Next Round of Trilateral Meeting: Closer to Peace? (Op-Ed)
by Naghi Ahmadov
A trilateral Summit of President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan has been held in Moscow on May 25. At the end of the meeting, no document was signed, the sides have only reviewed the peace agenda. Although the negotiations in Moscow did not have a serious result, we cannot say that the meeting was completely unsuccessful. It is inevitable that the parties to the conflict want to communicate intensively on different platforms to minimize misunderstandings and differences between them. In this context, Azerbaijan welcomes the efforts of all parties facilitating the negotiations and aims to achieve peace as soon as possible, regardless of whose initiative it is.
In general, it can be assumed that the latest tripartite Moscow meeting was an attempt by the Kremlin not to miss Russia’s mediation initiative and reassert its role as the main mediator in the regional peace process, against the background of the recent activation of the United States and the European Union in the normalization process.
It should be noted that before the tripartite meeting in Moscow, President Aliyev and PM Pashinyan met in Brussels on May 14 with the mediation of European Council President Charles Michel. Also, it is reported that the next meeting will take place with the participation of French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholtz within the framework of the Second European Political Community Summit which will be held on 1 June 2023 at Mimi Castle, Bulboaca 35 km from Chișinău, Moldova. Later, in October of this year, a second meeting with a similar composition is planned to take place in Granada, Spain.
Most likely, although the parties are very close to the final agreement, we, unfortunately, still cannot have a completely positive expectation about the signing of the peace agreement by the end of the year. There are various reasons for this. On the one hand, it is related to the position of the Armenian side to avoid signing any final document in the defeated state after the 44-day war, but, on the other hand, it is caused by the tension between the third parties actively participating in the Azerbaijan-Armenia normalization process.
The normalization of relations between the two nations is only possible as a result of the re-opening of direct communications which was on the agenda in Moscow as well. For this reason, the Azerbaijani side insists on this issue. In contrast, Armenia’s diplomatic word-play on the term of Zangezur Corridor, which we witnessed again in Moscow, is a sign of its unwillingness to deviate from the essence of the issue of opening communications and to fulfill the commitments undertaken by the tripartite statement signed on November 10, 2020. As an outcome of the Moscow meeting, that should be considered as a positive point, the meeting of the Deputy Prime Ministers of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia during the next week was agreed. And most likely, at this meeting, efforts will be made to overcome the issues that have not been resolved so far regarding the opening of communication lines, as well as an exchange of views on the technical issues of delimitation and demarcation.
It seems that the Armenian government is doing everything to maintain the current status quo. PM Pashinyan has declared that he recognizes the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, but other high-level officials from Armenia are contrastingly still trying to interfere in Azerbaijan’s internal affairs by making claims about Karabakh. In this context, the peace agreement with Armenia will not fundamentally change the existing situation. If Pashinyan’s two-faced policy continues, it will further aggravate the already sensitive situation and lead to further armed escalations. In other words, until Armenia completely abandons its territorial claims, an acceptable solution to the conflict will never be found.
In brief, the recently intensified diplomatic contacts between Azerbaijan and Armenia have created hopes that the peace process in the South Caucasus is approaching the final stage. As a result of the Washington and Brussels meetings, mutual recognition of each other’s territorial integrity brought the parties closer to signing the final peace agreement, thus one of the main obstacles to signing the peace agreement has almost disappeared.
Naghi Ahmadov, a senior fellow at the Center of Analysis of International Relations (AIR Center), exclusively for News.Az