One step forward, two steps back undermines Armenian-Azerbaijani peace process – Aze.Media

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The meeting, which Klaar said included “good substantive discussions”, is expected to serve as a preparatory stage before the fourth round of European-mediated summits of the leaders of the two South Caucasian republics. This follows a number of significant developments over the past few weeks. While some positive moments have been noted during this period, there have unfortunately also been developments that have challenged peace and reconciliation efforts between the two countries.

It should be emphasized that recent developments underpinning peace efforts are not trivial and were truly unimaginable a few years ago. Armenia’s official decision to permanently withdraw its armed forces from Azerbaijani territories, its plan to build three checkpoints along the border with Azerbaijan, the start of construction on the Armenian side of the new “Lachin Corridor », Prime Minister Pashinyan’s reaffirmation of Armenian commitment to providing land passage for a highway between the western parts of Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan, etc. are all in line with the November 10, 2020 Trilateral Declaration Implementation Course, and therefore contribute positively to the process.

To the detriment of regional peace and security, the developments mentioned above are however often accompanied by other developments that challenge the real agenda of the Armenian side, bring back the rhetoric of the pre-Second World War Karabakh and further deepen the wounds of the conflict.

First of all, a major challenge that further undermines the peace agenda is related to the Armenian armed forces in the territories of Azerbaijan. In mid-July, the Armenian government, contradicting its earlier statements to the contrary, admitted the presence of Armenian troops in Karabakh and pledged to withdraw them. However, the fact that the local Armenian separatists in Karabakh are armed and that Armenia supports them continues to be a threat to regional stability. In early August, a clash between these forces and the Azerbaijani side resulted in the loss of servicemen on both sides. This confrontation has once again confirmed that the guns will not be silenced in Karabakh until the separatist regime is fully demilitarized.

The position of the Armenian government on this process further complicates the situation. Outraged by the Azerbaijani side, Prime Minister Pashinyan, amid the August clashes, said that Azerbaijan should recognize “Nagorno-Karabakh” as a separate entity and that it should accept the existence of a new “ line of contact” in Karabakh. This revives the secessionist rhetoric of the Armenian side which sought to secure the separation of the Karabakh region from the sovereignty of Azerbaijan and establish it as an independent entity. These demands for independence are not only a violation of international law, but also contradict previous statements by Prime Minister Pashinyan who admitted that the Karabakh region is recognized as belonging to Azerbaijan in international documents.

Another blow to peace efforts was delivered by the Armenian residents of the town of Lachin and two villages in the district which will return to Azerbaijani control because these territories are located on the old route of the “Lachin Corridor which will soon be replaced by a new one. Encouraged by the Armenian diaspora, these people burned down their houses in Lachin before leaving the region. The scenes shared on social media from the fires are shocking to Azerbaijani viewers and put salt in the wounds created by the destruction of hundreds of settlements in the formerly occupied territories and the looting of their wealth during the thirty years they were under Armenian control. .

Azerbaijan also discovered hundreds of new landmines planted in this region after the Second Karabakh War. Since the end of the war, more than 240 Azerbaijani citizens have died or suffered life-altering injuries from mine explosions in Karabakh. Armenia continues to ignore the fact that every deadly mine explosion in this region is also a blow against peace efforts. The laying of new anti-personnel landmines in the region therefore casts doubt on the pacifist declarations of the Armenian leadership and calls into question the true intentions and objectives of their policies.

This series of events risks turning the peace process into a “one step forward, two steps back” ritual, delaying negotiations indefinitely. This tendency must be countered by all possible means. It must be seriously taken into account by the European Union in its efforts to bring the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders to the negotiating table.

Dr Vasif Huseynov, Head of Department at the International Relations Analysis Center (AIR Center) and Assistant Lecturer at Khazar University in Baku, Azerbaijan.

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