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  Nagorno Karabakh – new Russia‘s „peace“ project?

Inga Popovaitë, political commentator
2014 09 26

At the beginning of August the political experts have again turned their eyes on Nagorno Karabakh: here the bloodiest clashes took place since the ceasefire agreement announced in 1994 between Armenia and Azerbaijan. According to the international media, by 9 August the pogroms in both countries resulted in the deaths of more than twenty people. Thus there is no wonder that the Kremlin discerned here a chance to strengthen the positions in South Caucasus and the positions of V.Putin as a peacekeeper against Western opponents. On 9-10 August in Sochi Putin met with the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan and organised a tripartite meeting which was not attended by the representatives of the OSCE Minsk group. Let‘s see if Russia has really played the role of peacekeeper decisively.

Azerbaijan is convinced that clashes in Nagorno Karabakh were provoked by Russia. According to V.Guluzade, former advisor to President H.Aliev, the August crisis in Karabakh was directly related to the complicated Russia‘s situation related to the lost pro-Russian rebel forces in Ukraine and “biting“ Western sanctions.  He said that Putin used Armenia as a tool to increase tension in Nagorno Karabakh, to interfere and, consequently, strengthen the peacemaker’s position.

Another analyst A.Orujlu, who heads the East-West think tank in Baku, is of the oppinion that by doing this Russia tries to attract Azerbaijan to the Customs Union: tension in the frontline, deaths of Azerbaijani soldiers and the Sochi meeting are parts of one scenario, since the meeting focused on the Customs Union and Russia‘s cooperation with both, Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Whereas R.Giragosian, director of the Regional Studies Centre in Yerevan informed „Geopolitika“ that there is no evidence demonstrating that Russia trespassed the frontline of Nagorno Karabakh in August. According to him Russia has simply used the situation in order to restore its unilateral diplomatic initiatives and act outside the Minsk group. R. Giragosian warned that this might make Russia bring its own peacekeeping forces to Nagorno Karabakh.  Comparing Nagorno Karabakh with other hot spots of South Caucasus – Dagestan, Ingush, Abkhazia or South Ossetia – it is obvious that in these countries Russia has much more influence because of the dislocated Russian troops or issued Russian passports.

But can Nagorno Karabakh become another place for dislocation of Russian „peacekeeping“ forces? R. Giragosian is convinced that no. „In June I attended one NATO meeting in Baku and can say that Yerevan, Baku and Stepanakert unanimously agree on one issue: it is necessary to say „no“ to Russia‘s peacekeeping forces“. According to him, for Azerbaijan introduction of Russian forces would mean a frozen conflict, but Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh do not have any reasons to accept foreign troops.

R.Giragosian says that Russia can bring its troops to Karabakh only in case of a renewed war in this region. Although the Kremlin today has fully forgotten the cold logic and some of Putin‘s supporters are ready not only to provide both sides with the arms but also to take specific actions, so far this will not happen because even for Russia it would be too difficult to bring more troops to Nagorno Karabakh; Russia‘s military base at Gyumri  does not have enough capacities, and Georgia‘s air space has already been closed.

Although the meeting of presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan cannot be treated as absolutely insignificant, according to R.Giragosian, Russia might do more harm than good. „After the meeting Russia‘s minister of foreign affairs Lavrov informed on the intention to further organise such meetings – only with Putin and without representatives of the Minsk group. The response of the Minsk Group was immediate; it plans to held the meeting between I.Aliev and S.Sargsian in New York, during the UN General Assembly. Thus, here we can see the competition“, said R.Giragosian.

Although situation in Nagorno Karabakh after the Sochi meeting calmed down, Putin could hardly get a peace prize. And the Crimean scenario could hardly be repeated. As long as all the three parties are against Russian peacekeeping forces in Nagorno Karabakh, they will not be dislocated there.

Prepared referring to the information of azernews.az, rt.com, eurasia.net, rferl.org.

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