Ayoob Kara

Moscow’s Nefarious Role at the Negotiating Table

In recent days, the United States, the European Union and Russia have been competing with each other in order to see who can be successful in securing a peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan. All three of these entities seek a place at the negotiating table in order to assure that their interests will be maintained once a peace treaty is signed between Armenia and Azerbaijan. For this reason, talks have been shuttling back and forwards between Washington, Brussels and Moscow, without one track of negotiations remaining solidly in place.

While Russia seeks to resurrect the Soviet Union and ensure that Armenia will always help Russia to bypass Western sanctions, thus keeping Yerevan solidly under its sphere of influence at a time when Moscow is facing international sanctions over its illegal war in Ukraine, both the United States and the European Union seek to stop this nefarious Russian influence in the Caucasus region that has been maintained in recent years, especially ever since Russian peacekeepers were brought to the region. Both the United States and the European Union would like to see Armenia and Azerbaijan make peace, be independent and prosper, with Moscow packing up its bags and going home.

As a result, Russia, eying a place at the negotiating table between Armenia and Azerbaijan, has condemned the European Union, claiming that they have failed to maintain the peace along the Azerbaijani-Armenian border. “There is no ‘added value’ from the dubious activity of EU ‘experts’ in the Armenian-Azerbaijani border area. Moreover, they are incapable of ensuring security and compliance with the ceasefire agreements reached with the decisive role of Russian mediation,” Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, stated.

According to the Russians, the EU opened up three “hubs ” in the Armenian towns of Kapan, Ijevan and Yeghegnadzor close to the Azerbaijani border in order to strengthen their presence in Armenia at the expense of Russia, whom they aim to “squeeze out of the Caucuses.” While it is true that in the past peace talks hosted by the MINSK group have not borne fruit and have not led to a peace agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia, the present EU peace talks are not being led by the French but by the Belgians. Thus, they are not utilizing the same framework that the French utilized in the past in order to get the two sides to make peace with each other. Nevertheless, Moscow defames the EU role in the peace process because they want to maintain their own sphere of influence.

Meanwhile, as the Russians desperately attempt to keep Armenia within its sphere of influence, Azerbaijan has moved away from Moscow, as demonstrated by the fact that Azerbaijan has decided to have Turkey and not Russia modernize its air force, and Azerbaijani environmental activists waged massive protests against the Russian peacekeeping forces along the Lachin Corridor, which only ended once the Azerbaijanis set up their own checkpoints.

In recent years, Turkish military exports to Baku have risen dramatically, while Russian military exports to Baku ended in 2019. This took place not only because of the close friendship between Turkey and Azerbaijan, but also because the Azerbaijanis did not want to be associated with an international pariah like Moscow, who illegally invaded Ukraine in defiance of the international community.

Thus, even though Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan voiced willingness to recognize Azerbaijani claims to Karabakh in exchange for peace at Russian mediated talks in Moscow and the Azerbaijanis expressed cautious optimism following these talks, both sides in the wake of all of this tension between the EU and the US on one side, and Russia on the other, are not rushing things in order to maintain their independence. The Azerbaijanis aim for a peace treaty to be signed by August or September, while the Armenians want it to be signed by the end of this year.

Considering this, delays here and there do not disturb them. And with all of this tension surrounding the Russian role in the peace process, it is little wonder that the situation deteriorated in recent days, with the Armenian Prime Minister pointing an accusatory finger in his parliament against Baku. However, if both sides were left alone to sit down and make peace, without outside interference, the prospect for the success of such an agreement has never been greater.

About the Author
Ayoob Kara served as Minister of Communication, Cyber and Satellite under Netanyahu, in addition to serving as the Deputy Minister of Regional Cooperation, Deputy Minister of the Development of the Negev and Galilee and Deputy Speaker of the Knesset. He presently is the President of the Economic Peace Center.
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