Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia have Very Different Ideas about Borders, Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 20 – Armenian and Azerbaijani experts say that their governments and Moscow have different views on where the borders should be drawn and what they should mean. Moscow wants borders that are quiet but doesn’t care much about where they are. Baku wants to extend its back to at least Soviet lines. And Yerevan wants to defend ethnic Armenians.

            Because of these differences, these experts say, and because the sides have very different resources, with Azerbaijan having troops on the ground, Moscow having peacekeepers but Armenia little capacity to oppose either, Yerevan has less interest in talks now and all sides recognize negotiations will be difficult (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/366201/).

            According to Aleksandr Iskandaryan, director of Yerevan’s Institute of the Caucasus, Baku wants to continue to put pressure on Armenia to achieve recognition of its recent military advances, achieve territorial concessions from Yerevan, and open a corridor from Azerbaijan to Turkey through Nakhichevan.

            Baku, he says, understands demarcation as something that reflects the military strength of the two sides given its preponderance in that regard. Yerevan in contrast insists that the borders must be determined by negotiation and reflect not just military power. It appeals to the principles of international law and continuity of borders.

            But because of Armenian weakness, Azad Isazade, a Baku expert, says, Armenia has not been willing to put a proposal on the table and so Azerbaijan will continue to use its military to create facts on the ground regarding the border. And he points out that “the Azerbaijani army has still not everywhere reached the borders of Soviet times.”

            “Six enclaves in the Gazakh district and the village of Kyarki in the Nakhchichevan Autonomous Republic remain under the control of Armenia.” At a minimum, those must be returned to Azerbaijan; and until there are talks, Azerbaijan will continue to press forward with its military.

            Iskandaryan for his point calls attention to another problem. Armenia can’t count on Russia backing its position. Moscow’s interests and those of Yerevan do not always correspond. Armenia wants borders than protect ethnic Armenians; Russia wants borders that will be quiet once they are drawn. Those are not the same thing, he says.

            Another Armenian expert, Stepan Grigoryan, who heads the Yerevan Center for Globalization and Regional Research, says that Baku and Yerevan have very different time horizons for a deal. Baku wants a quick settlement so that it can ratify its gains from military action, while Yerevan wants the situation to remain where it is for some time.

            That explains the way in which violence is occurring along the line between the two national armies, he says, with Azerbaijani forces seeking to reach lines it considers just and thus open the corridor to Nakhichevan while Armenian forces are defending ethnic Armenian populations. He says he expects an escalation in Azerbaijani violence this summer.

            Sergey Markedonov, a Russian specialist on the Caucasus at MGIMO, says that in this situation, “Russia cannot be pro-Armenian or pro-Azerbaijani.” Both countries have made claims on Moscow, but they must see that “Russia is interested that there not be any fighting because any instability “will lead to outside interference and the reduction of Russia’s role.”

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