Turkey and Azerbaijan have imposed a war on the Armenian side targeted at changing the regional security perceptions and shifting the power balance. Developing such a perspective implies the engagement of new actors with corresponding role distribution. The general perception is that any outcome of the war is going to have a decisive significance for the regional actors in the long-term perspective. Hence, Armenia and Artsakh are now fighting not only to guarantee their own security, but also to ensure the perspective of long-term regional stability.
A number of regional actors have been targeted by the propaganda of the Turkey-Azerbaijan alliance. Attempts are being made to alter the legal perceptions of the conflict. Namely, Turkey and Azerbaijan are criticizing the work of the UN and the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs.
- As to the UN Security Council resolutions, those are situational in nature and have been introduced due to the results of a certain stage of the conflict back in 1993. That is the reason why for 27 years the UN Security Council has never referred to those resolutions.
- As to the criticism directed at the activity of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, “as if they are very far from being solution oriented”, and are inactive, in fact, it is quite contrary. For 28 years the OSCE has had an active and immediate involvement both in the cessation of hostilities, and in the freezing and management of the conflict. Azerbaijan itself has rejected conflict settlement-directed numerous mechanisms and alternatives drawn forward by the OSCE Minsk Group, thus bringing the issue back to the starting point of the truce.
Turkey’s objectives of targeting the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs and claiming it to be, so to say, inactive are evidently clear. Turkey is trying to strengthen its leverages in the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: implementation of military aggression, followed up by military-political activity. The first precondition is also being outlined: Turkey to be directly involved in the negotiation process. Perhaps, official Baku and Ankara have planned for Turkey to have the status of a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group. Over the years, the idea that the French mandate in the Minsk Group co-chairing should be replaced by a Turkish one has been consistently fomenting. They try out to substantiate it with a false thesis of creating balance in the group, regarding France as a pro-Armenian mediator.
It may well be so that Turkey will propose a new format of four-partite co-chairmanship. Ankara and Baku have been regularly speaking that only Russia and Turkey are able to resolve the issue, thus trying to soften the Russian response and to legitimize Turkey’s involvement. This thesis may seem to contradict the US interests, but in fact, Turkey's involvement also does increase NATO's presence in the region and within the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict. Although the Armenian-French amity and strategic cooperation have been traditionally shaped, France is a member of NATO. Thus, Turkey’s involvement in the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair format, with its immediate participation in the ongoing war, implies that the NATO member states will secure their dominant positions in the Co-Chairs Group. If previously two NATO member states of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs (the US and France) had no immediate borders with the conflict zone, then with Turkey’s involvement this problem will be dealt with. This will inevitably lead to the perspective of the immediate involvement of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
- Legal Perceptions. Turkey and Azerbaijan claim that the Nagono-Karabakh Conflict is a post-Soviet phenomenon, which is logically followed by the idea as if the territorial integrity of present-day Azerbaijan has been violated. From the viewpoint of international law, Nagorno-Karabakh has never been part of the independent state of Azerbaijan. The legal bases for the process of Nagorno-Karabakh's secession from Soviet Azerbaijan were laid in February, 1988, and when Azerbaijan declared the restoration of its independence in 1991, Nagorno-Karabakh had already declared its independence within the scope of international legal norms, and in accordance with the USSR Constitution and laws. Quite not casually, back in 1992-1994 Nagorno-Karabakh did participate in the negotiation process on the conflict settlement, and, in 1994 the agreement on implementing ceasefire in the conflict zone was signed by the Republic of Armenia, the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and the Republic of Azerbaijan within a tripartite format.
- Turkey and Azerbaijan often mention in their propaganda that the Armenian troops should be withdrawn from the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. However, the presence of Armenian troops in Artsakh is the only guarantee for the security of the population of Artsakh. With all, Turkey and Azerbaijan are trying to give a religious connotation to the conflict, a prospect which sounds extremely dangerous. Turkey and Azerbaijan not only recruit mercenaries representing radical terrorist organizations, but also launch a reiterated and deliberate attack on the Ghazanchetsots Holly All-Savior Church in Shushi. Whereas, the Armenian side has reconstructed the Persian Mosque of Gohar-agha in Shushi.
In the context of Armenophoby of Azerbaijan and Turkey, the Armenian side eliminates the possibility for the Artsakh Republic to directly subordinate to Azerbaijan, and esteems it unambiguously reasonable that the Nagorno-Karabakh party should be involved into the negotiation process.
In its turn, Turkey makes attempts to place the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the context of Armenia-Turkey relations. Official Ankara puts the stress on the fact France is a state which recognized the Armenian Genocide of 1915, thus challenging the evenhandedness of the latter. Moreover, official Ankara questions the impartiality in the Nagrono-Karabakh issue of the other Minsk Group Co-Chairs, on a premise of the attitude the abovementioned states have towards Armenia. Such logic arises from the Turkish perception of Armenians, the two of the three co-chairing states of the Minsk Group (Russia and France) have in full recognized the Armenian Genocide, with the US Congress having recognized it at the Houses level. Thus, taking the Armenia-Turkey relations as a starting point, Turkey, making use of the Nagorno-Karabakn Conflict, attempts to force its political-military interests onto Azerbaijan, as well. It’s no wonder that the Armenian community watches out the statements by President Erdoğan and Turkish Press Secretary Ibrahim Kalın, rather than those by Ilham Aliyev and other Azerbaijani officials.
One of Turkey’s main goals is to destroy the barrier which is being perceived as the South Gateway in the Russian foreign policy. On the other hand, the growth of the Turkish influence in the South Caucasus and in Azerbaijan particularly, almost brings to naught the possibility that Europe will integrate Azerbaijan. Moreover, the contemporary establishment of unprecedentedly closer relations between Turkey and Azerbaijan and Turkey’s acting on behalf of Azerbaijan practically conflates the EU-Azerbaijan relations and the EU-Turkey relations.
Taking into account official Ankara’s undisguised Pan-Turkic aspirations of the recent vintage, as well as the official statements and messages regarding the claims to territories of certain regions (Ajaria in particular) of neighbouring Georgia, our deep conviction is that the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict is only one direction in Turkey’s Southern Caucasus policy, after which very unpleasant surprises may occur both for Georgia, and for Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the two being allies of Russia. The Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict is only the first stage of Turkey’s expansion in the Caucasus and the future escalation of the conflict.
Thus, the problem of larger geopolitical rearrangements is being settled in the Artsakh front-line. The enlargement of Turkey’s foothold in the region threatens the security of the South Caucasus and adjacent countries, as well as the power centres pursuing economical and political interests, and the whole civilized world engaged into the anti-terrorist combat. Within the context of such challenges the main task of official Stepanakert, Yerevan and mediating parties should be the complete elimination of Turkey’s presence in the negotiation process in any format.
Moscow has the clues for the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict. This is reestablished by the statement of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Republic of Azerbaijan and Republic of Armenia on October 10, 2020. The Preamble and Clauses 3 and 4 of the document should be given prominent attention. The Preamble (In response to the call of President of the Russian Federation, & in accordance w/agreements of the President of Russian Federation, Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia Pashinyan and President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, sides agreed on steps presented below) not only emphasizes the unique role of the RF, but also elevates the statement of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs to the Presidential and Prime-Ministerial level from the legal point. This precludes the possibility to reject the document later. The Clauses 3 and 4 of the document (3. The Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia, with the mediation of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, based on the basic principles of the settlement, begin substantive negotiations with a view to achieving a peaceful settlement as soon as possible. 4. The parties confirm the constant format of the negotiation process.) exclude the adoption of a new format of the negotiations and have a longer-term focus.
Thus, the statement of 10 October, 2020, practically leaves out Turkey at least from the political process and affirms the RF’s attitude stating that the OSCE Minsk Group format is not subject to alteration.
However, Turkey continues to dominate in Azerbaijan from the geopolitical point of view, thus it will make an attempt to change the already established rules of the game.
Vahram Petrosyan, Doctor of History, Associate Professor
Roman Karapetyan, Doctor of History, Associate Professor