The new U.S. co-chair of the Minsk Group Andrew Schofer visited Stepanakert. Then he joined the other co-chairs in Yerevan and they met with Sargsyan, then left for Baku and met with Aliyev. However, Schofer also met with Sargsyan and Aliyev.
This seems legitimate for the new co-chair but his separate visit to Stepanakert might be a little out of tradition. The point is that on the eve of his visit the U.S. Secretary Tillerson announced about the priority of the United States on Artsakh, which supposed use of monitoring equipment at the border, withdrawal of snipers, full humanitarian demining in Artsakh. It is possible that Schofer has personally communicated the details of the U.S. stance to the leaders of Artsakh, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
After the meetings with Sargsyan and Aliyev the Minsk Group stated that the presidents have expressed readiness to complete the process of organizing a meeting of presidents, including clarification of the possible topics for discussion.
The statement of the Minsk Group lacks a statement on the agreements reached in Vienna. This has pushed many to think that the Vienna agenda has been left aside, and Azerbaijan has succeeded neutralizing it.
In this situation, the question is under what conditions the sides agreed to continue the talks. For example, Azerbaijan insists on withdrawal of the Armenian troops from Artsakh and the principle of territorial integrity, the Armenian side puts forth the status of Artsakh and the priority of security guarantees.
If the sides agree to continue the talks in such a controversial situation, it means they have stepped back from their stances or one of the sides has stepped back. For the time being, the side stepping back publicly is Armenia because recently there has been no talk about the Vienna agenda at an official level, and the Azerbaijani side hints that “interesting and constructive” circumstances have come up.
And if the Azerbaijani side has given up, it means it has agreed to recognize the status of Artsakh and to the monitoring equipment. This is the logic if the sides are ready to continue negotiations.
The Minsk Group statement holds that the purpose of discussions in Yerevan and Baku was to complete the process of organizing a meeting of presidents, including clarification of the possible agenda.
The visit of the co-chairs is happening in a situation when Azerbaijan is under strong international pressure and is about to become an “outlaw”. The international press has published the corruption schemes of Azerbaijan’s ruling regime. The United States and Europe are preparing sanctions. Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity has not been mentioned for a long time in statements and formal documents relating to Artsakh, which upsets Azerbaijan.
In their turn, Putin’s adviser Glazev unexpectedly hit Baku, announcing that Azerbaijan’s membership to the EAEU fully depends on Armenia. And this issue is related to Artsakh, at least at the level of game and trade.
In this situation when the positions of the international community fir those of the Armenian side, the question occurs as to what topic for discussion has been opened.
Azerbaijan demands the whole and at once, otherwise threatening to start a war. Does the Armenian government pay attention to Aliyev’s threats? The Armenian side says the alternative to negotiations is war. This thesis does not stand criticism. It is just an excuse for the policy that is being conducted. And this policy itself is the policy that gives Aliyev “the right to war”. The point is that Armenia recognized Azerbaijan’s border in the 1990s, and the further policy and logic of “settlement” has been subject to this circumstance. In the meantime, the Armenian side has the powerful weapon of “international law” – self-determination.
The policy and diplomacy of Armenia should be aimed at the exercise of this right which has a bigger and more proportional political potential in the policy of building a new world order than the dead principle of “territorial integrity” of the old world order.
The world does not speak about the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, Kurdistan and Catalonia show how the world is changing and how necessary these new schemes are in the new international policy.
Armenia’s only task should be to use its powerful weapon – to exercise the right to self-determination. There is nothing else to discuss with Azerbaijan. If there is, it should be announced that Baku has realized the right of the people of Artsakh to self-determination or it means that the Armenian side is doing something else that has nothing to do with our national issues.
War is not the alternative to war. Instead, the negotiations within Azerbaijan’s rights may lead to a war.