About us   Editorial Board   Advisory Board   Subscribe   Contact us  
 


CAUCASUS UPDATE

In this section, we publish the weekly analysis of the major events taking place in the Caucasus and beyond. The Caucasus Update is written by our Senior Editor Alexander Jackson. Click here to subscribe.

The latest round of talks over Nagorno-Karabakh, in Moscow on July 17, made no progress, unsurprisingly. Before the talks the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, tasked with resolving the conflict, were optimistic – a “breakthrough” in Moscow was anticipated (RFE/RL, July 8). In the event, there were no public indications of any achievements. Another meeting has been scheduled for the autumn

No reasons have been given for this lack of results. But for Armenia, domestic (and semi-domestic) concerns may have played a role in slowing down the talks. At home, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) warned President Serzh Sargsyan on July 17 that if he signs an agreement with Azerbaijan’s President Aliyev on Karabakh, the ARF will call for his resignation. A few days earlier, the ARF demanded the sacking of Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandyan, also for his allegedly soft stance on peace talks. The Heritage party also warned the president not to sign documents based on the Madrid Principles, the framework for an agreement which was proposed to the parties in 2007 by the Minsk Group (ArmeniaNow, July 17).

The semi-domestic problems come from the separatist ‘Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’ (NKR), which insisted that the current negotiating format was “deficient” and that no deal could be signed without the active participation of the NKR (Reuters, July 10). To defuse the tension, Mr Nalbandyan travelled to the region to reassure the leadership, declaring that “Armenia cannot make any agreement without the approval of the people and leadership of Karabakh” (ArmeniaNow.com, July 17).

To blame the failure of the Moscow meeting on domestic considerations in Armenia alone would be simplistic, of course. Russia’s ambitions, and the staunch opposition of the Azerbaijani public to any compromise on the territorial integrity play also a significant role. The week’s events are a reminder that the South Caucasus is not just a geopolitical chessboard, and that constituencies at home are critical, particularly since the region’s democracies are so fragile.

Armenia is perhaps particularly sensitive to domestic concerns. In Armenia there is a real gulf over how to approach the Karabakh issue (and by extension, the Turkey issue).

In this regard, being in office tends to teach pragmatism; the wilderness of opposition encourages a harder, more nationalist line. And the issue is greatly complicated by the NKR and by the Armenian Diaspora, both of which exert a considerable influence on politics in Yerevan. The opposition parties, meanwhile, continue to be divided and unable to propose a viable candidate to take on the ruling Republican Party. Veteran opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian, defeated in the hotly disputed Yerevan mayoral election in May, has been unable to reconcile his differences with Heritage and the ARF. This continued division may work to the government’s advantage. An insightful editorial in ArmeniaNow notes that Sargsyan’s resignation would almost certainly propel Mr Ter-Petrosian to the presidency (ArmeniaNow, July 17). Given the bad blood between him and the ARF (as President in 1994 he banned the party, claiming it was behind a coup plot), this would leave the ARF out in the cold again.

However, the divided nature of the opposition does not mean it cannot influence over the government’s Karabakh policy. Mr Ter-Petrosian and the ARF, as well as other oppositionists, back a harder line than the government on Karabakh negotiations. And both oppose the Madrid Principles, which would see a withdrawal of Armenian forces from five of the seven occupied regions surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh and the introduction of an international monitoring force, arguing that this simply concedes what they view as Armenian territory for no real gain (RFE/RL, July 14).

The leadership in NKR, which seems to find itself at ease with the current status quo, is clearly unwilling to accept any deal which would see its ‘independence’ revoked or subject to international interference. To prevent this, the separatist “republic” has two cards with which to pressure its patron. Firstly, it has warned that sidelining Nagorno-Karabakh was “fraught with new escalation of the conflict” (NKR, July 15) implying most possibly a veiled threat to begin a new war against Azerbaijan which would automatically involve Yerevan’s re-intervention.

There is also the nationalist card. The legacy of the Karabakh war and the close ties between individuals living in both Armenia and Karabakh itself makes the claim of ‘sacrificing Nagorno-Karabakh” a political dynamite in Yerevan. In the event of a deal signed under the Madrid Principles, the NKR’s leader Bako Sahakyan could engineer an alliance with the Armenian opposition to stir up public opposition and paralyse the government through protests. The nationalist ARF would be the most likely ally: it holds a handful of seats in the NKR’s ‘parliament’ and backed the call for the NKR to have a more visible role in the peace process.

Gaining a seat at the negotiating table is impossible. Azerbaijan would clearly veto it; so would the Minsk Group, which would be uncomfortable with alienating Baku. It is not even clear that Armenia would support the inclusion of the NKR, since it would make President Sargsyan’s task of agreeing a reasonable solution even more taxing, and would toughen Azerbaijan’s attitude toward compromises.

Thus, besides other huge hurdles for the final resolution of the conflict the depicted Armenian domestic (and semi-domestic) problems will continue to complicate the settlement process.



The comments are owned by the poster. We aren't responsible for their content.
PREVIOUS ISSUES

  Caspian Compromise Backfires for Russia and Iran, CU Issue 83, November 24, 2010
  Turkey in a Tight Spot on Missile Defense, CU Issue 82, November 11, 2010
  The OSCE and Kyrgyzstan’s Election, CU Issue 81, October 30, 2010
  Unblocking the US-Azerbaijan Relationship, CU Issue 80, October 07, 2010
  Nabucco Pipeline: Quo Vadis?, CU Issue 79, September 30, 2010
  Russia tightens its grip in the South Caucasus, CU Issue 78, August 23, 2010
  Armenian Politics: Rigidity Versus Flexibility, CU Issue 77, August 10, 2010
  Russia and Georgia: Ready To Talk?, CU Issue 76, July 21, 2010
  Can the US walk and chew gum at the same time?, CU Issue 75, July 9, 2010
  The Kyrgyzstan Crisis – A Qualified Success for Turkish Diplomacy?, CU Issue 74, June 24, 2010
  Brussels downgrades the Caucasus, CU Issue 73, June 07, 2010
  NATO’s New Strategic Concept and the Caspian Region, CU Issue 72, June 01, 2010
  Joe Biden and European Security, CU Issue 71, May 13, 2010
  Behind the US-Azerbaijan row, CU Issue 70, May 6, 2010
  Turkey and Iran: The risks of failure, CU Issue 69, April 30, 2010
  Kazakhstan, the OSCE, and the crisis in Kyrgyzstan, CU Issue 68, April 19, 2010
  The Implications of the Moscow Bombings, CU Issue 67, April 12, 2010
  Iran Manoeuvres for a role in Karabakh, CU Issue 66, April 5, 2010
  The EU and Abkhazia: Between a rock and a hard place, CU Issue 65, March 16, 2010
  Fallout from the US ‘Genocide’ vote, CU Issue 64, March 9, 2010
  Ukraine's elections and future of GUAM, CU Issue 63, February 10, 2010
  Less Democracy, More Security: Kazakhstan and the OSCE, CU Issue 62, January 18, 2010
  Tackling the North Caucasus Insurgency: Development or Rhetoric?, CU Issue 61, January 11, 2010
  The Caspian Region in 2010, CU Issue 60, January 4, 2010
  The Caspian Region in 2010, CU Issue 59, December 31, 2009
  The Turkmenistan-China Pipeline Changes the Energy Balance, CU Issue 58, December 21, 2009
  Russia’s European Security Treaty, CU Issue 57, December 7, 2009
  The ‘Kidnapping War’ in Georgia and its Implications, CU Issue 56, December 3, 2009
  Azerbaijan Shifts its Energy Priorities, CU Issue 55, November 23, 2009
  The South Caucasian States and Afghanistan, CU Issue 54, November 11, 2009
  Is Turkey turning East?, CU Issue 53, November 2, 2009
  What is Russia’s Gameplan for Iran?, CU Issue 52, October 26, 2009
  Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan: Where Next?, CU Issue 51, October 19, 2009
  The Armenians of Georgia: A New Flashpoint in the Caucasus?, CU Issue 50, October 12, 2009
  Turkey’s EU Membership: Will The ‘Armenian Opening’ Help?, CU Issue 49, October 5, 2009
  The Missile Defence Shift: Implications for the Caucasus, CU Issue 48, September 22, 2009
  Rising Tensions in the Black Sea , CU Issue 47, September 14, 2009
  Armenia, Turkey, and Azerbaijan: The Clock Is Ticking, CU Issue 46, September 7, 2009
  The Battle of the Bases in Central Asia, CU Issue 45, August 31, 2009
  Russia, Israel, and the S-300s, CU Issue 44, August 24, 2009
  The motivations behind Turkey's 'Kurdish Initiative', CU Issue 43, August 17, 2009
  The Implications of the Turkmenistan-Azerbaijan Dispute, CU Issue 42, August 10, 2009
  What has changed since the August war?, CU Issue 41, August 3, 2009
  The Internal Dynamics of Armenia’s Karabakh Policy, CU Issue 40, July 20, 2009
  Gazprom’s Baku Triumph, CU Issue 39, July 06, 2009
  Ingushetia: The New Chechnya?, CU Issue 38, June 29, 2009
  Georgias Economy - A Matter for Diplomats, CU Issue 37, June 22, 2009
  ‘Progress’ In The Nagorno-Karabakh Peace Process, CU Issue 36, June 08, 2009
  Iran's Azerbaijanis and the presidential election, CU Issue 35, June 01, 2009
  Nabucco and South Stream - The Race Heats Up, CU Issue 34, May 25, 2009
  China and Central Asia, CU Issue 33, May 19, 2009
  Russia, Georgia, and NATO - A Bad Week, CU Issue 32, May 11, 2009
  The Obama Administration’s Emerging Caucasus Policy, CU Issue 31, April 27, 2009
  Integration and Division in the Caspian Sea, CU Issue 30, April 20, 2009
  The Turkish-Armenian Rapprochement - Implications for the South Caucasus, CU Issue 29, April 13, 2009
  Turkey's local elections and Armenian issue, CU Issue 28, April 6, 2009
  Is There Life Left In The Nabucco Project?, CU Issue 27, March 30, 2009
  Problems and Prospects for Russian Military Reform, CU Issue 26, March 23, 2009
  Russia and Georgia: Not back to war, CU Issue 25, March 16, 2009
  Armenia: Heading towards crisis?, CU Issue 24, March 9, 2009
  Drug trafficking in the Caucasus, CU Issue 23, February 23, 2009
  Russian-led military block: A real counterweight to NATO?, CU Issue 22, February 16, 2009
  Are the International Missions in Georgia still relevant?, CU Issue 21, February 9, 2009
  Israel and Azerbaijan: Baku’s Balancing Act, CU Issue 20, February 2, 2009
  The North Caucasus in 2009: A Bleak Forecast, CU Issue 19, January 26, 2009
  The Military Balance in Nagorno-Karabakh, CU Issue 18, January 19, 2009
  Russia, Iran, and Barack Obama in 2009, Part II, CU Issue 17, January 12, 2009
  Looking forward to 2009 in the Caucasus and beyond, Part I, CU Issue 16, January 5, 2009
  The opportunities and the risks of NATO’s new supply routes, CU Issue 15, December 22, 2008
  The Black Sea Ambitions of Armenia, CU Issue 14, December 15, 2008
  Another Small Step for Nabucco, CU Issue 13, December 8, 2008
  Will Saakashvili survive politically?, CU Issue 12, December 1, 2008
  The latest fashion: conflict mediation, CU Issue 11, November 24, 2008
  The Baku Energy Summit, CU Issue 10, November 17, 2008
  Obama and the Caucasus, CU Issue 9, November 10, 2008
  Kazakhstan's oil options, CU Issue 8, November 3, 2008
  Is the Minsk Group being sidelined?, CU Issue 7, October 27, 2008
  Gas and oil developments in the Caspian region, CU Issue 6, October 20, 2008
  Where next for the Georgian peace process?, CU Issue 5, October 8, 2008
  Unrest in the North Caucasus, CU Issue 4, September 29, 2008
  Saakashvili's future, CU Issue 3, September 22, 2008
  Iran after the Georgian War, CU Issue 2, September 15, 2008
  Football diplomacy, CU Issue 1, September 8, 2008
       
 
  © 2006-2010 CRIA
  All rights reserved

Editorial Board
Advisory Board
Our Authors

Back Issues
Caucasus Update
Current Issue

Contact Us
Subscribe
Join us on Facebook