It was already reported in the press that on September 28, a short dialogue between Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev took place on the margins of the Summit of the CIS leaders in Dushanbe.
The sides expressed their commitment to the negotiations on the settlement of the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict and strengthening of the cease-fire regime in order to prevent incidents and to reduce tensions on the Line of Contact between the parties to the conflict and on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The sides also decided to develop mechanisms for establishing operational communication between the countries for the rapid transfer of information.
To be frank, there was no particular desire to comment on this news. The reason is simple - skepsis, because for the period of the current stage of the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict, a lot of arrangements have been reached, both written and oral, but they were invariably violated by Azerbaijan. We can cite many examples of official Baku’s refusal of the agreed decisions, but let’s note the most significant, so to speak, epochal ones. We can cite, first of all, the written cease-fire agreement of 1994, which Azerbaijan permanently violates, the apotheosis of which was the four-day April war of 2016. We can also recall America’s Key West and Russia’s Kazan, where, in 1999 and 2011, negotiations between the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan were held under the auspices of the Presidents of the United States and Russia respectively. In Key West, the parties were extremely close to resolving the conflict, but the conclusion of the agreement failed, because the then President of Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev, on returning to Baku, rejected it. In Kazan, his son Ilham, as President, refused to sign the agreed document at the very last moment, putting forward about ten additional conditions, which had not been previously discussed, and following his father’s example, he also foiled the agreement’s conclusion. To refer to the recent history, Azerbaijan has blocked the agreements reached in 2016 at the Summits in Vienna and St. Petersburg after the April war.
This historical excursion is not made by chance. The fact is that the above-mentioned oral agreement between Pashinyan and Aliyev caused a mixed assessment by Armenian, Azerbaijani, and foreign experts - both negative and positive, but there was also a place for moderate and cautious statements in this interval. “Negativists” believe that Pashinyan thus jeopardized the implementation of the Vienna and St. Petersburg agreements on the establishment of mechanisms to investigate incidents on the Line of Contact and expansion of the Office of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, the implementation of which is opposed just by Azerbaijan. “Positivists”, in turn, believe that the agreement between Aliyev and Pashinyan is a contribution to the resolution of the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict and is important for intensifying the negotiation process and ensuring a certain degree of mutual trust.
We believe, caution in this case is more justified. Surely, any meetings of the leaders of the parties to the conflict and the agreements reached on them, aimed at reducing tensions in the conflict zone, should only be welcomed, since this really creates the prerequisites for negotiating to find a solution to the problem. But, something prevents to be delighted for the Dushanbe agreements, and this “something” is the practice of the past years. Taking into account the bitter experience of the settlement, which is mentioned above, we have to take the agreements of the kind with reservations and cautious optimism. First of all, because life has unequivocally shown and proved that it is impossible to be trustful towards the leadership of Azerbaijan. Moreover, it seems that Aliyev did not take this step on his own free will, but under the pressure of third forces, in particular, Russia, since such agreements are not accepted so quickly without good reasons. An indirect confirmation of this can be the statement of the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, made in Dushanbe: “The issue of security is, one can say, the central issue of today's Summit. All Presidents say this”. It is quite possible that some pressure was really exerted on Aliyev. Indeed, until recently, he threatened to unleash a new war, spoke out unpleasantly against the Armenian Prime Minister, but suddenly became a peacemaker...
Whatever it was, we will not rush to conclusions. Haste does not always lead to objective assessments, and therefore the agreements reached in Dushanbe will have to be considered in perspective. Again, the Baku regime has repeatedly violated the agreements, leading, among other things, to casualties. It will be possible to talk about the significance of these agreements when they are transformed into concrete actions - the cessation of any armed actions by Azerbaijan. Surely, we cannot yet hope for radical progress in the Karabakh settlement process. It is not excluded that Aliyev agreed to a gentleman's arrangement with Pashinyan only for receiving political dividends and proceeding from propaganda goals. In any case, representatives of the Presidential Administration and Parliament of Azerbaijan have already stated that the Dushanbe arrangements "once again show that the format of the negotiations remains unchanged, and the negotiations are and will be held only between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which are the parties to the conflict". It would be more accurate to say that it is the false essence of the leadership of Azerbaijan that remains unchanged. It is worth noting that Pashinyan himself made a landmark reservation, “Surely, there is no certainty that the leadership of Azerbaijan will observe the Dushanbe arrangements”.
Editor-in-Chief of Azat Artsakh newspaper