Implicit acquiescence here, semi-refutation there: diplomatic tug-of-war in full swing
By Orkhan Amashov
Armenia’s six-point proposal in response to Azerbaijan's original peace package remains shrouded in obscurity, albeit one that is peppered with holes. Only certain purported elements of what at present may only be perceived as a semi-phantom document are known to the general public.
Armen Grigoryan, Secretary of Armenia’s National Security Council, has somewhat alluded to some of the elements, yet it is not at all clear with what degree of clarity they have been communicated to the Azerbaijani side.
The secrecy pertaining to the exact content of what now appears to be a counter-offer, albeit not the term used by the Armenian leadership, has caused a far greater deal of consternation in Yerevan, than in Baku.
The sensibility amongst some quarters in Armenia is that, by withholding the full document from public scrutiny and revealing only the provisions related to the security and rights of the Armenian population of Karabakh and related matters, Pashinyan is pulling the wool over the eyes of his critics in vast quantities.
The fear engulfing the domain of Pashinyan's sceptics and others is that the cumulative effect of the six points in question may amount to the firm and final Armenian acceptance that Karabakh is Azerbaijan.
Benyamin Pogosyan, for instance, Chairman of the Centre for Political and Economic Strategic Studies in Yerevan, during his interview with Eurasianet, stated that the government should publish the full document and prove that the aforementioned fear is unfounded.
Thread during the past two months
One can only guess as to the behind-the-closed-door discussions. But one can surmise and make a relatively judicious assessment on the basis of the available facts.
The original initiator of the peace exchange was Baku. In March, the Azerbaijani leadership made a five-point offer, focusing on the interstate relations between the two nations. At that point, Armenia implicitly acquiesced, expressing its view with the formula that there was nothing unacceptable in Baku’s suggestion, provided the rights and security of Karabakh Armenians were also addressed.
This positive momentum was reinforced on 6 April when President Ilham Aliyev and Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan met in Brussels. Here, the Armenian leader stunned the National Assembly by suggesting the importance of lowering the bar in terms of status expectations - this was a moment at which a liminal line appeared to have been crossed, being the first time that emphasis was given to the security and rights of Armenians without seeking a territorial status. The criticality of the threshold was not lost on discerning listeners.
Belatedly revealed semi-phantom offer
It was only in early May that the six-point offer came to the surface. On 5 May, Armen Grigoryan, three days after his meeting with Hikmet Hajiyev, Assistant to President Ilham Aliyev, referred to this for the first time.
Armenian Ambassador-at-large Edmon Manukyan subsequently claimed the plan was first submitted for the consideration of Azerbaijan on 6 April. The question arises as to why this was not made public at the time if indeed such a submission was made.
All the difference lies amongst the niceties and nitty-gritty elements. From what has been claimed by Armenia and on the basis of the calm, unperturbed, and reserved reaction of the officials from Baku, one can tentatively establish that it may be possible that some of the points entailed in what Yerevan portrays as a six-point package might have been discussed.
Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov has confirmed that the provisions concerning the mutual recognition of territorial integrity and the importance of implementing the agreements reached hitherto have been communicated to Baku and positively received.
It could also be established that Yerevan's offer entailed two more points, the first dealing with the misbegotten OSCE Minsk Group's future role and the rights and security of the Karabakh Armenians in the context of "the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh".
Both the aforementioned provisions are out-of-date and thus unacceptable in Baku's view. It is utterly improbable that any exchange within the framework, based on those two tenets, has taken place. What is possible, however, is that the fate of the Karabakh Armenians in terms of the applicable legal regime could have been discussed, yet its inclusion in the peace agenda's central core remains uncertain, to say the least.
Pashinyan's behavioural pattern revisited
Pashinyan is a player. He is by no means a consummate one steeped in the finer points of statesmanship, but an actor who is keen to learn. He is conscious of the difficulty of the task incumbent upon him and is vainly trying to act adequately whenever he can.
If to follow his steps taken since December 2021, one can discern that the logic of his behaviour is based on making one full-step forward followed by one half-step back. Pashinyan seems to want to move forward by alternating between implicit acquiescence and semi-refutation, being at home in both, and partaking in both. In addition to consolidating his position, he seems to be given to cultivating an image of a tolerably good Armenian in the eyes of his steadfast critics.
Upon close examination, Armenia’s six-point offer does not seem to be anything new. In some ways, it appears to reinforce the gist of the March exchange with some reification in the form of enumeration.
In this vein, in the Armenian view, its six-point suggestion is not even a counter-offer, as it is purported to be in conformity with the original Bakuvian plan. Yerevan’s approach, as expressed by Grigoryan, is that the six points must be added to the original five points, the result forming the basis of a peace treaty.
Baku views the peace agenda on the interstate front, with the emphasis on the delimitation and demarcation of the borders, the opening of communications routes, and addressing humanitarian issues. On the other hand, Armenia is still persistent in giving precedence to the subject concerning the fate of the Karabakh Armenians.
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