Although almost 1 year and 9 months have passed since November 10, 2020, while looking at the development trend of Armenia-Azerbaijani relations it can be clearly seen that concrete and fundamental progress has not been achieved. Thus, Armenia exhibits a non-constructive position and evades its obligations by using various methods. Before explaining all of them, it is necessary to group Armenia’s behavior during this past period under three main directions:
1. Armenia commits various types of large-scale provocations accompanied by a show of force, including military, i.e. armed, on state border and in the territories of Azerbaijan where the Russian peacekeeping contingent is temporarily stationed as determined by the tripartite declaration.
2. Distorts the points clearly stated in the tripartite declaration and which Armenia has undertaken to implement. In other words, it is an attempt trying to sabotage diplomacy.
3. Thirdly, and in fact by making the first and second clauses even tougher, it continues the process of laying mines, prolongs the process by carrying out various types of terrorist provocations, including ecological ones, and sabotages the peace agreement proposed to be signed, mainly through Azerbaijan, sometimes through negotiators.
All in all, Armenia is evading obligations gradually, in a planned manner and consciously. The aforementioned points contained in this article will be addressed in order, and the situation will be analyzed in detail.
On August 3, the Azerbaijani solider martyred as a result of the terrorist provocation by the illegal Armenian armed groups against the units of the Azerbaijani Army in the territory of Azerbaijan, where the Russian peacekeeping contingent is temporarily stationed. As a result of the “Revenge” retaliatory operation carried out by the units of the Azerbaijani army against those illegal armed groups, the heights of Qirkhqiz, Saribaba and a number of other important strategic heights along the Karabakh ridge of the Lesser Caucasus were taken under control. The President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Mr. Ilham Aliyev called the “Revenge” operation a punitive measure. Because, contrary to the proposed peace agreement, Armenia does not leave Azerbaijan with any other option with its provocations. With its actions, Armenia pays attention to the solution of the problem between the two countries not by political, but by military-political means, which Azerbaijan, as a state that is interested in the establishment of stable peace in the region, is doing this.
First and foremost, it should be specifically emphasized that Azerbaijan does not want war. At this stage firstly the main goal and demand of Azerbaijan is for the Armenian armed forces to leave Karabakh once and for all, in accordance with the commitment assumed by Armenia in the tripartite declaration. During an interview to Azerbaijan Television on August 12, the head of state of Azerbaijan, Mr. Ilham Aliyev, said that “Operation Revenge showed Armenia again that no-one and nothing can stop us – not someone’s statement, not someone’s announcement, not some phone call. Nothing and nobody.”
In parallel with all these issues, Secretary of the Security Council of Armenia Armen Grigoryan stated that “Baku’s demand to replace the Lachin corridor with another route is unlawful.” The answer to this was not delayed by Azerbaijan. The President of Azerbaijan Mr. Ilham stated that ” The Russian Ministry of Defense agreed and approved this route with us at the highest level. If this had been otherwise, how could we have built a road in the territory under the temporary control of Russia? So, this is natural. If anyone attempts to accuse us of having done something illegal or taking a unilateral step, it is not the case. We can prove it at any level. An inquiry can be sent to the official authorities of Russia as to how this road was built – all the documents and agreements are there.” Apparently, Armenia is busy extending the time.
Diplomatic provocations are further expanded and at a later stage this effort is shifted to another actor. Thus, the political group “Sasna Tsrer” accused Russia on social media regarding the explosions that took place in the “Surmalu” shopping center in Armenia on August 14. Russia sent a note of protest to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia regarding this accusation and assessed it as a direct provocation of the political forces behind such insinuations which aim to undermine Russia-Armenia alliance relations. Surely, at first glance, it has nothing to do with Azerbaijan. But it is also no coincidence and not an exception that this accusation happened while Armenians were leaving the historical city of Lachin, Zabukh and Sus villages of Azerbaijan against the background of the launch of the new road, while Armen Grigoryan distorted the clauses of the tripartite declaration and after the response of the President of Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijani MP Arzu Naghiyev considers that Armenia’s revanchist-ideal politicians should have exaggerated the processes like this. MP shows two reasons for it. Firstly, to reveal that this fire incident was committed by Russian special services, and secondly, to accuse the peacekeeping forces of not fulfilling their mission in Karabakh. MP also does not rule out that if this continues, even such a version may emerge that Armenia itself committed it and is trying to accuse someone.
As in the case of Azerbaijan and Turkey, the Armenians now renounce Russia, constantly blaming it for some invented reasons. Moreover, all this is happening against the backdrop of an extremely high degree of Russophobia and anti-Russian sentiment in the country. In Armenia, politicians, public figures, experts, and ordinary citizens are speaking out against Moscow today.
“Independence for us is a strong allied relationship, but the allies are not always only your allies, but also the allies of those who are against you,” the message says, where Pashinyan hinted at the so-called “Russia’s inaction”. Armenia is trying to somehow get around the points of the Trilateral Statement of November 10, 2020 violating the agreements signed by Pashinyan.
Hikmet Hajiyev, assistant to the President of Azerbaijan – Head of the Foreign Policy Department of the Presidential Administration, met with Armen Grigoryan, Secretary of the Security Council of Armenia on August 19. Commenting on such meetings and contacts, Azerbaijani MP Sahib Aliyev thinks that if those who organized the negotiations had treated it as a mission to create peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia, and had proceeded from this logic, then there would have been no need to use force. MP adds that negotiations with Armenia are not without a military component, that is, they are of a military-political nature. In Azerbaijan, this idea is also supported by the people. Thus, the survey of the Center for Social Research shows that 80 percent of those polled in Azerbaijan support anti-terrorist operations if the conditions of the tripartite statement of November 10, 2020 are not met. MP also sees the factors that caused the process to be prolonged in the fact that the West or Moscow did not demand Armenia to fulfill its obligations on time, and claims that if the mediators had shown determination, the peace agreement would have been signed long ago.
Armenians leaving the Azerbaijani city of Lachin continue to burn houses where they used to live illegally during the years of the Armenian occupation of the city. Their stay there is actually a war crime and it runs counter to the Geneva conventions. Hikmat Hajiyev, Assistant to the President of Azerbaijan wrote on his official Twitter account about the illegal settlement of Armenians from the Middle East after the occupation of Lachin, drawing attention to the Times reportage by Robert Seely in May 1992. Residents of Sus village of Lachin district also say that Armenians have never lived in Lachin and they are waiting for the day when they will return to their homeland.
According to the tripartite declaration, the return of Lachin district was planned until December 1, 2020. During that same time period as well, Armenians while leaving the region destroyed houses, infrastructure facilities, burned forests, and deliberately destroyed the flora and fauna of the region.
Simultaneously, Armenia continues with mine terrorism as well. Thus, in the eastern part of Lachin district, in the northwest of the Saribaba hill was discovered an anti-personnel minefield buried by illegal Armenian armed groups. On August 15, within one day, 991 PMN-E type anti-personnel mines were removed from the area. All the mines discovered in this area were produced in Armenia in 2021, after the Second Karabakh War. On August 22 in Lachin, two military servicemen of Azerbaijan fell into a mine. On the one hand, Armenia weakens the rare and fragile threads of peace with its provocations and sabotages peace in various ways, on the other hand Azerbaijan shows political will, gives time to Armenia. Unfortunately, Armenia uses this time for making provocations. As stated Leyla Abdullayeva, Head of the Press Service Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, “this is how Armenia prepares for peace?!”.
Stable peace is possible. When adversaries resolve their differences and replace hostility primarily with cooperation, they succeed in leaving conflict behind and expanding the footprint of peace. This approach is encouraging and suggests an alternative to the destructive wars that have darkened the course of history. The elimination of hostilities between the states in question can spread from top executives to private sector elites, the business community, and ordinary citizens. Interest groups benefiting from closer ties are beginning to invest in further reducing economic and political barriers, which is driving the reconciliation process. Such practices are enough in the world history. In this regard, the President of Azerbaijan describes the Zangezur corridor as “one of the fundamental elements of future peace”.
Turkey, in turn, does not imagine the process of normalization of Turkey-Armenia relations separately from Azerbaijan-Armenia relations. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlud Çavuşoğlu says that fundamental stability in the South Caucasus can be ensured as a result of the agreement signed by those states (Azerbaijan-Armenia). “Armenia should say concretely whether it wants cooperation in the region”, Çavuşoğlu adds.
In fact, while analyzing processes and evaluating realities that have occurred throughout world history, inviting peace after historical enmity is not an easy task. For this, the greatness of the nation, the political will, determination, pragmatic policy, and foresight of the leader representing this nation must be present, and we must note that Azerbaijan demonstrates this approach. In this regard, the leader of Azerbaijan, Mr. Ilham Aliyev, shows great strategic restraint, takes responsible and noble steps, and invites the remaining Armenians in the region to become citizens of Azerbaijan in a peaceful way. But there is no question of any status or special privilege. They are like every citizen of Azerbaijan. Here we must mention that many ethnic minorities live in Azerbaijan and multiculturalism is not only a priority direction of state policy in Azerbaijan, but also a daily lifestyle of Azerbaijani society.
Shabnam Hasanova, Political Analyst, Baku, Azerbaijan