Between Armenia and Azerbaijan, a fragile resumption of negotiations

by time news

2023-11-30 06:18:17

It is a fragile resumption of dialogue between Baku and Yerevan. Thursday, November 30, bilateral negotiations open on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border on the delimitation of the border between Azerbaijan and Armenia. An important step towards the establishment of a peace treaty between these two Caucasian countries, after a bloody war lost by Armenia in 2020 for control of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, and several border clashes during of the following years.

Relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan have been particularly tense since the lightning military operation launched by Baku in September 2023, at the end of which Azerbaijan regained control of the entire mountainous region of Nagorno-Karabakh, officially recognized by international law as part of Azerbaijan, but populated by Armenians and administered independently since the fall of the Soviet Union. Epilogue of an interminable conflict, the Azerbaijani offensive resulted in the flight of almost all of the 100,000 Armenians in the region.

Disagreement over mediator issue

The issue of Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians was a constant stumbling block in negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan. In power since 2018, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian had strived since 2020 to dissociate the question of the peace treaty between Armenia and Azerbaijan from that of the status of Nagorno-Karabakh and its inhabitants. By brutally erasing this contentious subject from the negotiating agenda, the tragic exodus of Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh paradoxically removes an obstacle to the progress of peace negotiations between the two countries.

However, the process remains uncertain. The questions of border delimitation and the reestablishment of trade and transport in the region, prior to normalization, promise particularly difficult exchanges. The two countries are also struggling to agree on the framework to be given to these negotiations. Armenia, which has lost confidence in Moscow due to its passivity in Nagorno-Karabakh since 2020, wants Western mediation. Winner and eager to impose its conditions, Baku would prefer a Russian, Turkish, Georgian mediator… or even no mediator at all.

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Since the exodus of Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijani representatives have therefore avoided meetings planned with their Armenian counterparts in Brussels, Washington and Grenada, claiming the lack of impartiality of the United States and the European Union. France, which delivered military equipment to Armenia, was notably accused by Baku of “preparing the ground” for new wars.

Azerbaijan’s irredentist rhetoric

By accepting that these talks on the delimitation of the border are held within the region itself, Armenia is therefore offering a sign of “goodwill” to Azerbaijan. “This meeting also indicates the return of Azerbaijan to the negotiating table, notes Richard Giragosian, director of the Regional Studies Center, a think tank based in Yerevan, who however prefers to remain cautious. This will be a test of Azerbaijan’s sincerity. It remains to be seen whether this will be a one-off meeting with no follow-up, or a resumption of a broader process of negotiations. »

Another reason for caution is the irredentist rhetoric used in recent months by Azerbaijan against southern Armenia. If some analysts see these claims as an artifice in order to put pressure on Armenia during the negotiations, and in particular to obtain the establishment of a “corridor” linking Azerbaijan to its exclave of Nakhchivan, other observers take them seriously, and recall that Azerbaijan still occupies more than 200 square kilometers of Armenian territory. One thing is certain, they do nothing to establish trust between negotiators.

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