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Igor Korotchenko: Yerevan demonstrated its readiness for peaceful agenda with Baku, but success depends on many factors

30 April 2024

Igor Korotchenko, the General Director of the Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies in his interview to «Moscow Baku» shared his forecast about the potential turnout of the recent wave of protests against the Armenian Prime Minister in the context of delimitation of boundaries between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Mr. Korotchenko, after Azerbaijan and Armenia announced the start of the process of delimitation of boundaries and returning four villages occupied by Armenia under Bakus control, protests started in various parts of Armenia, and some roads were blocked. The opposition is taking advantage of the situation and is pouring oil on flames. Is there a risk that the situation may play out very serious for the Armenian Prime Minister?

It is important to emphasize: the start of demarcation and delimitation of boundaries between Azerbaijan and Armenia, even at a separate section so far, is a meaningful step forward on the path to peace. It involves establishing the boundaries fixed in the Almaty declaration of 1991. It means that Armenia recognizes the territory of Azerbaijan within the boundaries of Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic.

The start of delimitation process and returning four villages by Armenia to Azerbaijan was another victory of Azerbaijani diplomacy and Bakus tactics. Azerbaijan has nailed them down. And this victory was achieved without any intermediaries. Azerbaijan laid down the direct negotiations as a condition, and this approach is abided by, which is also a success of Azerbaijani diplomacy. It is especially important that Baku succeeded in that in the context of heavy pressure on Azerbaijan by many western actors. Now they do not have a chance to manipulate the process.

The start of delimitation in this section also means that Azerbaijan is strengthening its military and political positions. From now Armenia will not be able to use this section for instigating conflicts, and even if tries to do so, these conflicts will immediately be toughly combatted.

Now there is a very high probability that based on the request of Baku Armenia will exclude from its Constitution the wording about territorial claims to Azerbaijan.

As we could see, the majority of the leading countries welcomed the start of delimitation both the countries friendly to Azerbaijan and the countries pursuing ambivalent policy in South Caucasus. This is an important positive factor.

At the same time, indeed, Armenian opposition is trying to take advantage of the situation with the start of delimitation of boundaries. We saw that within several days upon the announcement of such start the opposition forces were concentrating in the respective zone. Until now, roads are blocked in various parts of the country, and rallies are organized in Yerevan. The global Armenian expat community including its representatives living in Russia are actively heating up the protest. Some of the Armenian Apostolic Church clergy are actively engaged.

Pashinyan is forced to respond to this and to explain almost on a daily basis, why returning the territories to Azerbaijan and delimitation of boundaries is so important, and why will it only strengthen Armenias sovereignty in future.

At the same time, the protest is not massive and is not regular. It is obvious that people do not want to participate in the actions, because the Karabakh clan has played out. People are just tired of it. And the opposition during several years could not achieve the goal of overthrowing Pashinyan. Even it undertakes certain efforts, they do not have consolidated support of the public. It should be emphasized, that the opposition is not feeling such support and is acting half-heartedly. In principle, it cannot achieve the desired result.

Yes, we can see that ultra-radical forces are still there. We saw an uncivilized act of burning the flags of Azerbaijan and Turkey in Yerevan. But practice shows that even such radicals cannot or do not have sufficiently strong to overthrow Pashinyan.

As is known, in incumbent Minister of Internal Affairs Vage Kazaryan is a friend of Nikol Pashinyan. The loyalty of security and law enforcement agencies given the neutrality of the army means a free hand for the Prime Minister, so we can forecast that all his political decisions including delimitation and demarcation of boundaries will be implemented.

The National Security Service of Armenia is also performing cultivation among the Pashinyans opponents. They are not only analyzing the situation, but also issue warnings about the plots of the opposition. The authorities are in control of the current processes.

However, from all appearances, the Prime Minister of Armenia decided to batten down the hatches. It became known that the General Prosecutors Office demanded to seize real property, cars and financial resources of the opposition representatives, who have enough resources (both politically and financially). They meant Robert Kocharyan, the former President of the country, Gagik Khachatryan, the former Minister of Finance, and Gagik Tsarukyan, who used to be a member of parliament. It shows that Pashinyan, who has the background of working in the opposition to the government, understands that depriving the opposition of its financial resources means the way towards its political collapse. So, he is implementing this scenario. The attempts of the opposition to challenge the delimitation process in the parliament turned out to be blocked by the ruling majority.

It is quite remarkable that Nikol Pashinyan during his presidency was able to overcome deep political crises many times, to steer clear of scandals and even strengthened and continues to strengthen politically. Not a single attempt of the opposition to overthrow him during 6 years did not succeed. This shows that the Prime Minister is indeed backed by a stable majority of voters supporting his policy. Today we can see that the streets are full of fringe groups, members of the opposition, Karabakh clan supporters, but they are not able to win the critically important stable majority for removing the government, as they were not able to do it in the past. And it means that Pashinyan is a real long-haul. This is the reality.

Mr. Pashinyan demonstrated the phenomenon of his political survivance and the capability of fitting into political processes, which is really amazing. We can remember a well-known Russian saying about Anastas Mikoyan, who successfully built his political career from the times of Lenin until the times of Brezhnev. Pashinyan is the same. Time goes on, and he remains in power despite all the attempts to overthrow him.

Strange as it may seem, Pashinyan, often despite his somewhat grotesqueness, is demonstrating a very interesting policy, the policy of shocking contrasts. On one hand, Armenia is drifting away from Russia, and this may cause nothing but serious concerns. On the other hand, we often hear anti-Azerbaijan statements and accusations from Yerevan, which are not underpinned by any substantiation. Rearmament of Armenia. At the same time, we are hearing statements about the need for peace with Azerbaijan and about Armenia being ready for that. Now we can see Armenias consent to return four villages to Azerbaijan and to start the delimitation of boundaries. On the other hand, there is an observational mission of the EU on the border, and its expanding. This is the policy full of contradictions. Nikol Pashinyan manages to thread the needle under the «political rain», and his feet are still dry. He keeps the freedom of political maneuver.

His agreement to start the delimitation reflects this political foxery. This is his policy: one step forward and two steps backwards. This proves one more time that Azerbaijan is facing very complex challenges on the way to robust peace treaty with Armenia. Yerevan demonstrated its readiness for the peace agenda, but further success depends on many factors, on the forces, which will be the most influential in further decision-making.

The good thing is that there are positive signals across the world. The meeting of the Foreign Affairs Ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia may soon take place in Kazakhstan. Astana made an important statement that Kazakhstan will not be acting as an intermediary, but will just provide the location for negotiations. It is clear that Pashinyan does not want to go to Moscow for the negotiations. But the Armenian Prime Minister would demonstrate a constructive approach if he came to Moscow to participate in the nearest events planned by the Kremlin. Then he would have an opportunity to discuss difficult issues with Vladimir Putin and maybe settle some of them.

Is there such a possibility considering the current Armenian policy towards Moscow? The position of the leadership of Russia is to keep the window open for dialogue and settlement of all the issues. We are ready to that. Another question is whether Armenia will use this window of opportunity.

By the way, in the context of difficult relations between Moscow and Yerevan we cannot miss the video of Russian and Azerbaijanian leaders talking to each other in the Russian capital: they demonstrated candid and informal communication. We can see that Vladimir Putin personally walked his Azerbaijanian colleague to his car at the end of his visit to Russia. The leaders embraced one another when saying good-bye, and once again we could see special chemistry between the Presidents. This strong video speaks for itself. Putin and Aliyev are figures of the same political and historical scale.

They understand each other, they trust each other, and they are leaning on each other in their both formal and informal agreements. We understand: there is no play of chance in big-league politics. And if such video is displayed at the state TV channel, it means that Russian-Azerbaijanian relations are currently on the rise, that Azerbaijan is our real strategic partner and ally.

In view of your description of the contradictions in Armenian politics: recently information appeared that representatives from the Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic came to Yerevan to discuss their cooperation. And today we saw the information that Hungary is blocking the document about providing assistance to Armenia on the security track of the EU Peace Fund.

Victor Orban as a responsible and efficient politician understands very well the geopolitical situation. Hungary has the observer status in the Organization of Turkic States and is demonstrating a strong commitment to its responsibilities.

It is no secret, that the objective of the collective West when it is pouring armaments into Armenia is to turn this country into a NATO staging ground. The Czech Republic has some good competencies in the sphere of armament. They are in artillery systems, multiple rocket launchers, aviation. It is a serious player from the standpoint of military and engineering capabilities. Today Pashinyan is trying to diversify the sources for acquiring weapons to the maximum extent. We can say, that the Western countries ticked the next box: to help Armenia. Pashinyan is turning into Armenian Zelensky.

We remember some leakages in media about the results of the meeting between the Armenian Prime Minister, the US Secretary of State and the Head of the European Commission in Brussels on the 5th of April. Media published the Road map for military and technical integration of Armenia into Western community. The demonstrative information on turning Armenia into the Western staging ground, into a Trojan horse of the FSU area. We can observe visits, negotiations between Armenia and the West in this sphere. The process is underway. It is possible not to pay attention to the quite tough statements by the President of Azerbaijan addressing those pouring armaments into Armenia. This is a serious signal that Baku is sending both to Yerevan and to its Western patrons: its no good stirring the pot, there will be a strong response.

It is quite ironic that the French Ambassador after her short escapade and after Macron called her for consultations on relations with Azerbaijan had to return to Baku. It means that the attempts by Paris to continue pressure on Baku presented a complete fiasco again. France is deflating. This again shows that firm position (in this case, of the Azerbaijanian authorities) forces the opponents to agree with it. A clear and tough policy protecting the national interests provides significant preferences for Azerbaijan, including on the track of Armenian-Azerbaijanian settlement.

As for Azerbaijan counteracting the US pressure, we need to emphasize that usually Washington is playing a long game. Bidens administration will never forget the tough reaction of Baku to the attempt of creating the American fifth column. Normally Washington does not forgive such things. That is why Azerbaijan should not relax. Right now, we can already see the attempts to introduce sanctions against certain representatives of political and law enforcement elites of Azerbaijan. Not only the Armenian lobbyists may be behind them, but also certain influential groups, who do not like strengthening of Azerbaijan.

Complex multi-tier process is going on all over the world including South Caucasus. Many things collapse and deteriorate in the changing turbulent world, and new ones are created instead. But when the world order is changing, it is very important to demonstrate tough and clear adherence to the policy of protecting national interests, and both Ilham Aliyev and Vladimir Putin are doing that. 

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Comments

Igor Korotchenko: Yerevan demonstrated its readiness for peaceful agenda with Baku, but success depends on many factors

30 April 2024

Igor Korotchenko, the General Director of the Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies in his interview to «Moscow Baku» shared his forecast about the potential turnout of the recent wave of protests against the Armenian Prime Minister in the context of delimitation of boundaries between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Mr. Korotchenko, after Azerbaijan and Armenia announced the start of the process of delimitation of boundaries and returning four villages occupied by Armenia under Bakus control, protests started in various parts of Armenia, and some roads were blocked. The opposition is taking advantage of the situation and is pouring oil on flames. Is there a risk that the situation may play out very serious for the Armenian Prime Minister?

It is important to emphasize: the start of demarcation and delimitation of boundaries between Azerbaijan and Armenia, even at a separate section so far, is a meaningful step forward on the path to peace. It involves establishing the boundaries fixed in the Almaty declaration of 1991. It means that Armenia recognizes the territory of Azerbaijan within the boundaries of Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic.

The start of delimitation process and returning four villages by Armenia to Azerbaijan was another victory of Azerbaijani diplomacy and Bakus tactics. Azerbaijan has nailed them down. And this victory was achieved without any intermediaries. Azerbaijan laid down the direct negotiations as a condition, and this approach is abided by, which is also a success of Azerbaijani diplomacy. It is especially important that Baku succeeded in that in the context of heavy pressure on Azerbaijan by many western actors. Now they do not have a chance to manipulate the process.

The start of delimitation in this section also means that Azerbaijan is strengthening its military and political positions. From now Armenia will not be able to use this section for instigating conflicts, and even if tries to do so, these conflicts will immediately be toughly combatted.

Now there is a very high probability that based on the request of Baku Armenia will exclude from its Constitution the wording about territorial claims to Azerbaijan.

As we could see, the majority of the leading countries welcomed the start of delimitation both the countries friendly to Azerbaijan and the countries pursuing ambivalent policy in South Caucasus. This is an important positive factor.

At the same time, indeed, Armenian opposition is trying to take advantage of the situation with the start of delimitation of boundaries. We saw that within several days upon the announcement of such start the opposition forces were concentrating in the respective zone. Until now, roads are blocked in various parts of the country, and rallies are organized in Yerevan. The global Armenian expat community including its representatives living in Russia are actively heating up the protest. Some of the Armenian Apostolic Church clergy are actively engaged.

Pashinyan is forced to respond to this and to explain almost on a daily basis, why returning the territories to Azerbaijan and delimitation of boundaries is so important, and why will it only strengthen Armenias sovereignty in future.

At the same time, the protest is not massive and is not regular. It is obvious that people do not want to participate in the actions, because the Karabakh clan has played out. People are just tired of it. And the opposition during several years could not achieve the goal of overthrowing Pashinyan. Even it undertakes certain efforts, they do not have consolidated support of the public. It should be emphasized, that the opposition is not feeling such support and is acting half-heartedly. In principle, it cannot achieve the desired result.

Yes, we can see that ultra-radical forces are still there. We saw an uncivilized act of burning the flags of Azerbaijan and Turkey in Yerevan. But practice shows that even such radicals cannot or do not have sufficiently strong to overthrow Pashinyan.

As is known, in incumbent Minister of Internal Affairs Vage Kazaryan is a friend of Nikol Pashinyan. The loyalty of security and law enforcement agencies given the neutrality of the army means a free hand for the Prime Minister, so we can forecast that all his political decisions including delimitation and demarcation of boundaries will be implemented.

The National Security Service of Armenia is also performing cultivation among the Pashinyans opponents. They are not only analyzing the situation, but also issue warnings about the plots of the opposition. The authorities are in control of the current processes.

However, from all appearances, the Prime Minister of Armenia decided to batten down the hatches. It became known that the General Prosecutors Office demanded to seize real property, cars and financial resources of the opposition representatives, who have enough resources (both politically and financially). They meant Robert Kocharyan, the former President of the country, Gagik Khachatryan, the former Minister of Finance, and Gagik Tsarukyan, who used to be a member of parliament. It shows that Pashinyan, who has the background of working in the opposition to the government, understands that depriving the opposition of its financial resources means the way towards its political collapse. So, he is implementing this scenario. The attempts of the opposition to challenge the delimitation process in the parliament turned out to be blocked by the ruling majority.

It is quite remarkable that Nikol Pashinyan during his presidency was able to overcome deep political crises many times, to steer clear of scandals and even strengthened and continues to strengthen politically. Not a single attempt of the opposition to overthrow him during 6 years did not succeed. This shows that the Prime Minister is indeed backed by a stable majority of voters supporting his policy. Today we can see that the streets are full of fringe groups, members of the opposition, Karabakh clan supporters, but they are not able to win the critically important stable majority for removing the government, as they were not able to do it in the past. And it means that Pashinyan is a real long-haul. This is the reality.

Mr. Pashinyan demonstrated the phenomenon of his political survivance and the capability of fitting into political processes, which is really amazing. We can remember a well-known Russian saying about Anastas Mikoyan, who successfully built his political career from the times of Lenin until the times of Brezhnev. Pashinyan is the same. Time goes on, and he remains in power despite all the attempts to overthrow him.

Strange as it may seem, Pashinyan, often despite his somewhat grotesqueness, is demonstrating a very interesting policy, the policy of shocking contrasts. On one hand, Armenia is drifting away from Russia, and this may cause nothing but serious concerns. On the other hand, we often hear anti-Azerbaijan statements and accusations from Yerevan, which are not underpinned by any substantiation. Rearmament of Armenia. At the same time, we are hearing statements about the need for peace with Azerbaijan and about Armenia being ready for that. Now we can see Armenias consent to return four villages to Azerbaijan and to start the delimitation of boundaries. On the other hand, there is an observational mission of the EU on the border, and its expanding. This is the policy full of contradictions. Nikol Pashinyan manages to thread the needle under the «political rain», and his feet are still dry. He keeps the freedom of political maneuver.

His agreement to start the delimitation reflects this political foxery. This is his policy: one step forward and two steps backwards. This proves one more time that Azerbaijan is facing very complex challenges on the way to robust peace treaty with Armenia. Yerevan demonstrated its readiness for the peace agenda, but further success depends on many factors, on the forces, which will be the most influential in further decision-making.

The good thing is that there are positive signals across the world. The meeting of the Foreign Affairs Ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia may soon take place in Kazakhstan. Astana made an important statement that Kazakhstan will not be acting as an intermediary, but will just provide the location for negotiations. It is clear that Pashinyan does not want to go to Moscow for the negotiations. But the Armenian Prime Minister would demonstrate a constructive approach if he came to Moscow to participate in the nearest events planned by the Kremlin. Then he would have an opportunity to discuss difficult issues with Vladimir Putin and maybe settle some of them.

Is there such a possibility considering the current Armenian policy towards Moscow? The position of the leadership of Russia is to keep the window open for dialogue and settlement of all the issues. We are ready to that. Another question is whether Armenia will use this window of opportunity.

By the way, in the context of difficult relations between Moscow and Yerevan we cannot miss the video of Russian and Azerbaijanian leaders talking to each other in the Russian capital: they demonstrated candid and informal communication. We can see that Vladimir Putin personally walked his Azerbaijanian colleague to his car at the end of his visit to Russia. The leaders embraced one another when saying good-bye, and once again we could see special chemistry between the Presidents. This strong video speaks for itself. Putin and Aliyev are figures of the same political and historical scale.

They understand each other, they trust each other, and they are leaning on each other in their both formal and informal agreements. We understand: there is no play of chance in big-league politics. And if such video is displayed at the state TV channel, it means that Russian-Azerbaijanian relations are currently on the rise, that Azerbaijan is our real strategic partner and ally.

In view of your description of the contradictions in Armenian politics: recently information appeared that representatives from the Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic came to Yerevan to discuss their cooperation. And today we saw the information that Hungary is blocking the document about providing assistance to Armenia on the security track of the EU Peace Fund.

Victor Orban as a responsible and efficient politician understands very well the geopolitical situation. Hungary has the observer status in the Organization of Turkic States and is demonstrating a strong commitment to its responsibilities.

It is no secret, that the objective of the collective West when it is pouring armaments into Armenia is to turn this country into a NATO staging ground. The Czech Republic has some good competencies in the sphere of armament. They are in artillery systems, multiple rocket launchers, aviation. It is a serious player from the standpoint of military and engineering capabilities. Today Pashinyan is trying to diversify the sources for acquiring weapons to the maximum extent. We can say, that the Western countries ticked the next box: to help Armenia. Pashinyan is turning into Armenian Zelensky.

We remember some leakages in media about the results of the meeting between the Armenian Prime Minister, the US Secretary of State and the Head of the European Commission in Brussels on the 5th of April. Media published the Road map for military and technical integration of Armenia into Western community. The demonstrative information on turning Armenia into the Western staging ground, into a Trojan horse of the FSU area. We can observe visits, negotiations between Armenia and the West in this sphere. The process is underway. It is possible not to pay attention to the quite tough statements by the President of Azerbaijan addressing those pouring armaments into Armenia. This is a serious signal that Baku is sending both to Yerevan and to its Western patrons: its no good stirring the pot, there will be a strong response.

It is quite ironic that the French Ambassador after her short escapade and after Macron called her for consultations on relations with Azerbaijan had to return to Baku. It means that the attempts by Paris to continue pressure on Baku presented a complete fiasco again. France is deflating. This again shows that firm position (in this case, of the Azerbaijanian authorities) forces the opponents to agree with it. A clear and tough policy protecting the national interests provides significant preferences for Azerbaijan, including on the track of Armenian-Azerbaijanian settlement.

As for Azerbaijan counteracting the US pressure, we need to emphasize that usually Washington is playing a long game. Bidens administration will never forget the tough reaction of Baku to the attempt of creating the American fifth column. Normally Washington does not forgive such things. That is why Azerbaijan should not relax. Right now, we can already see the attempts to introduce sanctions against certain representatives of political and law enforcement elites of Azerbaijan. Not only the Armenian lobbyists may be behind them, but also certain influential groups, who do not like strengthening of Azerbaijan.

Complex multi-tier process is going on all over the world including South Caucasus. Many things collapse and deteriorate in the changing turbulent world, and new ones are created instead. But when the world order is changing, it is very important to demonstrate tough and clear adherence to the policy of protecting national interests, and both Ilham Aliyev and Vladimir Putin are doing that.