Karabakh: Armenian-Azeri summit in Sochi brings about no change, status quo to last

In their statement following a trilateral meeting in Sochi, hosted by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan confirmed that they are willing to work further on the resolution, on the mechanism proposed by mediators to investigate border incidents and boost humanitarian cooperation.

The January 23 meeting, in fact, became the first meeting where the parties discussed maintaining the current status quo rather than negotiating around issues of a possible settlement.

Prior to the meeting Carnegie Center expert Thomas de Waal said that the talks on Karabakh now are aimed at managing the situation in the region rather than achieving a political settlement.

Agreement about not disturbing stability in the region was also reflected in the economy. During the talks between Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and his Russian counterpart in Sochi the parties signaled their readiness to get down to some large economic projects. According to Armenian Public Television, the matter concerns Russia’s participation in the construction of a new Armenian nuclear power plant.

Besides, in the presence of Medvedev and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev, Baku and Moscow signed an agreement to double the volume of Azerbaijani natural gas purchased by Russia.

But it seems that Azerbaijan is trying to retain a single argument in the negotiations - a threat to resolve the conflict by force. Mediators have so far failed to convince Azerbaijan to give up its war rhetoric, withdraw snipers from the front lines and create a mechanism to investigate border incidents.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan had appealed to Russia to mediate in establishing cultural ties between the two countries. There are virtually no contacts between the two countries at present.

According to experts, a period of calm in the Karabakh settlement is coming in connection with the electoral processes in the countries involved in the conflict, the countries that co-chair the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Minsk Group, as well as because of the escalating Iranian crisis. It is clear that a settlement could resume in a totally different political situation, with a different alignment of forces.

”In my opinion, the approaches the OSCE Minsk Group are outdated and cannot be effective in our case,” said chairman of the Public Council for Foreign Policy and Security of Nagorno-Karabakh Masis Mayilyan. “It is necessary to use other approaches, in particular, those taking into account the new realities of international law and recent precedents in international relations.”

Meanwhile, the international situation in the part that may have an influence on the Karabakh conflict is changing, indeed. The French Senate has passed a bill criminalizing the denial of the 1915 Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Turkey. This was perceived internationally as part of a policy of overt Western pressure on Turkey. In this regard, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, condemning the adoption of the bill by the Senate of France, claimed that the move calls into question the objectivity of France as co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group that advances international mediatory efforts in the Karabakh conflict.