A serious shift has taken place in the Karabakh conflict settlement process after last week’s visit to Yerevan by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov – proposals for a final settlement have been postponed, and now only measures to strengthen the ceasefire are being discussed.
The message from the Yerevan meetings of Lavrov is that while Nagorno-Karabakh is under fire and there is a threat of use of force there cannot be a normal negotiating process. Therefore, efforts should be made to strengthen the ceasefire.
“Lavrov said that not only at the co-chairs’ level, but also turned to Germany as the OSCE chairman-in-office to implement these mechanisms,” Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharyan explained.
The matter concerns investigation mechanisms, which the United States has been offering already for more than a year. The essence of these mechanisms is to install special equipment in the zone separating the conflicting sides to monitor incidents, as well as the expansion of the mandate of the OSCE observers.
Russia for a long time did not expressly consent to the placement of such equipment. As experts say, Moscow itself does not have such equipment, while the emergence of American or other Western equipment in Karabakh would be undesirable for Russia. Besides, it would strengthen the status quo and the existing boundaries.
Meanwhile, Russia insisted on a political settlement of the conflict based on the principles of Kazan (the capital of the Russian republic of Tatarstan where Armenian-Azerbaijani high-level talks were hosted by the Russian president in 2011), which involve an Armenian withdrawal from several districts near Karabakh and the deployment of Russian peacekeepers at the new border. There is an opinion that Moscow has been arming Azerbaijan and not delivering the promised weapons to Armenia for the implementation of this plan.
However, the four-day war in early April almost did not change the boundaries. Moreover, the Armenian forces were apparently preparing to counter-attack, but Russia urgently stopped the war, “leaving” Azerbaijan with a small portion of conquered land.
It not only failed to essentially changed the boundaries, but also failed the Kazan plan. The Armenian side firmly declared that it is not going to cede anything. The same was also stated in Karabakh and in the army and it was also said after the visit of President Serzh Sargsyan to Karabakh earlier last week.
After that, in order to change boundaries in favor of Azerbaijan Russia would have to instigate a new war, but this would put an end to the presence of Russia in the region itself. After the April war a wave of anti-Russian sentiments was raised in Armenia –three times during a week protests were staged near the embassy of Russia in Yerevan.
Apparently, based on this, Russia agreed to temporarily waive the Kazan plan and pass the initiative to Germany, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the OSCE.
“There are two planes – the Madrid document and the discussions around it, which led to the Kazan document that was rejected by Azerbaijan. And the second plane is the proposals which are aimed at compliance with the ceasefire. We are talking about the introduction of mechanisms for investigating incidents,” Armenia’s deputy foreign minister explained.
On April 24, Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian, answering questions of journalists at the Tsitsernakaberd Memorial to Armenian Genocide victims, also confirmed that the matter concerns the introduction of the investigation mechanisms and the search for such mechanisms. Obviously, what is now being discussed is which country is going to install its equipment in Karabakh.
It is noteworthy that immediately after the April war President Sargsyan visited Germany and called on Chancellor Angela Merkel to help with the placement of equipment for investigating border incidents.