Nikol Pashinyan agrees to Azerbaijan's terms - US perspective on future of peace between Baku and Yerevan

Politics Materials 23 April 2024 12:01 (UTC +04:00)
Nikol Pashinyan agrees to Azerbaijan's terms - US perspective on future of peace between Baku and Yerevan
Maryana Ahmadova
Maryana Ahmadova
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April 19 marked a pivotal moment in the reconciliation between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Following bilateral discussions, Armenia agreed to return villages in the Gazakh district to Azerbaijan, which it had previously occupied. This decision, addressing a matter raised by Azerbaijan as far back as 2020, particularly regarding the delimitation process in Gazakh, stands as another success for President Ilham Aliyev's strategic diplomacy.

As Prof. Brenda Shaffer, faculty member of the US Naval Postgraduate School, pointed out, there's finally a recognition in Yerevan of the necessity to take tangible steps towards improving relations with Azerbaijan.

"Armenia’s agreement to withdraw from four Azerbaijani villages it occupies illustrates that Yerevan now accepts setting borders by the principle of territorial integrity based on the Soviet era borders. Yerevan’s new move illustrates that Armenia and Azerbaijan are making progress toward a peace treaty or a set of normalization agreements," she said.

And indeed, today Baku and Yerevan are closer than ever to signing a peace agreement. Azerbaijan's comprehensive efforts are yielding results, while Armenia is reciprocating.

Former US Ambassador to Azerbaijan Matthew Bryza remarked on this, noting that Prime Minister Pashinyan has already informed the public that Armenia must return these four villages to Azerbaijan, and that it's the right move.

"This is an example of Prime Minister Pashinyan showcasing his dedication to a peaceful treaty and a border delimitation agreement with Azerbaijan. President Ilham Aliyev and Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan are both committed to reaching a peaceful resolution, and this process is gaining momentum," he added.

One of the crucial aspects of these agreements is that Baku and Yerevan have made progress without any interference from third parties. Right from the start of the settlement process, Azerbaijan has insisted that all issues with Armenia should be resolved bilaterally. It seems that Nikol Pashinyan now realizes that neither Washington nor Brussels can single-handedly bring peace to the South Caucasus.

Naturally, both the EU and the US have applauded the agreements reached between Baku and Yerevan. In this regard, Brenda Shaffer rightly pointed out that Western policy had previously been biased against Azerbaijan's territorial integrity.

"It is good to see the US and Europe recognizing Azerbaijan’s right to territorial integrity. Up until now, both Washington and Brussels were very supportive of the right to the territorial integrity of Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova, but discriminated against Azerbaijan. Glad to see this policy has ended," she noted.

Of course, we can't overlook the presence of EU observers along the still tentative Azerbaijani-Armenian border and the immense pressure Armenia is facing, particularly from France. While the Armenian Prime Minister tries to shape the country's political course, there hasn't been much headway towards a peaceful agreement with Azerbaijan. However, Paris's propaganda alleging that Azerbaijan plans to attack Armenia and has territorial ambitions has already been debunked. How to respond to Macron now, and what to do with the hundreds of Europeans at the border, is up to Nikol Pashinyan.

Armenia must decide independently on the direction it wants to take in its politics and economy. Nonetheless, it's important to remember that dragging out the peace process with Azerbaijan will only continue to impede Armenia's reintegration into key transit and energy projects in the region - something Yerevan aims for.

Brenda Shaffer believes that it's clear Armenia stands to gain economic benefits from making peace with Azerbaijan.

"Up until now, Armenia has resisted this, and the opening of trade and travel infrastructure. The irony is that Armenia stands to benefit the most from the opening of trade in the region. Armenia can connect to Central Asia. Likely if Armenia and Azerbaijan make significant progress toward a peace agreement, Türkiye will also open its border to trade with Armenia. This will create many opportunities for Armenia," she explained.

Positive signs are emerging from Yerevan more noticeably now. It seems that the understanding has finally dawned in Yerevan that without striking a peace deal with Azerbaijan, Armenia can't expect to expand its trade relations or gain access to Western and Eastern markets, not to mention ensuring basic stability.

As Ambassador Bryza pointed out, if Yerevan sticks to its current political path, a peace treaty could soon become a reality.

"Back in December last year, a significant step was taken when both sides agreed not only on the prisoner exchange but also on continuing the peace process," Bryza reminded, stressing the importance of maintaining such positive momentum.

Recently, wherever Nikol Pashinyan speaks - whether with Western allies, the President of Kazakhstan, or in front of his own parliament - he emphasizes Armenia's readiness to swiftly resolve all issues with Baku. However, his statements and actions have been inconsistent. Despite four years passing since the end of the Second Karabakh War, tangible progress towards signing a peace treaty has yet to materialize. Perhaps Nikol Pashinyan believes that it's better late than never.

While Armenia deliberates its next move, Azerbaijan continues to notch up victories. From regaining full sovereignty in September 2023 to the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers and now reclaiming control over four villages - all achieved without firing a single shot, solely through peaceful negotiations - it's evident that President Ilham Aliyev's forward-thinking and steadfast policy are yielding results.

It should now be clear to Yerevan that there's no better option than the terms offered by Baku.