Baku, Yerevan cannot agree on any choice of countries to replace existing co-chairs – ICG

Baku: Yerevan and Baku have both counted on time working in their favor for years. And they have both pursued strategies that have backfired in some ways. The two sides need to take charge of their bilateral relationship, rather than allowing outcomes to be dictated by external players or by an accident, Nigar Göksel, International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Europe and Central Asia, told APA.

According to her, meanwhile the entrenchment of intransigence among Armenians with regard to ever withdrawing from occupied territories has increasingly narrowed the room for negotiation, and has fuelled Baku’s arms build up.

With regard to the format of the OSCE Minsk Group in solving the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, the senior analyst said the expectation that the co-chair led process will deliver results is very low.

The confrontation between the West and Russia has arguably bogged down the process even more, Göksel said, adding that the prevalent thinking is that settlement over Nagorno-Karabakh will only be possible when Russia and the West settle their scores regarding the European security architecture.

“In any case, Russia seems to be negotiating directly with Yerevan and Baku itself. The interests of the co-chairs often appear to take precedence over a resolution,” she said.

However, there is also a widely shared opinion that the only other option is war, the analyst said, noting that it is unrealistic to try to change the co-chairs, because Baku and Yerevan cannot agree on any choice of countries to replace or join the existing co-chairs.

“That being said, it could help for the co-chairs to try to strike more synergy with other countries that are inevitably related to the conflict, such as Turkey and Iran. The benefit of consultations or exchanges with these countries could go both ways. For example, maybe Ankara will play a more constructive role through its bilateral channels, if it has the benefit of more information and insights from the Minsk group co-chairs,” the ICG analyst said.

Göksel went on to add that there are many disjointed initiatives regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh that are pursued by different actors, and different actors have a range of strengths that are never pooled towards common ends. “Addressing these disjoint could ensure that the initiatives of otherwise partner capitals do not undermine each other,” she said.

According to her, it is not the interests Armenia holds in the continuation of the conflict that weds it to the status quo, rather the issue is Armenia’s lack of interest in changing the status quo.

“Indeed, Armenia continues to miss out on key regional energy and transportation projects. And objectively speaking there is an opportunity cost for the country entailed: both related to economic development and deepening dependence on Russia. But as long as the Armenian population does not see it like this, the politicians are not under pressure in relation to this dynamic. And public opinion polls do not depict a demand for open borders with either Turkey or Azerbaijan,” the analyst stressed.

It seems most Armenians perceive more security threats than opportunities in the prospect of open borders, particularly with Azerbaijan, the analyst said, noting that Armenia has already been circumvented in energy and transportation projects, therefore its exclusion is already seen as a done deal, not something that might still be leveraged or bargained on the basis of.

“Another factor is more symbolic, but no less powerful. Compromise over Nagorno-Karabakh is treated as a betrayal of Armenian ideals and patriotism,” she completed.


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