Staunton, March 22 – Reports that Baku is about to denounce the tripartite declarations that ended the recent fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan are unlikely to be true at least in the immediate future, but that doesn’t mean that the situation now is entirely to Azerbaijan’s liking, Vsevolod Shimov says.
The Moscow political analyst argues that Azerbaijan is unhappy with Russia’s backing of Armenia and that it wants to retake the rest of Armenian-occupied territory in Qarabagh as soon as possible. As a result, the situation in the South Caucasus is not a peace but only “a truce” and “a shaky one” at that. (svpressa.ru/war21/article/293318/).
Shimov’s comments come in response to a report in a Vietnamese magazine that Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has already threatened to denounce the Russian-brokered settlement “if Armenia and Russia do not stop strengthening their military presence along Azerbaijani borders,” Dmitry Rodionov of Svobodnaya pressa says.
According to that report, Aliyev is angry at Moscow for its support of Armenia and views Russia’s organization of the entrance into Qarabagh of new Armenian units via the Lachin corridor as a threat to Azerbaijan and for Russia’s reported construction of a new military base in the Zengezur corridor where transportation links are supposed to be restored.
As Rodionov points out, there is no official confirmation of this or of any Baku plans to denounce the tripartite declarations. And Moscow has gone out of its way not to criticize Azerbaijani military maneuvers as something that could threaten the ceasefire between the parties to the Qarabagh dispute.
Andrey Dmitriyev of Limonov’s Other Russia Party suggests that what is going on is the planting of a story intended to test the waters and that there are many countries which might be involved, including the United States, which in this way may want to highlight the reality that there is no peace in the South Caucasus and that others need to be brought in to help.
However that might be, Shimov tells Rodionov, “I do not think that at present one can speak about the possible exit of Azerbaijan from the agreements on Qarabagh,” although there are certainly signs that Baku currently feels “a definite sense of dissatisfaction” about the situation, especially in the wake of earlier euphoria.
According to Shimov, “Baku will express its dissatisfaction in the future and at the very first opportunity may try to free itself from the unsuitable agreements.” One sign of the approach of that would be to accuse Russia and Armenia of working together against Azerbaijan, the Moscow analyst continues.
Moreover, Azerbaijan wants to decrease its dependence on Russia for military supplies, especially as Armenia is increasing its and as Baku now has other sources including Turkey with which it is increasingly closely allied. And all those things will work against the current situation over time.
“The truce undoubtedly is shaky,” Shimov says. Azerbaijan isn’t pleased with the fact that it has not finally re-subordinated all of Qarabagh to itself. And at the same time, Armenia isn’t pleased that it hasn’t been able to defend its allies in Stepanakert but must depend on Russia for their protection.
As a result, he says, “the degree of mutual hatred between Armenians and Azerbaijanis not only isn’t falling but has risen as a result of recent events, and therefore, the Trans-Caucasus recalls a powder keg.” War isn’t likely to begin in the immediate future, but as the end of the five-year term for Russian peacekeepers approaches, it will become ever more likely.
“Azerbaijan will seek not to allow its extension,” Shimov concludes. And instead, it will try to establish full control over Qarabagh. “I would not exclude,” he says, ‘provocations from the side of Turkey and also the United States” given that a zone of tension in this region between Russia and Iran “fully corresponds to Washington’s current strategy.”