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"Aliyev questions the existence of the Armenian state" – German political scientist

The Blinken-von der Leyen-Pashinyan meeting scheduled for April 5th in Brussels is viewed by German expert Stefan Meister as a “response to the Armenian prime minister’s steps towards Europe, the West, and attempts to distance a bit from Russia.”

He believes that such a “support format” might be possible but it won’t play a decisive role or deliver what Armenia needs most: security guarantees and security cooperation:

“In this very complex situation, everything is connected to security. And I don’t see the US or the EU actually providing it to Armenia at this moment.”

Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, and US secretary of state Anthony Blinken will discuss “trilateral cooperation promoting the development of Armenia” in Brussels. This was announced by the secretary of the security council, Armen Grigoryan, who emphasized that “the event will be aimed at strengthening Armenia’s resilience.” This is all that is known about the upcoming meeting at this time.

“Germany is not a key mediator, just provides a negotiation platform”

Commenting on Berlin’s involvement in Armenian-Azerbaijani talks, Stefan Meister stressed that it doesn’t amount to full-fledged mediation. Germany only offers a venue for discussions. This role should neither be underestimated nor overestimated.

The expert recalled meetings in Munich and Berlin against the backdrop that “the EU format, which was offered by [European Council president] Charles Michel, no longer works” as Azerbaijan rejects it:

Germany is trying to step in and provide this platform to build a bridge. Perhaps [this venue will be useful] after the elections in Europe. Then, a new intervention or a new step from Europe might occur.

According to Meister, Berlin could take on more responsibility, exert some pressure on Baku’s maximalist position:

Perhaps influence subsequent processes. That is, really play a role as a mediator in the negotiations, provide a certain mechanism. But I don’t see readiness from the German side, from the chancellor’s side, to do more than Michel.”

“Baku is trying to push out not just France but also Europe from the region”

During the Russian-Ukrainian war, Azerbaijan has become more important for the EU due to its communication and transit capabilities, says Stefan Meister. Baku’s role is also growing due to hydrocarbons – gas and oil. At the same time, cooperation between Russia and Azerbaijan is increasing.

Currently, in the South Caucasus, major deals involving Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia, and Turkey are being discussed. These also concern Armenia. The discussions include communications and regional cooperation,” says Meister.

He believes that Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia, and Turkey all agree that the European Union and the West, in general, should not be allowed into the region.

Azerbaijan’s statements against France’s involvement clearly imply the exclusion of all Europe from the region, the expert notes.

At the same time, according to him, the EU’s presence in Armenia is growing. An example is the EU’s civilian mission patrolling the Armenia-Azerbaijan border. The political scientist also sees the importance of economic and security cooperation with Armenia and neighboring Georgia:

The competition between Western countries and the region’s authoritarian countries is growing in terms of who collaborates with whom and who wants to play what role in the region in the future.”

“Azerbaijan is putting strong pressure on Armenia”

Regarding the strong pressure Azerbaijan is exerting on Armenia, the expert spoke about the border delimitation negotiations between the countries. These are happening bilaterally and, in Stefan Meister’s opinion, have reached “perhaps not the final, but a decisive stage – discussing details.” The expert believes that Baku is forcing Yerevan to agree on key issues. For example, on returning four non-enclave villages in the Tavush region:

Here, it’s important to decide which map to use as the basis for delimitation. Meanwhile, the balance of power is very uneven. I think Armenia must consent to many painful issues. Therefore, I believe that handing over these territories [to Azerbaijan] is the right decision.”

However, the political scientist says that these actions should occur within the overall package of border delimitation, not as a separate action. Because “in some sense, they also serve as leverage for Armenia.”

Goodwill alone is not enough; negotiations are necessary.” And it’s hard to say whether returning the four villages will lead to an agreement and peace, “even if it’s the right step,” emphasizes Meister.

“It seems that Aliyev needs the conflict”

From Aliyev’s perspective, the Karabakh problem is now solved. He has always built his legitimacy on the image of an enemy, on the need to return Nagorno-Karabakh. The question is, what’s left? What’s new? Is this part of a larger game, including towards Armenia?

Pashinyan has already made significant concessions, the expert believes. But Azerbaijan continues to push its agenda, despite the fact that “Armenia cannot give more at this point.”

This leads to the conclusion that perhaps there is no real interest in a reliable and stable agreement,” observes the German political scientist.

Watching the rhetoric of Aliyev and other Azerbaijani officials, he sees “a maximalist approach to maintaining the enemy paradigm towards Armenia.”

The political scientist emphasizes that the president of Azerbaijan even questions the very existence of the Armenian state:

Now, this discourse might become the new paradigm on which the legitimacy of the president of Azerbaijan is built. I think this would be a very dangerous game because it’s actually about the existence of Armenia. And this game will never end, because for Aliyev’s regime, it’s very important to stay in power and gain this legitimacy.”


(c) 2024, JAMnews


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