Where they didn’t expect: the United States wanted to become mediators in Nagorno-Karabakh

The US decided to help Baku and Yerevan reach a compromise on the issue of defining the state border. At present, Azerbaijan and Armenia are increasingly trying to improve relations and reach a peace treaty. Prior to this, Washington’s interest in the region flared up mainly during election campaigns. Why did the Americans want to become mediators in resolving the conflict right now – Izvestia investigated.
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“Secretary of State Anthony Blinken spoke with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and offered US assistance in efforts to delimit and demarcate the border, and also called for progress in developing regional transport and communications ties. He emphasized the importance of continuing bilateral dialogue to resolve problems in the South Caucasus and reaffirmed US support for talks between President Aliyev and Prime Minister Pashinyan mediated by the European Union.

In addition, the document also emphasizes the importance of normalizing relations between Yerevan and Ankara “to ensure peace, stability and prosperity in the region.”

Just before that, on May 24, Deputy Prime Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan Mher Grigoryan and Shahin Mustafayev, who, by the way, was born and studied in Armenia, met at the common border, knows the language and history of the neighboring state well. They discussed the work of commissions on delimitation. In particular, we are talking about organizational and procedural issues of joint activities of delimitation commissions.
Head of the European Council Charles Michel (center) and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan (left) and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev (right) at a meeting in Brussels

Head of the European Council Charles Michel (center), Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan (left) and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev (right) at a meeting in Brussels
Photo: TASS/EPA/STEPHANIE LECOCQ
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Two days before, talks were held in Brussels between Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. Over the past six months, this is their third meeting. The President of the European Council Charles Michel, who acted as an intermediary, stressed the need to take into account the interests of the residents of Karabakh.

By the way, negotiations with Baku are taking place against the backdrop of protests that have not subsided in Yerevan for the past month. Thousands of Armenians are trying to force the authorities to call early elections. The leaders of the protest actions are the former presidents of the country, Serzh Sargsyan and Robert Kocharyan, who formed a coalition in parliament from the political forces “I have the honor” and “Armenia”.

A month ago, Pashinyan announced the need to “lower the bar on the status of Karabakh” and sign a peace agreement with Azerbaijan. The Armenian Foreign Ministry added that they were going to recognize the borders provided for by the 1991 CIS agreement, emphasizing that this does not mean the end of support for the struggle of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh for their rights.
Russia promised to help residents of the Syunik region of Armenia

The opposition accused the authorities of betraying national interests: the intention to surrender Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan and improve relations with Ankara, stepping over the memory of the Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire.
Settlement attempts

The last time the United States tried to mediate between Baku and Yerevan was in the fall of 2020, at the height of hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh, when the parties agreed on a ceasefire. However, it was immediately torn down. The Americans promised to restore order in the region, but few believed them.

Washington’s interest at that moment was connected with the election campaign in the United States – President Donald Trump sought to get the votes of the large Armenian diaspora in the swing states, so he promised to help resolve the conflict. However, the matter did not go further than statements.
Nagorno-Karabakh
Photo: Izvestiya/Zurab Javakhadze
Protective character: how the arrival of peacekeepers was celebrated in Nagorno-Karabakh
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The only time an active initiative to resolve Nagorno-Karabakh came from Washington in the early 2000s: the Americans proposed a plan for the exchange of territories: to return seven regions around Karabakh to Azerbaijan, Baku would also receive the Meghri corridor, Armenia, in turn, would receive the NKR and the Lachin corridor. But the parties did not agree to this: for the Azerbaijanis, this would mean the loss of the NKR, for the Armenians, the loss of a section on the border with Iran, which connected the country with the outside world.

However, many experts at that time explained Washington’s interest not so much by the desire to reconcile the countries, but by the desire to secure their own investments in the Caucasian oil and gas sector.

Nuances of the negotiation process

After February 24, 2022, against the background of the aggravation of Russian-American relations, the South Caucasus acquired strategic importance in US foreign policy, orientalist, candidate of political sciences Larisa Aleksanyan notes in an interview with Izvestia.
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– The fact is that the American authorities have stepped up the policy of ousting Russia from the post-Soviet space, primarily from the South Caucasus, since the proximity of this region to the North Caucasus gives it a key role in the vital interests of the Russian Federation, which determine the national security of the country. In this situation, Washington considers the South Caucasus as a tool to weaken Moscow as a whole. The United States claims to implement such a scenario, in which Russian peacekeepers will leave Nagorno-Karabakh in the short term, because Russia’s military presence in the conflict zone strengthens its position both in Azerbaijan and in the region as a whole, the expert explained.

According to the political scientist, this explains the White House’s interest in the soonest establishment of Armenian-Turkish relations.

– The goal of the American authorities is to strengthen Turkey’s influence in the region at the expense of Russian positions and, ultimately, to withdraw the Russian military base from Armenia. It is still difficult to say how possible the implementation of American plans in the South Caucasus is, since Russia, as the dominant force in the region, is actively working to establish peace and stability, while implementing such a scenario that would allow it to maintain and strengthen its influence in Armenia and Azerbaijan , as well as ensure the safety of 100,000 Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh, the expert is sure.
peacekeepers Nagorno-Karabakh
Photo: Izvestiya/Zurab Javakhadze

This position is shared by Vladimir Avatkov, Doctor of Political Sciences, Head of the Department of the Near and Post-Soviet East, INION RAS.
Conflictologist named the necessary steps to resolve the situation in Karabakh

— The US is proposing mediation initiatives to implement its own plans for the spread of what it considers to be controlled house. Almost all of Washington’s initiatives to resolve conflicts ended negatively for those parties that were involved in this very conflict. The United States is acting insincerely, not understanding the complex processes that are taking place in the South Caucasus, relying on its own interests, and not on the interests of the conflicting parties. For example, the United States recognized the Armenian genocide only during the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, while Russia did it almost immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union and absolutely sincerely, the political scientist explained in a conversation with Izvestia.

Director of the Institute of International Political and Economic Strategies – RUSSTRAT Elena Panina, in turn, emphasizes that there are important nuances at the beginning of the joint work of the commissions of Armenia and Azerbaijan on border delimitation. The expert talks about this in his Telegram channel.

“The fact is that the decision on this appeared after the meeting between Ilham Aliyev and Nikol Pashinyan in Brussels, which outlined a certain mediating mission of EU Council President Charles Michel, although Moscow also plays this role. Therefore, one gets the feeling that Baku and Yerevan are “playing” on various political platforms, reinsuring each other. Some experts believe that this approach strengthens the position of one of the parties. Baku is called in this connection, although Yerevan can refer to examples in the EU of ensuring the rights of ethnic minorities, such as Albanians in North Macedonia or Hungarians in Romania. It is no coincidence that the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan, Ararat Mirzoyan and Jeyhun Bayramov, took turns calling their Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and, as Moscow reported, “exchanged views on the current situation in the region,” the political scientist draws attention.
baku city view
Photo: TASS/Valery Sharifulin

According to her, at present the main question is what geographical maps will be used by the parties. “It is clear that it is necessary to be guided by the maps of the Soviet period. For Yerevan, this could be the map designated in the 2010 Law on the Administrative-Territorial Division of the Republic of Armenia. But there are those in the republic who call to start from the maps of almost the era of Tigran the Great or, in extreme cases, the times of the Transcaucasian Federation, according to which “Armenia owns the mountainous regions that were transferred to Azerbaijan,” Panina believes.

According to her, since the restoration of independence, there has been no state border between the two countries. The expert is sure that during the discussion disagreements will inevitably arise between Yerevan and Baku. “In addition, the matter rests on the decision of the painful status of Nagorno-Karabakh for Armenia, even if it is considered as an “Armenian enclave”. This is associated with problems of an infrastructural and legal nature, which can only be resolved through political will, ”the political scientist believes.

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