Karl von Clausewitz: “The goal of any war is peace
on terms favorable to the victorious party «
Negotiations on Karabakh with the participation of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan (AR) and the Republic of Armenia (RA), as well as the co-chairs of the OSCE MG took place on October 8, 2020 in Geneva and Moscow. On October 9, 2020, three-party talks were held in Moscow with the participation of the Foreign Ministers of the AR, RA and the Russian Federation (RF). The 3-hour talks in Moscow ended with the adoption of a final joint statement.
October 11-13 this year The RA Foreign Minister paid an official visit to the Russian Federation. The issues of the Karabakh settlement were discussed during the talks. In the development of the agreements reached in Moscow on October 9-10, 2020 at the 3rd foreign meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia. The dialogue on de-escalating tensions in the conflict zone and creating conditions for the resumption of a substantive negotiation process continued, including through the OSCE MG Co-Chairs.
In particular, the parties to the conflict agreed on the following steps: first, to declare a ceasefire from 12 noon on 00 October 10 for humanitarian purposes for the exchange of prisoners of war and other detainees, and the bodies of those killed through the International Committee. The Red Cross (ICRC); secondly, the specific parameters of the ceasefire will be agreed upon in addition; thirdly, the AR and the RA, with the mediation of the OSCE MG Co-Chairs, will start substantive negotiations on the basis of the basic principles of the settlement in order to reach a peaceful settlement as soon as possible; fourth, the parties confirm the invariability of the format of the negotiation process.
In this regard, it should be noted that the humanitarian truce on the line of the Karabakh Front cannot be considered a long-term pause in hostilities, as it is not a cessation of hostilities in general. Especially since there is no extremely clear answer to the question: when, in what form and scope will the above points of the joint statement be implemented? As a result, the humanitarian truce on the line of the Karabakh Front has not been observed from the very beginning and is not observed in principle.
The first stage of the peace enforcement operation
It can be stated that today in the Karabakh conflict zone the long-standing principles no longer apply — the «line of contact» of the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan and Armenia, as well as the status quo. The first principle is replaced by the front line, and the second is destroyed. As noted by the Assistant to the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Hikmet Hajiyev, the first stage of the operation to enforce peace has been completed.
The hostilities unfolded along the 193-kilometer former line of contact between the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan and Armenia. The military potential of the Republic of Armenia is inferior to the AR in terms of armaments and mobilization potential. The Azerbaijani side demonstrated an effective solution during the Second Karabakh War in terms of equipping the Air Force with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
However, the continuing military parity between the AR and the RA, the difficult terrain, and the presence of fortified defensive engineering lines make it difficult to achieve lightning success during offensive operations. In the highlands there are very few operational areas where you can fight under the laws of traditional war with a breakthrough on the front, the development of success in depth, as well as the encirclement of large groups of the enemy. The mountainous nature of the terrain does not allow the Azerbaijani Armed Forces to fully realize its superiority. In other words, when the AR Armed Forces attack the prepared defense, the superiority of the Azerbaijani side is minimized, accompanied by losses in manpower and equipment.
Naturally, in the conditions of hostilities in the Karabakh conflict zone, Yerevan focused on two areas: first, the maximum mobilization of all Armenian forces to repel the offensive of the Armed Forces of the AR and inflict losses on the enemy; secondly, active work with the international community for political and diplomatic pressure on the AR and TR.
In this context, the statement of the President of France Emmanuel Macron that in the zone of the Karabakh conflict, according to French intelligence, there are militants of jihadist groups from Syria, who entered the region through the Republic of Turkey (TR), should be considered. In turn, the director of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Sergei Naryshkin pointed to the threat of participation of Syrian militants from such extremist organizations as «Jabhat al-Nusra», «Firkat al-Hamza», «Sultan al-Murad» in the Karabakh war. These statements (in the context of the information war) actually put psychological pressure on Baku and Ankara. «Our country is under various pressures, and the Supreme Commander-in-Chief (Ilham Aliyev) is resisting them.» This was stated at a recent briefing by Assistant to the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan H. Hajiyev.
In addition, in order to put pressure on Baku, Yerevan de facto appealed to the world community to recognize Nagorno-Karabakh (NK). And on October 8 this year The Geneva City Council adopted Resolution R-271 «On the right of Armenians to life and self-determination», which recognized the right of Karabakh Armenians to self-determination as the only guarantor of security. RA Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has already stated that he expects NK to be recognized by France. N. Pashinyan also said this in a conversation with E. Macron.
At the same time, Russian-Turkish relations are deteriorating. The reason is not only the rivalry in Syria and Libya, but also the Karabakh conflict, in which Ankara actively supports Baku.
Despite the fact that the AR Armed Forces failed to significantly intervene in the defense of the RA Armed Forces along the entire front line, it is the Azerbaijani side that has the strategic initiative in conducting hostilities, achieving concrete success in the northern and especially southern directions. Therefore, Baku seeks to put pressure on Yerevan and force it to compromise in the talks under the auspices of the OSCE MG. But on their own, publicly designated terms.
However, in the event of the failure of the current round of talks under the auspices of the OSCE MG in the second stage of hostilities of the AR Armed Forces with the aim of disintegrating the Armenian defense and advancing deep into the territory of the «NK» will intensify its actions at the front. Although, given the political and diplomatic pressure on Baku, the temporary reserve of the AR Armed Forces for the 2nd stage of the military operation is limited.
At stake is the authority of the UN Security Council
Aide to the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Kh. Hajiyev stated that «Azerbaijan’s intention is to ensure the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions, which consist in the immediate, unconditional and complete withdrawal of the Armenian Armed Forces.» It should be noted that non-compliance with UN Security Council resolutions does not add credibility to the co-chairs of the OSCE MG — Russia, the United States and France.
All four UN Security Council resolutions on the Karabakh conflict (№822, №853, №874 and №884) were adopted at the height of the First War: from April 30 to November 12, 1993. Of the requirements of UN Security Council resolutions (№822, №853, №874, №884), which called for an immediate cessation of hostilities and the liberation of areas occupied by Armenian forces outside the former NKAO, only a ceasefire was implemented, which was generally maintained until September 27, 2020. year. Other requirements of UN Security Council resolutions were not met.
UN Security Council resolutions provide a clear, step-by-step solution to the conflict. By the way, in the resolutions of the UN Security Council refused to recognize RA as a party to the Karabakh conflict. The second side of the conflict in these resolutions is called «local Armenian forces» (№822), «Armenians of the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan» (№853, №884).
Calls were addressed to Yerevan to «continue to exert» or «use its influence» on the Armenians of the NK (№853, №884). «NC» is called, as well as AR, then the interested party, then simply the party (№853, №874, №884).
It can be stated that Baku does not comply with the UN Security Council resolution regarding the restoration of economic, transport and energy ties in the region, direct contacts with the NC.
Yerevan does not comply with the requirements of the UN Security Council regarding the withdrawal of the occupying forces from the regions of the AR outside the «NK» under the pretext that it is a «security zone» and that a «package» settlement of the Karabakh conflict is preferable. In addition, Yerevan does not comply with the call of UN Security Council resolutions to have a deterrent effect on Nagorno-Karabakh.
The resolution of the Karabakh conflict can be facilitated by the full consolidation of the position on this crisis by the countries — permanent members of the UN Security Council (Great Britain, China, Russia, the United States and France). Especially since Russia, the United States and France are co-chairs of the OSCE MG. However, this is not yet visible due to objective reasons.
French Foreign Minister Le Drian believes that the future peace agreement should not copy what emerged after the 4-day April War of 2016, given the Vienna and St. Petersburg agreements. In other words, it is proposed to solve the problem of the status of «NK» simultaneously with the possible return of the occupied areas to the control of the AR.
De facto we are talking about the implementation of the so-called «Lavrov’s plan», which assumes a step-by-step plan for resolving the Karabakh conflict: Yerevan liberates five districts (Agdam, Fuzuli, Jebrail, Zangelan, Gubadli), and peacekeepers are introduced into the region, refugees return to these areas, and negotiations on Karabakh status begin.
In principle, Baku (as a minimum program) can arrange such an option, but under the condition of deoccupation, not five (Agdam, Fuzuli, Jabrail, Gubadli, Zangelan), but seven districts — plus Kalbajar and Lachin.
In addition, the return of the occupied areas to the jurisdiction of the AR implies the subsequent deployment of peacekeepers. However, the Armed Forces of the Republic of Azerbaijan have already deepened in a number of directions in the direction of Karabakh, and in the event of the implementation of the peace plan, they will have to leave. to retreat. Settlements in Agderinsky, Fizulinsky, Dzhebrailsky and Hadrutsky districts have already been liberated. It is unlikely that Baku will go for it.
Yerevan is trying to force Baku to agree to Armenia’s demands for NK status. Moreover, Baku’s consent to negotiate with the NK is unacceptable for two reasons: first, it will release Yerevan from responsibility for the long-term occupation of the territory of the AR; second, Yerevan’s uncompromising demand for recognition of the NK’s independence makes it pointless to discuss the status issue as such.
In other words, substantive (substantive or effective) negotiations under the auspices of the OSCE MG are possible only under international consolidated political and diplomatic pressure on the parties to the Karabakh conflict — Azerbaijan and Armenia.
The fact is that Yerevan seeks to maintain the status quo and therefore does not intend to make concessions to Baku for the final settlement of the Karabakh conflict. The OSCE MG’s concessions imply the withdrawal of the Armenian Armed Forces from the 7 occupied areas located around the NK. Yerevan is using these 7 occupied districts to trade with Baku in order to achieve recognition of the independence of the NK. Moreover, Baku has repeatedly stressed that it is ready to grant NK autonomy, but will never agree to recognize its independence. For Yerevan, any status of «NK» below the existing one is unacceptable. Thus, neither Baku nor Yerevan will make unilateral concessions, as they mean for both of them their complete political capitulation.
In other words, the scenario of continuing hostilities indefinitely (ie, the war to deplete Armenia) with the concrete result is as follows: the relative defeat of Armenia will force Yerevan to agree to a compromise.
The delay in Yerevan’s negotiation process under the auspices of the OSCE MG leads to the following scenario: Yerevan will retain control over the occupied territories, which are controlled by the Armenian side after the current military actions. Therefore, one topic remains for the negotiation process under the auspices of the OSCE MG — maintaining the ceasefire on the Karabakh front. And in order to maintain a stable ceasefire on the Karabakh front, the topic of «peacekeepers» as additional guarantors of compliance with the ceasefire between the Azerbaijani Armed Forces and Armenia inevitably emerges.
In its foreign policy strategy, Yerevan relies on close cooperation with Russia and France. Thus, the Armenian-Russian strategic alliance is important for Yerevan because the Russian Federation ensures the security of the republic’s state border with Turkey, giving the Armenian Armed Forces the opportunity to release and concentrate all available forces and resources on the Karabakh front. October 7 this year Commenting on the escalation in the conflict zone for the first time, Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed that Russia is ready to fulfill its allied obligations to Armenia (emphasizing, however, that the fighting is still taking place on the territory of the NKR, and this is a different story).
Yerevan insists on Turkey’s de facto removal from the Karabakh issue. Ankara’s settlement of the Karabakh conflict would change the balance of power in the South Caucasus, leading not only to a revision of the negotiating format on the Karabakh issue, but also to the balance of power in the Greater Caucasus region as a whole. And a joint statement by the co-chairs of the OSCE MG and the Presidents of the United States, Russia and France, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and E. The Macron of October 1, 2020 contained a clear implication that the settlement of the Karabakh conflict would take place de jure without the participation of Ankara. By the way, the tripartite statement of October 3, 10 left de facto Turkey out of the responsibility of the OSCE MG co-chairs, fixing the Russian-French position that the format of the OSCE MG co-chairs is not subject to change.
If Baku tries to wage a second Karabakh war of attrition, it will have to buy Turkish and Israeli weapons systems on a large scale in the future. In that case, Moscow and Paris could raise the issue of banning arms supplies to the parties to the Karabakh conflict to the UN Security Council, and demand pressure on Ankara.
In other words, Baku can forcibly liberate 7 occupied areas around the NK, going to protracted war. In case of complete isolation of Armenia, Yerevan will have problems with the supply of military equipment and ammunition. After all, there is no production in Armenia, and delivery to Karabakh will be out of nowhere (or very problematic — formally exclusively through Iran). If during the protracted campaign of the Armenian Armed Forces in Karabakh they suffer heavy losses sufficient for the effectiveness of their resistance to fall sharply, Yerevan will make concessions.
However, Moscow and Paris are not going to allow a complete military defeat of Armenia on the Karabakh front. In this case, Baku risks facing Russian-French pressure, the signs of which we are already seeing. France, as co-chair of the OSCE MG, has always been neutral in its search for a solution to the conflict in the general interest. However, in the light of recent events, Paris has radically revised its strategy towards Baku, de facto taking the Armenian side.
The President of the Republic of Azerbaijan I. Aliyev, proving the rightness of the Azerbaijani side in the Karabakh conflict, repeatedly referred, inter alia, to the position of the UN Security Council. After all, the UN Security Council has adopted four resolutions, which state the inadmissibility of changing the force of state borders. The resolutions of the Security Council have no statute of limitations and are enforceable. The fact that the UN Security Council has not returned to the above-mentioned resolutions for 27 years only shows that the co-chairs of the OSCE MG simply hindered their implementation…
Rauf Rajabov, Orientalist, Head of 3RD VIEW Analytical Center, Baku, Azerbaijan