One of the key events of the outgoing week were the reports on the activation of the negotiation process on Karabakh and, as a result, a new wave of discussions related to the threat of a resumption of war.
It should be reminded that recently Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov announced that his new meeting with Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandyan could probably take place in mid-January 2018.
About Karabakh was also said in the Declaration adopted by the Foreign Ministers of Azerbaijan, Iran and Turkey last week on the results of the fifth joint meeting. The Ministers noted the importance of an early settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
As mentioned above, traditionally, when the negotiation process on Karabakh begins to intensify, ‘hawks’ become more active in Armenia, exacerbating the situation. This time, as Azeri Daily already reported, Chief of the General Staff of the Armenian Armed Forces Movses Hakobyan stated that the Armenian side ‘can restore its positions in Nagorno-Karabakh at any time.’
The Armenian politicians and diplomats, who began to accuse Azerbaijan of trying to bring the process of the Karabakh settlement out of the format of the OSCE Minsk Group, do not remain aloof. This was, for example, stated by the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National Assembly of Armenia on European Integration, Naira Zohrabyan at the 17th meeting of the Armenia-EU Parliamentary Cooperation Commission.
In turn, member of the Armenian parliament Margarita Yesayan stated that all cases of violation of the ceasefire regime occur solely because of Azerbaijan, while international parties make statements that equate the parties to the conflict. ‘It’s time to open your eyes and see the reality,’ she said.
Armenia is also worried about the support that Ankara is giving Baku. And it is precisely by this that the Armenian Foreign Ministry explains Yerevan’s intention in the spring of 2018 to declare the ‘Zurich protocols’ (agreement on the regulation of relations between Armenia and Turkey – Ed) invalid.’
In turn, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan commenting to the Armenian media on the situation around the negotiation process on Karabakh, noted that currently the process is moving in two directions: in the first direction, the parties try to achieve a reduction in tension and introduce mechanisms to facilitate this, and only then it will be possible to work over the provisions of the document.
Presenting his own vision of the settlement, the Armenian president stressed the necessity of observing the ceasefire regime and excluding victims on the contact line. ‘We have a program that will exclude all encroachments of Azerbaijan.’ What is this program Sargsyan, of course, did not specify.
But despite Sargsyan’s assurances, Armenian experts are seriously concerned about possible military actions, while they represent Azerbaijan as militarily weak side, calming the Armenian society. But nevertheless, their statements show concern.
Thus, Armenian political scientist Hrant Melik-Shahnazaryan told Novosti-Armenia that Azerbaijan does not have the capacity to resume hostilities. Further, contradicting himself, he noted that ‘if it were not for the Azerbaijani energy resources and financial interests of Western countries in Azerbaijan, this problem (Karabakh – Ed) would have been solved long ago.’
In turn, Russian military expert Alexander Khramchikhin in an interview with the Yerevan edition of the ‘First Information’ did not soothe the Armenian society. ‘If Azerbaijan decides to start a war, the fact of war cannot be prevented,’ he said.
Perhaps that is why Yerevan, without expecting any help from the CSTO (and this is objective) again turned to NATO. The other day Yerevan was visited by NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller, who discussed with the Armenian leadership the possibility of expanding cooperation with the Alliance.
‘We talked about existing security challenges, expanding cooperation. Cooperation between Armenia and NATO is based on mutual interests,’ Gottemoeller said. And Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan noted the importance of the events held in Armenia within the framework of the ‘NATO Week.’
It is hardly accidental that against this background the Yerevan edition of Lragir launched a new anti-Russian campaign, the reason for which was the suspension of repair work on a 40-metre stretch of road near the border with Iran, as Russian border guards protecting this border did not give their consent.
‘Has Armenia lost or surrendered the territory?’ Asked columnist of the newspaper Hakob Badalyan about this. ‘The situation is interesting, especially for a sovereign state. The border troops of the third state do not allow carrying out repair work on the border of Armenia with another state. Although the base for such a decision is undoubtedly the Armenian-Russian agreement, according to which the protection of the borders of Armenia with Turkey and Iran is transferred to the Russian border guards,’ Badalyan admits.
It is clear that Armenia did not make the decision to trust the protection of its external borders to the Russian military in crying need. Well, why complain now?
In turn, Armenian analyst Sargis Artsruni also touches on the issues of the ‘risk of renewal of the war.’ In his opinion, there is objectively no prerequisite that would allow expecting a breakthrough in the settlement process.
But the point in the discussions, perhaps, was put by the Armenian ‘general-deputy’ Seyran Saroyan. ‘God forbid, war starts. Because of one height, we will not lead the people to perdition. This height is not God knows how important.’ Thus, he commented on the discussions in the Armenian society concerning the strategic height of Lele-Tepe, which the Azeri army liberated in April of last year.
Further, General Seyran Saroyan said the standard phrases that the Armenian side could go on the offensive in other sectors and ‘take all prisoners.’ But, perhaps, there is no point to quote his words. The key phrase said by the Armenian general: ‘God forbid, war starts…’