Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Marginalization of Minsk Group Provides Opening for Moscow but Worries Armenians

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 13 – Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s dismissive comments about the Minsk Group delegation which came to Baku over the weekend suggests that framework group has been marginalized, a development that gives Moscow another opening in the region and frightens Armenia and the international community.

            When the Minsk Group co-chairs showed up in the Azerbaijani capital, Aliyev pointedly said that he hasn’t invited them and that Azerbaijan by its military action and Russia by its political moves had created a new reality on the ground, one that he said allows Baku to solve the situation.

            Moscow commentators viewed with enthusiasm the Azerbaijani leader’s remarks, seeing them as yet another sign that outside powers have been excluded from the region and that Moscow can exploit this situation by working with Baku alone to define the outcome in the South Caucasus (iarex.ru/articles/78830.html and vz.ru/world/2020/12/13/1075530.html).

            These authors argued that the OSCE’s Minsk Group was no longer the key defender of the Armenians in Qarabagh: Russia is. And they urged that Moscow take advantage of this situation rapidly lest the situation change in ways that would close this window of opportunity for Russia.

            Andrey Kortunov, a leading foreign policy commentator in the Russian capital, argues that “the main task of Russia in its relations with Azerbaijan and Turkey is to achieve political resolution of the Qarabagh conflict. For us, it is important not to stop with what has been achieved, the ceasefire” (vz.ru/news/2020/12/13/1075514.html).

            “If we do not move forward toward the resolution of the political problems,” he continues, “our peacekeepers can become witnesses or victims of the next military sharpening. Therefore, Russian diplomats now must develop that success which we have been able to achieve thanks to our peacekeepers.”

            Not surprisingly, the international community is concerned about any sidelining of the Minsk Group. The UN, the OSCE and the European Union have all called for the group to resume its role as the chief negotiating framework, although such appeals seem likely to fall on  deaf ears in Baku and Moscow (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/357567/).

            One place they are not is in Yerevan. When the Minsk Group co-chairs arrived there after being snubbed in Baku, Armenians protesting against Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said that it was critical that the Minsk Group continue to function and that Azerbaijan not be allowed to dictate things by military means (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/357567/).



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