The Karabakh Status Quo against the Geopolitical Processes in 2011: Motives for (Non) Preservation of Status Quo

The internet conference was held in the Caucasus Journalists' Network from September 20 to 22, 2013.

It was organized in the framework of "Alternative Information for Armenian-Azerbaijani Dialogue" project, implemented by Region Research Center and Institute for Peace and Democracy with the financial support of British Embassies in Armenia and Azerbaijan. The opinions expressed in this internet conference by the participants do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of British Government,.


From Armenia-

Manvel Sargsyan, Director of the Armenian Center for Strategic and National Studies (ACSNS)

Sergey Sargsyan - Assistant Director of the Center for Political Studies of “ Norvank” Foundation

Arman Melikyan -political consultant of the Refugees and International Law Civil Society Network

From Azerbaijan-

Zafar Guliyev - Head of the Analytical Department at News Agency “Turan”

Azad Isazade - military psychologist from the Institute of Peace and Democracy (Azerbaijan)

Shahin Abbasov -analyst of the website


Laura Baghdasaryan

The internet conference was held in Russian, here we present some excerpts in English.


Negotiation Process - Limits for "Restartability" and Prospects for Conservation 

Zafar Guliyev - The Karabakh problem has already partially lost the role of an effective and quite sensitive lever for pressure - at least upon Azerbaijan. Nonetheless, the "pressing potential" of the conflict is still high and perhaps it will be used both in the course of the negotiations process, and in association with other issues (the Turkish and Armenian relations, the problem of Iran, gas battles and so on). As for the prospects of the negotiation process and the factor of importance of the Karabakh issue, I assume that in the coming year we could hardly expect any special activity and novelties in this field. The window of opportunity is narrowing inexorably - the electoral processes will soon start in Russia, the USA and Armenia. Besides, the dynamic and intriguing developments in the surrounding region (the Arabic spring, the Turkish and Israeli collisions, NABUCCO and so on) partially deprive the Karabakh conflict of its topicality.

Sergey Sargsyan - The issue of the possibilities for the conservation of the conflict arises in this context, so it does not remain as a factor for uncertainty and does not interfere with the work of the other "levers." But conservation assumes that the parties involved in the conflict undertake the obligation of leaving its resolution until a later date, not applying one-sidedly or in general any attempts to radically change the situation around the conflict. The conflict will become the main and "umbrella" lever, overarching all the others, only if the threat to restart hostilities acutely emerges.

Geopolitical Processes around South Caucasus and Their Impact on Karabakh Conflict

Azad Isazade- Taking into consideration the fact that the Azerbaijani and Russian relations often resemble seesaws, it is difficult to give any assessment whether they have warmed up or cooled off. If before the dialogues between B. Yeltsin -Elchibey or B. Yeltsin - H. Aliyev were of formal character or completely lacked, but the dialogues between I. Aliyev -V. Putin and I. Aliyev - Medvedev are of warmer and more sincere nature. Besides, Russia, unlike the West, does not raise the issue of the democratization and human rights. Kazan has rather brought about an emotional cooling off.

Shahin Abbasov - I agree with Azad Isazade! Very often there is an impression that the Government of Russia does not have a united policy towards Baku which is due to the divergent attitudes held by Putin and Medvedev. That is why the future development of mutual relations will to a certain degree also depend on who becomes the president of the Russian Federation in 2012.

Arman Melikyan - The philosophical concept of Eurasianism is actively propagated in Russia. The basic ethnic carriers of this concept must become the Russian and Turkic peoples. Some experts in the USA call V. Putin the leader of the Eurasianistic movement in Russia who is expected by many already today to become the next President of Russia. It is probable that the Turkic peoples of the former USSR will be involved in the implementation of the Eurasianism project, and Azerbaijan will not be the last among those. Since the participation of Turkey is hardly probable, a moment may come when Azerbaijan will have to face a choice who to be friends with and against whom. In a year or two this choice may become very hard to make, catastrophically hard.

Azad Isazade - Karabakh does have an impact on the policy led by Ankara, but it is not a key factor. From time to time there are even some worries in Baku that Turkey may sacrifice Karabakh for the sake of its own interests (provisionally we can name its membership to the EU, the issue of Genocide or others). The issue is sometimes so acute that Erdogan periodically announces of the firmness of their position about Karabakh.

Sergey Sargsyan - And really, it is Turkey who should not be especially yearning to change the status quo of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. For Turkey the "conservation" of the conflict is the best option. In Ankara they believe that the time is not on the side of Karabakh/Armenia. And they are ready to wait for the resolution of the Nagonro Karabakh Republic issue in favor of Azerbaijan in the times of any power/President in Azerbaijan.  And the present power in the Azerbaijan Republic and I. Aliyev himself cannot eternally put off the resolution of the conflict. The issue of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, the high prices for oil, and the huge sums of money taken from the people's pockets and spent on arms are a ticking bomb. It is a different issue who will blast it. The current status quo is beneficial to all, even to Azerbaijan.

Zafar Guliyev - In the recent years the negotiation process has in essence been reduced to primitive bargain: what can and should Azerbaijan offer in response to the stage by stage liberation of the occupied territories by Armenia? In the meantime, the formula "territories in exchange for the status" very much resembles elementary blackmail. Initially these territories were occupied (with the active cooperation of Russia) not for the sake of creating a security belt, but as a powerful lever for subsequent pressure on Azerbaijan to force it to make concessions. But the complexity of the situation is that because of the deep geopoliticization of the conflict the bargain takes place not between the conflicting countries themselves (even though it officially looks so), but on the level of the interested and leading actors involved in the process (the USA, EU, Russia). By the way sometimes Karabakh does not serve as the main stake in the bargaining but as an appendage, a base coin. And that is why the prospects of global regulation of the conflict look quite obscure today.

Sergey Sargsyan- Zafar, and what if you look at it from the other side? It is always reflected like this: "what can and should Armenia offer in exchange for an unknown offer by Azerbaijan? In the meanwhile, the formula "a status in exchange for territories" resembles elementary blackmail very much." This also sounds nice, doesn't it?  Or perhaps everything just looks like bargaining? Trust me neither Armenia nor Karabakh want to exchange the territories for a status quo. Here they understand it quite well that any territory concession is a shortly procrastinated war, and by the way, leads to less favorable positions. While Azerbaijan considers that the time is on its side, the Armenian parties think just the opposite.  And the "security belt" came to act as not a "belt" and not an object for bargaining in the future, but as a more energy efficient configuration of the balance of powers - first of all, in the military and technical aspect. And if suddenly the conflict comes back into the "hot" stage, it seems that the Armenian parties will face the task of the advance into the depth of the defense of the Azerbaijani military not for the sake of creating a "security belt - 2" or of providing another "product" for bargaining in a more remote future. 

Internal and External Motives of Preservation of/Change in the Status Quo of the Karabakh Conflict

Manvel Sargsyan - As a result of the collapse of the USSR Azerbaijan has been reformed on a territory it does not feel satisfied with. It desires to expand its borders to the borders of the former Azerbaijan SSR. It has already been seventeen years that the international community has reserved the legal right to bring such claims for Azerbaijan. At the same time a condition is set before Azerbaijan to achieve its desires by means of negotiations with Armenia on the basis of a compromise. It can be seen with the naked eye that the international condition set before Azerbaijan initially deprives it of the possibilities for the realization of its desire. What is left there for Azerbaijan to do? Only one thing: to lead the course for the preservation of the legal right for the territories lost in 1994. Why should Azerbaijan conclude an agreement with Armenia, as a result of which it must relinquish part of its rights in favor of Armenia and the NKR?   Why does Armenia need the exhaustion of conflicting relations with Azerbaijan?  Since Armenia does not intend to concede Nagorno Karabakh to Azerbaijan, the conditions for achieving an agreement is of no value to Armenia.

Zafar Guliyev - The lack of real motivation of the parties for a peaceful settlement of the conflict will inevitably intensify the motivation for the military settlement in the Azerbaijani society. 
If before the war was waged for the Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Region, currently the problem of the NKAR has been pushed to the sidelines. The de-occupation of the territory around NKAR has become a priority issue for Azerbaijan.  
Shahin Abbasov - I think that Russia will remain indifferent to the issue of the export of Azerbaijani hydrocarbons into the European markets. The volumes are not significant enough to constitute real competition for the Russian export into Europe, at least for the upcoming 15 years. However, Russia has a very firm and clear position not to allow for any direct export of the 
Turkmen hydrocarbons to Europe, bypassing Russia. This is the issue that has been recently lobbied by the European Union particularly actively (the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline). And here 
I think that Moscow may take an ultimate measure up to a military destabilization in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict zone or in Georgia. This is an important issue for the national security of Russia. 
Azad Isazade - And doesn't the participation of the Russian military subdivisions in the parade in Yerevan testify to the abovementioned? Has Russia made a concrete choice between Baku 
and Yerevan or has it simply waved its finger at Baku? 
Sergey Sargsyan - Azad, and don't you think that if Russia wanted to provoke a war, it would not balance the chances of the parties? The parade was a very good example and an obvious hint.
Arman Melikyan - The war between Georgia and Russia is a very illustrative example of how by means of a brief military provocation it is possible to achieve serious geopolitical changes on the regional level. The Georgian Establishment had long been trying not to aggravate relations with Russia, realizing that it could have quite a pernicious effect on its aspirations for Abkhazia and Osetia. There was someone who was quite unhappy with this duality. Georgia had to make a difficult choice - either it would decide on a final divorce with Russia and enjoy the full political and diplomatic and significant military and economic support of the USA and the European Union, who would officially consider Abkhazia and South Osetia Georgian territories, or the uncertainty would last, the country would continue to sink into a bog, and would have to face the realistic threat of further territorial disintegration. Saakashvili chose the severance of relations with Russia and did not lose anything - all its territorial losses had happened before the war in August. It seems that the change in the quality of the ruling elite in Georgia was timed for this political somersault.
Manvel Sargsyan - The position of Azerbaijan in the international and domestic dimensions is significantly different from that of Georgia. Azerbaijan has no motives to use the war for introducing changes in the foreign policy parameters for its own favor.  The war may have only one immediate aim - to establish control over a concrete territory. Such a war does not have a versatile political aim. But the war unleashed by Azerbaijan brings about considerable political interest among many other external forces. Russia and Iran cannot help taking advantage of such a war to make their positions in the Caspian region stronger. Armenia will go for the acknowledgement of NKR. Turkey may turn the war in Karabakh into a reason for the realization of many of its own plans within the frames of the "Zero Problems with Neighbors" policy. That is to say a war can be started and the emerged situation will be thrown "to the lions," whoever those may be. I think that this circumstance is well-understood by the leadership in Azerbaijan, as well as by all interested external forces.


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