Armenian opposition takes to streets as Baku, Ankara aim to bring peace to wider region
By Fuad Muxtar-Aqbabali
Azerbaijan's top presidential aide Hikmat Hajiyev and Armenian Security Council Secretary Armen Grigoryan have met in Brussels for the second time to weigh the pros and cons ahead of the expected launch of the activities on drafting a peace deal and the border delimitation process.
EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus Toivo Klaar again hosted the meeting of the Azerbaijani and Armenian officials in a bid to demonstrate the EU's determination to press ahead with the plan the leaders hammered out at the April 6 meeting in Brussels.
In the meantime, Klaar fell short of divulging topics the two men had discussed and if any agreements were accomplished. Before visiting the May 2 meeting with Azerbaijan's top presidential aide, Armen Grigoryan said on 29 April that the Brussels meeting would focus on a future peace deal, the unblocking of regional communications, and the border delimitation.
As part of Baku and Ankara's joint efforts to bring Yerevan to the regional cooperation track, on May 3, the special envoys of Armenia and Turkey, Ruben Rubinyan and Serdar Kilic held their third meeting in Vienna.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry said Rubinyan and Kilic had held a "sincere and effective exchange of specific views and mulled steps that can be taken for tangible progress" towards the normalization of relations.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, for his part, added earlier that the envoys would discuss "various steps", including the prospect of re-determining borders and establishing a "joint commission".
Armenian opposition efforts to derail peace process
For all that the April 6 Brussels meeting agreed to unveil the compositions of the two commissions by late April, Armenia has not done so and the ongoing protests in Yerevan are designed to derail the whole process, experts believe.
At the April 29 international conference on "South Caucasus: Development and Cooperation", President Ilham Aliyev reaffirmed Baku's readiness to turn a new page in South Caucasus interstate relations.
"We have got a positive response from Armenia just recently, and their government has accepted five basic principles, which Azerbaijan put forward, the principles which should be a foundation for a peace agreement with Armenia", the Azerbaijani president told the international think tank forum.
The lasting and durable peace in the region is pivotal for the two arch-enemies to start from scratch.
"If a peace agreement is signed and those basic principles are known, then, the peace in the Caucasus will be long-lasting and sustainable. This is what we want, and I think that what we demonstrate and what we announce is a clear example of our will to contribute to the peace in the Caucasus," the president added.
What is behind opposition protests in Armenia?
The Armenian opposition protests have been ongoing since May 1 and are set to go ahead in a bid to compel the prime minister to quit and prevent him from normalizing the relations with two powerful neighbors - Turkey and Azerbaijan.
On May 4, the protesters are planning to block streets in Yerevan and then picket the parliament building, where Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan is expected to attend a Q&A session.
Addressing the protest on May 3 in Yerevan, opposition MP and deputy speaker Ishkhan Saghatelyan, who is one of the leaders of the street protests, called on the opposition supporters to gather outside parliament on May 4 to demand Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan's resignation.
He also urged protesters to follow the suit and replicate the 2018 version of Pashinyan's protest that ousted then prime minister Serzh Sargsyan. It should be noted that the political alliance I Have Honor led by Sargsyan also joined the protests.
The Armenian opposition's civil disobedience campaign is aimed at toppling Pashinyan and the protests are orchestrated by the resistance movement made up of major opposition alliances Armenia and I Have the Honor led by former presidents Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sargsyan, both from Azerbaijan's separatist Karabakh region.
Following the ongoing protests in Armenia, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan responded to accusations by the opposition that he had derailed the negotiations on the Karabakh settlement.
In response, the prime minister accused ex-President Serzh Sargsyan of derailing the negotiations with Azerbaijan.
"The third president said that one should not pin hopes on a peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict," the prime minister recalled.
As for the accusations that he could have stopped the war, Pashinyan recalled that on September 27, 2020, when the hostilities started, he voiced the condition under which the war would be stopped was the fact that Nagorno-Karabakh remained part of Azerbaijan.
For his part, Armenian Parliament Speaker Alen Simonyan, an associate of the prime minister, lambasted the street protests that paralyzed the normal functioning of the public traffic, blaming the opposition for the lack of any proposals.
The opposition accuses the prime minister of plotting concessions to Azerbaijan over Karabakh. Protests are blocking streets in Yerevan and the provinces, and over 400 protesters were reportedly detained on May 2-3.
To recap, Simonyan ruled out any political crisis in the country.
"The opposition has not formulated clearly what they want to say, and in fact, they have nothing to propose to the people of Armenia. If they have any political messages, it should be done in parliament," Simonyan believes.
Pashinyan came under fire from the opposition after his remarks that Yerevan had to reduce its expectations around Karabakh's future status. His comments triggered fears that his government is preparing to compromise on the de facto independence of the part of the region under the preliminary control of the Russian peacekeepers to conclude a long-awaited peace treaty with Azerbaijan.