Trend European Desk Commentator Elmira Tariverdiyeva
Early 2010 inspires with some hope in terms of scheduling political top-level meetings that the positive dynamics of the last year in the negotiation process on Nagorno Karabakh will continue and be successful.
The meeting between Russian and Turkish Prime Ministers Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Moscow on January 12 will be the first one in a range of meetings that can both directly and indirectly affect advances in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The agenda of the visit contains both the issues of bilateral Turkish-Russian economic relations, and political issues of regional character. One of the main points will be settlement of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The consideration of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh in terms of energy projects in the region can play a role of a component, which will tilt the scales on Azerbaijan.
Now it is more important for Russia, as a traditional partner of Armenia in the South Caucasus, to influence on Armenian leaders and achieve decisive steps from the Armenian leadership by providing Yerevan with further political guarantees and economic benefits. The bilateral relations between Moscow and Ankara, interested in the progress of negotiations on Nagorno-Karabakh, can be an important argument for Russia in strengthening the influence on Yerevan.
The fact that regional problems and conflicts in South Caucasus will be discussed by regional leaders together with the issues on gas pipelines, oil pipelines of refineries and nuclear power plants in the region. It will be able to play a positive role.
It is obvious, such large state holdings in Russia, as Gazprom, Rosatom, Inter-RAO and others, have strong lobbying capabilities. The desire of these players to enter the energy field of Turkey and receive large state contracts can force them to use their influence on the Kremlin in the issue of aid to Turkey. Ankara can not use such an important trump card to achieve a very important result - Russia's assistance in the process of the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement.
An obvious example is Turkey's consent to use its territorial waters for the construction of South Stream, a gas pipeline of Russia. It ensures the delivery of fuel to Europe avoiding Ukraine. It is one of the competitors of the European "Blue Dream" - the Nabucco gas pipeline. It withdraws Russia from the game for a certain percentage of European gas consumer.
Turkey understands that it has potentialities to align its interests in the region with economic preferences and economic interests of the superpowers.
Maybe, just the second top-level-visit, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's visit to Armenia on January 13-14 and his meeting with Serzh Sargsyan will complete the issue concerning Russia's capabilities to put pressure on Yerevan and achieve the first steps to solve the protracted territorial dispute.
Moscow can appeal to Yerevan that the determined decision of the Armenian leadership will be beneficial for Armenia itself in the long-tem prospective.
Yerevan should realize that opening the Armenian-Turkish border, the involvement of Armenia in regional transit and energy projects, drawing foreign investments, are closely connected with the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The Kremlin, as an important reference point for official Yerevan, can help in making this decision, and provide support if internal political circles of Armenia do not understand this position.
Russia understands that it will gain much benefit from the normalization of relations between Armenia and its neighbors. First, it will remove Armenia's financial dependence from Russia and give Moscow the opportunity to compensate all the investments deposited in the country for many years. Second, Azerbaijan's trust has great significance for the Kremlin. It promises Moscow success in many regional energy projects.
One should hope that that point of mutual understanding of all the regional players was reached during the above-mentioned visits and negotiations. It will lead to advances in such a protracted Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Its stagnation is the main factor of instability in the South Caucasus.