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Epilogue to Athens meeting between Azerbaijani, Armenian foreign ministers

04 December 2009 [12:51] - TODAY.AZ
By Nurani
Day.Az writer

The region is summarizing the outcome of the Athens talks following the latest round of Karabakh negotiations. The OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs are trying to demonstrate a habitual optimism, which frankly speaking one finds hard to believe on the backdrop of Yerevan's belligerent statements and intransigence during talks. What the ministers talked about in Athens is unknown. But one thing is clear. A document on the resolution of the Karabakh conflict was not discussed in Greece.  

Here is a good response to the optimistic assumption that a breakthrough in negotiations will allegedly take place next weekend. Negotiations have stalled again thanks to Armenia. There is no need to remind readers that the failure of the Karabakh negotiations inhibits the resolution of the conflict in the South Caucasus as well as Armenian-Turkish reconciliation.

Turkish and Armenian foreign ministers Ahmet Davutoglu and Edward Nalbandian also met in Athens. Experts have no doubt whatsoever that progress should not be expected in terms of Turkey-Armenia reconciliation without real progress in resolving the Karabakh conflict.

Why is Armenia hurting the negotiations yet again? Is the country employing “cunning tactics” to win the current situation and force abrupt shifts unbeknownst to the rest of the players?

Today, even non-specialists know about the true alignment of forces in the talks. Armenia still occupies 20 percent of Azerbaijani territory. It is obvious to many that it is not Armenia that is setting the terms in the negotiations. The maximum that can be achieved through such escapades is "to slow down the talks."

It would be better to leave the option of "cunning tactics" and "superdiplomacy" for a table talk with a bottle of Armenian cognac. It is not suitable for a serious analysis for the simple reason that dragging out the talks does not meet Armenia's interests.

It is an understatement to say that the balance of regional forces is not changing in Armenia’s favor. Yerevan is simply unable to set the terms of the negotiations at a time of a record economic recession and disastrous emigration – an "oil syndrome" without oil – when at least one-third (half the families according to their sources) of the families in Armenia depend on funds from abroad as their primary source of income. It would be inappropriate to even hope for swift changes for the better.

To create conditions for a little bit of normal development, Armenia needs to normalize relations not even with Turkey, but with Azerbaijan. However, the recent statement "we will not surrender Karabakh" just will not do.

Also, there is no need to say seriously that Armenia has some sort of secret and full support.

Then it becomes clear that the "Saber Dance" arranged by Serge Sargsyan is designed exclusively for the Armenian audience. Thus, Armenian leaders are trying to convince everyone that they take a “super tough position” and they are ready to defend the idea of “Miatsum” and are resolute to do so to the very end.

It has become increasingly difficult to avoid criticism toward the ruling team. The Armenian president knows very well that he won the elections in spring 2008 solely due to falsification and direct pressure on voters and this undermines his trust.

In short, the Armenian president is under pressure from outside pushing for a compromise on the backdrop of the country’s "crushing” economy. The opposition does not retreat either. This makes one show two positions – one for the outside world and another for the domestic audience.

However, it seems Yerevan will not wait long. Armenia seems to adhere to a much simpler principle – "days and nights will hold on.” The country's officials plan to implement a corruption scheme to the end and then catch the "last flight" and take "what has been looted” with them when it is high time. Of course, it all depends where they will run away to since the diaspora is unlikely to meet with open arms. Suffice it to recall how police dispersed a rally of Paris Armenians who blamed Serzh Azatovich of betrayal, and how they stepped on his portrait at a rally in Los Angeles. So, it seems "cunning tactics" indeed exist. However, they do not belong to the country as a whole, but rather a "Karabakh clan," which currently holds power.

Azatovich seems to have failed to take into account one thing while designing a scheme under the principle “days and nights will hold on.”

Until recently, the ongoing occupation of 20 percent of Azerbaijani lands and the problem of refugees were a “headache” only for Azerbaijan, while with few exceptions it was just a violation of a ceasefire and regular trips by the Minsk Group mediators for the rest of the world. Since the situation has now changed and the stakes have increased immeasurably, the world deals with the Karabakh conflict more seriously.

Experts argue that much will depend on the outcome of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan’s upcoming visit to the U.S. The head of the Turkish government has promised in talks with Obama that he is not going just to speak about the Karabakh issue, but also to demand  real efforts to resolve the situation.

In the meanwhile, Armenia does not even hope the U.S. will push Turkey to normalize relations with Armenia at any cost. Washington is not going to risk the Turkish-Azerbaijani partnership not to mention the fact that Obama and Erdogan have something to talk about – relations between Turkey and Iran, with which the U.S is obviously concerned and the "Kurdish factor” in Iraq. Armenia is not a factor for which Washington will risk ruining relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan. But it is possible that Armenia will have to make a real compromise regardless of the domestic political situation.

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