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Lavrov’s double game, Baku’s tough reax & Yerevan’s short-lived glee

13 June 2022 09:59 (UTC+04:00)
Lavrov’s double game, Baku’s tough reax & Yerevan’s short-lived glee

By Vugar Khalilov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's June 9, 2022, statement in Yerevan about an obscure village in Azerbaijan’s Karabakh was a total bombshell for both Baku and Yerevan that raised eyebrows at Moscow’s rationale behind yet another twist.

Although Baku’s prompt reaction compelled Moscow to later amend the Yerevan remark by the scandalous foreign minister, it, in essence, changed nothing and once again laid bare serious shortcomings and highly controversial aspects of Russia’s foreign policy priorities.

Pundits immediately come forward with their far-reaching conclusions that Baku and Yerevan once again realized what lies behind Russia’s endless dual game vis-à-vis the Karabakh issue. Lavrov’s remark came after Baku’s repeated statements that the conflict had been resolved militarily, and Moscow’s role at this point in time is to play its assumed function, that is, to play a fair role and be conducive to the final resolution of the conflict.

Alas, the Russian foreign minister’s controversial remark dispels hopes that Moscow can play a fair and neutral arbiter role. One might ascribe it to the Russian foreign minister’s scandalous nature, who often finds himself in the whirl of the activities that run counter to the stated principles, but as a saying goes, no guide is needed to a mountain that is visible.

What tells us Farrukh & prelude to Baku’s anger

In March 2022, the Azerbaijani army restored control over Farrukh village and the neighboring Dashbashi height to prevent provocations by illegal Armenian armed groups operating in the Russian peacekeeping forces' temporary zone of control in Karabakh.

On June 9, asked by an Armenian journalist about efforts being made to achieve the “withdrawal of Azerbaijani troops from the Karabakh village of Farrukh”, the Russian minister said in Yerevan that “the issue of Azerbaijan seizing control of a Karabakh village in March 2022 would be resolved during the border delimitation between Armenia and Azerbaijan”.

"As we understand, these issues will be discussed and will be surely resolved within the substantive work on border delimitation that is about to start," Lavrov told a joint presser with his Armenian opposite side in Yerevan on June 9.

In Baku, the statement raised eyebrows at all levels with pundits asking rightfully about the interconnection between the village inside Karabakh and the ensuing border delimitation process that despite Baku’s best efforts has not yet moved off the dead point.

Yerevan’s short-lived glee

In Yerevan, where protesters took to the streets to protest at the visit of the Russian foreign minister, they did not take seriously what Sergei Lavrov said, ascribing his words either to his poor knowledge of geography or his desire to appease the anger of the protesting Armenians. Lavrov's response that the issue would be resolved "as part of the delimitation process" even perplexed Armenian reporters in the briefing and pundits, who never lose the opportunity to claim the right to everything Azerbaijan has had for centuries.

Armenian experts attributed Lavrov’s comment to his “tough meetings” in Ankara, who in Yerevan mistook Farrukh for "a number of disputed territories on the Azerbaijani-Armenian border". Armenian opposition parliamentarian called for "more clarity".

"Does Mr. Lavrov's statement imply that the Armenian-Azerbaijani delimitation commissions are also involved in the delimitation of the Karabakh borders?” Ashotyan asked. “If so, within which borders? If not, either I misunderstood Lavrov or he got the toponyms mixed up,” he was quoted.

Another opposition member of the Armenian parliament, Artur Kazinyan, said that an "unexpected situation" had arisen after Lavrov's statement.

Baku reacts

The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry reacted immediately, refreshing the Russian foreign minister’s memory.

“We would like to note that the activities of the delimitation commissions, established by Azerbaijan and Armenia, are aimed at the delimitation of the state border of the two countries, as previously planned. This process does not envisage consideration of any issue outside the Azerbaijani-Armenian state border, including the territories of the Republic of Azerbaijan where the Russian peacekeeping contingent is temporarily located,” the ministry’s spokesperson said in a press release.

Moscow attempts to save its own face

The Russian Foreign Ministry did not comment on the issue triggered by the chief diplomat and only after Baku’s reaction, in a transcript published on its official website, Lavrov's statement was “corrected”.

The amended version of the foreign minister’s remarks read as follows.

"We hope that the launch of the process of delimitation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border will help build trust between Baku and Yerevan and prevent incidents like Farrukh in the zone of responsibility of the Russian peacekeeping contingent."

Could the foreign minister, as a professional diplomat, make such a grave error? This cannot be ruled out in view of Lavrov's frequent blunders and his often reference to non-normative vocabulary cannot be ruled out.

Lavrov's previous remarks, such as Nazi leader Adolf Hitler "had Jewish blood" or that “the most ardent anti-Semites are usually Jews", made Putin apologize to Israel in order to avoid a crisis in the Russian-Israeli ties, are clear evidence of his similar gaffes.

Experts on Farrukh

According to military analyst Adalat Verdiyev, the Azerbaijani army has no plans to leave the liberated territories. In response to Lavrov's comments, the expert stated that the Farrukh victory was a source of pride for Azerbaijan.

"Raising our flag in Farrukh is a very serious message sent by Azerbaijan to Armenia. The implication of this message is that only the Azerbaijani army can guarantee the security of Armenians in our territories, including in Karabakh, which is temporarily controlled by Russian peacekeepers," Verdiyev stressed.

In this regard, the analyst believes Lavrov's comments on Farrukh are aimed at calming down the Armenian community.

"We do not intend to withdraw from any territory where the Azerbaijani army is located. It has not been and will not be so. On the contrary, Azerbaijan will seek to expand its control in the territories where the Russians are temporarily stationed in the near future," the military expert said.

Azerbaijani MP Fazil Mustafa said that the statement of the Russian foreign minister was aimed at disrupting the peace process.

"Russia sees that the process is moving towards a solution, they want to disrupt it," he said. Mustafa went on to say that Lavrov's comment was worthless and irrelevant to Azerbaijan.

"First, Azerbaijan makes its own decisions on its lands. Second, Azerbaijan will not allow Lavrov's words and the wishes of the Armenians to come true. We will define our borders in this region and no country can interfere in it."

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