Shy Attitude: Armenia’s “inert” diplomacy criticized in wake of Karabakh escalation

Photo: Photolur

Criticism has been leveled in Armenia at foreign policy decision-makers who are blamed for being unable to convert the results of military operations into diplomatic achievements. The main gripe concerns an excessively cautious attitude of Armenian diplomacy which does not take initiatives, while only feebly reacting to foreign-policy trends.

The main trend today seems to be that in the Karabakh settlement there is now a situation where the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s (NKR) recognition becomes a prerogative. Prior to the April war, the Armenian side stated that it did not recognize the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh, as it would mean quitting the negotiations and the likelihood of aggression by Azerbaijan. Now the aggression of Azerbaijan has already occurred, but Armenia, despite President Serzh Sargsyan’s statement during the early days of the escalation about the possibility of recognizing Karabakh, has not taken the step.

Moreover, Armenia has not properly reacted to calls by some MEPs to recognize the NKR. In any case, neither the Armenian Foreign Ministry nor the NKR leadership has clearly voiced their support for these calls.

During discussions held in the European Parliament on April 12, MEP Eleni Theocharous (Cyprus) called for the recognition of the independence of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, as well as for imposing sanctions against Azerbaijan. She said that would bring peace to the region.

Azerbaijan’s aggression against Nagorno-Karabakh was also condemned by MEP from Luxembourg Frank Engel, who also said it is now time to recognize the NKR.

While the inertia of the Armenian foreign policy may seem baffling, some analysts explain it by its fusion with Russia’s. And it is not in Moscow’s interests that European countries recognize the NKR.

During the discussion on the Karabakh issue in the European Parliament in Strasbourg earlier this week, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini said that the South Caucasus is a key region for Europe with great potential, but it is undermined with instability and war.

“A large-scale conflict is not in anyone’s interest, and will bring to nowhere. This conflict breaks the stability of countries and their neighbors and prevents the rapprochement with the European Union,” Mogherini said.

She pointed out the importance of the mechanism proposed by the OSCE for investigating ceasefire violations, stating that the EU also supports the efforts of the Minsk Group.

Answering questions of citizens of his country as part of a “Direct Line” conference on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin also spoke about the Nagorno-Karabakh escalation. He said that the problem should be resolved by way of compromises and exclusively by political means.

“That’s a very sensitive issue, and it seems to me that we have to treat it very carefully, being guided by the well-known principle of medics – do no harm,” the Russian leader said.

He noted that it seemed to him a few years ago that they were able to “get closer” to finding a compromise on both sides, “but it turned out that this is, unfortunately, not the case.”

“We will be working within the framework of international structures and also in a bilateral manner to continue these activities on the settlement of the Karabakh problem. Russia…is interested in a solution to this issue, because we want to work fully with both Azerbaijan and Armenia,” Putin emphasized.

In his televised remarks Putin also spoke about Russia’s military industrial complex and arms sales abroad. He stressed that Russia will continue to make contracts with foreign partners on the export of weapons.

In the wake of the new escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh public and political circles in Armenia have criticized Moscow for supplying Azerbaijan with offensive weapons that have been used against both the Armenian military and civilian population.

Hundreds of Armenians staged a demonstration of protest near the Russian embassy in Yerevan on April 13 denouncing Moscow’s arms deals with Baku.

Russian officials, including Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his deputy Dmitry Rogozin, have effectively defended the sales of weapons to Azerbaijan, describing them also as a factor of “deterrence” in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. They said that Russia will continue to sell arms to both Armenia and Azerbaijan.