articles.

    Kuzio’s Claim 1: “Armenia could begin to pursue a balanced foreign policy between Europe and Eurasia, thereby reducing its reliance on rogue states Russia and Iran.” The assumption you would have your readers accept is that Armenia is unique in such “reliance.” Azerbaijani-Iranian trade turnover is twice that of Armenia. Moscow-Baku oligarchic relations are more profound than those between Moscow and Yerevan for the simple reason Azerbaijanis oligarchs are richer, floating in petro-dollars. To compensate for this disparity, Armenia has sold off much of its infrastructure to Russians. You also failed to mention that at least half of classic Azerbaijani armaments come from Russia. Given that Turks and Azerbaijanis blockade 70% of Armenia’s borders, Armenia has little to offer the EU and vice versa – although the EU has just granted Armenian about $3B in grants. Unfortunately, following the Ukrainian model you suggest, much of this will end up in the coffers of a new class of oligarchs.

    Kuzio’s Claim 2: “Armenia could participate to a far greater extent in the European Union’s (EU) Eastern Partnership which would be far more beneficial to its development than Vladimir Putin’s Eurasian Economic Union.” It could, under ideal conditions, but instead, you neglect to mention that Armenia, in reality, would submit itself to “peace deals” with NATO’s attack dog Turkey and its puppy, Azerbaijan. You would have your readers assume that such “deals” would be of mutual interest to all three states. I would instead ask Syria, Syrian Kurds, Yezidis, Libya, Cyprus, and Kabul first, and Armenian history regarding any assumption of Turkic benevolence.

    Kuzio’s Claim 3: “opening of Armenia’s borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan would massively boost regional trade and thereby economic growth.” You provide no data for reaching such a conclusion. If the situation with Georgian vegetable farmers indicates what is in store for Armenia, Armenia will be economically dependent on cheap Turkish products.

    Kuzio’s Claim 4: “Reducing ties to Russia and Iran would improve Armenia’s poor international image.” Your conclusion is non-sequitur because it is based on the assumption Armenian ties with Iran and Russia are detrimental to Armenia’s image. The same EU that pumps money into Ukraine and Georgia will be pumping $3B into Armenia over the next few years. Your statement contradicts the current EU’s policies regarding Armenia.

    Kuzio’s Claim 5: “Armenia would be able to participate in regional energy projects, such as the Southern Gas Corridor, thereby negating Armenia’s reliance on imports of gas from Iran.” Gas from Iran amounts to less than 25% of Armenia’s requirements. The US requested that the primary Iranian gas pipe diameter be small to make it difficult to increase Iranian supplies. Russian gas is cheaper anyway. Your conclusion is based on an unsubstantiated guess of the future.

    Mr. Kuzio, rather than engaging in anti-Armenite rhetoric, you should have done some research.

    Yerevan, Armenia

    Reply
  • September 10, 2021 at 10:46 pm
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    Mr Kuzio
    There has been no end of your analysis on Armenia should do this and Armenia should do that in a very obviously partisan way.
    Time to be fair and balanced. Perhaps study what makes Armenia and Armenians tick instead of arrogant statements.

    Reply
  • September 11, 2021 at 2:37 am
    Permalink

    Armenia cannot sign a peace treaty with Ilham Aliyev because the Aliyev regime is based on the extermination of Armenians from all historic Armenian lands.

    There were two vision of Azerbaijan during Soviet era, the “Bakinstsy” vision of Azerbaijan as a multicultural (Armenian, Azerbaijani, Talysh, Dagestani, Jewish, Lezgin) nation, and a “Turkic” vision of Azerbaijan as a fundamentally Turkic nation. The Aliyev Regime, under Heydar and Ilham, have established a third-vision of Azerbaijan: a “Turkic” nation that is anti-Armenian.

    Under this vision, there was no place for the 300 Armenian civilians in Artsakh that the Aliyev regime killed and imprisoned during the October episode of the ongoing war against Armenians. Again, the Aliyev regime is not fighting a political-struggle struggle against a governmental opponent, the Ilham Aliyev regime opposes all Armenians. The slaughter of Armenian civilians, the establishment of the bizarre war trophy park in Baku, the torture of Armenian soldiers is no accident: these are the vital policies of the Aliyev regime, one that is akin to the anti-semitic and racist police states in other parts of the world. The Aliyev regime has built an Azerbaijan that is united by its hatred and dehumanization of Armenians, and that excuses the grotesque kleptocracy of the Aliyevs. The Armenians are the scapegoat for all of the failures of the Aliyev regime. True peace with all Armenians would delegitimize the Aliyev regime and remove its raison-d’etre.

    Thus the Aliyev regime opposes Armenians as a people, their culture, religion, language and the regime even opposes the memory of Armenians in history.

    Moreover, the Ilham Aliyev regime is incapable of honoring any international commitments, having violated the OSCE protocol, every article of the 4th Geneva Convention and even the November 10, 2020 truce.

    The Aliyev regime presently holds 80 hostages, even though the Aliyev regime promised to exchange all prisoners in its November 10, 2020 “truce.”

    Armenians cannot sign any treaty with a regime that is dedicated to the extermination of the Armenians.

    Reply

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