U.S. May Step In As Peace Process Between Azerbaijan And Armenia Drags On

The end of 2022 marked another round of confrontation between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the Karabakh region involving Russian peacekeeping forces. The clash began in early December when a Russian peacekeeping contingent in the breakaway Karabakh region denied access to officials from Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources and state-owned mining company AzerGold CJSC to conduct on-site inspections. Gizilbulag gold deposits and Demirli copper-molybdenum deposits to assess potential risks to the environment (Mfa.gov.azDecember 13, 2022; Fed.az, December 16, 2022). While the peacekeeping mission deprived Azerbaijani state officials of free movement in the separatist part of Karabakh, it increased skepticism in Azerbaijani and Armenian societies about Russia’s role in the process (Eurasianet15 December 2022).

In response to these restrictions, environmental activists in Azerbaijan staged a protest on the Shusha-Lachin road where Russian peacekeeping forces are stationed, accusing them of being too friendly with de facto separatist country Hankendi (Stepanakerta) (Eurasianet, December 15, 2022). As of January 2023, eco-activists continued to protest on the Lachin road, restricting most transport and movement to separatist Karabakh from Armenia. They demand full access to Azerbaijani government institutions in every location in Karabakh, accepting Baku’s internationally recognized borders.

However, the protests on the Shush-Lachin road drew criticism of Azerbaijan in the West, with France taking a staunchly pro-Armenian stance, blaming the Baku government for blocking the main road linking Karabakh to Armenia, which in turn sparked fierce opposition. French sentiments in Azerbaijani society (Azernews, December 9, 2022). However, despite Western pressure on Baku to reopen the Lachin road, Azerbaijan is unlikely to budge from its position until it has full control of the road.

Also Read :  Republicans push anti-abortion measures with new majority

Related: Why Oil Won’t Trade Above $100 This Year

Indeed, the timing of the protests led to questions in both local and international media as to why similar protests had not occurred in the region before (Eurasianet, December 29, 2022). The answer may lie in the failure of peace talks between Baku and Yerevan proposed by the European Union and Russia in 2022. EU attempts to facilitate further negotiations and prepare at least a draft of the final peace agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia. failed so far. Another main reason for the failure of the Brussels negotiation format was the anti-Azerbaijani resolution adopted by the French Senate in October 2022 and the French government’s expressed solidarity with Armenia, which, from Baku’s point of view, further increased the current discord (Armenian Weekly Edition, November 22, 2022). As the EU’s role as a mediator in peace talks diminishes, official Baku has begun to use alternative methods, namely civil protests, to draw international attention to what it sees as illegal exploitation of natural resources in Karabakh.

With the EU unable to bring Baku and Yerevan closer to a peace agreement, the US is likely to increase its role in 2023 to prevent Russia from completely monopolizing the peace process (commonspace.eu, January 6). Philip Rieker, the US senior adviser on the Caucasus negotiations, retired at the end of 2022, which gives Washington an opportunity to appoint a new and well-seasoned negotiator with relevant regional experience, such as Michael Carpenter, who currently serves as the US ambassador. Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to lead the process (Report.azJanuary 5).

Also Read :  Southeast Wisconsin winter storm watch begins Thursday morning

However, various estimates of international experts and scientists show that 2023 will not be a smooth year for the region. According to a recent analysis, the South Caucasus is likely to be plagued with other deadly forms of warfare, with an alliance of Iran, Russia and Armenia fighting against an alliance of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Georgia.JAM-news, January 6). If the uncertainty created by Russia’s war against Ukraine promises to create new catalysts in the post-Soviet region, the emergence of new conflicts in the South Caucasus threatens to create a deep security vacuum. While it is difficult to predict the specifics of potential future conflicts in the region, it is fair to say that the region may see another short-term battle between Baku and Yerevan.

This possibility seems even greater given the recent press conferences of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on January 11 and 12, respectively (Armenian Weekly EditionJanuary 11; President.az, January 12). Both conferences took place at the height of the standoff between Baku and Yerevan, and there was little chance of resuming stalled talks. At the press conference, Pashinyan stated that the indifference of Russian peacekeepers to the events on the Lachin road did not give Armenia the security guarantees it wanted, but, on the contrary, created a threat to Armenia’s security (Armenian Weekly Edition, January 11; see EDM, January 19). Meanwhile, in a face-to-face interview with a local broadcasting service, Aliyev emphasized that 2023 will be the last year for peace talks, declaring: “If they [the Armenians] don’t care, we don’t need it [negotiations] also” (Ayna.az, January 12). Such statements show that if the talks fail, another round of armed clashes in Karabakh in 2023 will be inevitable.

Also Read :  Taliban bans female NGO staff, jeopardizing aid efforts

Therefore, Aliyev’s remarks should not come as a surprise, as the lack of a final peace agreement with Armenia is causing debate at home and complicating Baku’s relations with some leading Western countries, especially France. In addition, given Azerbaijan’s frequent criticism of Russia and its support for Ruben Vardanyan, the current minister of state, Baku is likely to seek a close partnership with Washington in the formal negotiation process. de facto separatist government in Karabakh.

Indeed, 2023 will be another turbulent year for Armenia and Azerbaijan in terms of peace talks. Azerbaijan’s protests on the Lachin road will apparently continue until internal disputes in the separatist Karabakh region between Ruben Vardanyan and Major General Vitaly Balasanyan, the former head of Russia’s Security Council, who was fired by Vardanyan in early 2023, escalate, allowing Azerbaijan to increase. its influence and end possible illegal mining in the region (Turan.az, January 7). If such a scenario succeeds, it could lead to changes in Karabakh and the entire region.

Jamestown Foundation

More readers at Oilprice.com:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Related Articles

Back to top button