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Armenia's six-point package revealed: So what?

18 May 2022 12:08 (UTC+04:00)
Armenia's six-point package revealed: So what?

By Orkhan Amashov

Finally, after two weeks of vacillation and tasteless shilly-shallying in the form of less than crafty stonewalling, Yerevan has published its six-point offer, first alluded to on 5 May by Armen Gregorian, the Secretary of the Armenian National Security Council.

And what is this? To be brief, nothing but a reaffirmation of the old in its regressive mores. Since the document, the full content of which was revealed by Ambassador-at-Large Edmon Marukyan on 14 May, entails a minimum of two inadmissible points from the perspective of Baku, it is effectively a counter-offer, not a complementary list of considerations, as originally purported by Yerevan.

In a nutshell, the Armenian government still sticks to the formula whereby it claims to have no territorial pretensions on Azerbaijan and emphasizes the importance of addressing the rights and security of Karabakh Armenians in the context of “the final determination of the status of Nagorno-Karabakh”, attained under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group.

The package was poorly received in both Azerbaijan and Armenia. The sensibility in Baku seems to be that the Armenian side is prevaricating over the inevitable, whereas the view prevalent in the anti-government quarters in Yerevan is that the document is ill-prepared and amounts to the surrender of national interests.

Ill-conceived inception

First things first. Before making further conclusive remarks, it behoves one to look into the respective provisions of the package and to determine the finer elements, if any, upon which a more detailed examination could be conceived and propitiated.

Point 1 is probably the most obscure element of the document. Baku’s five-point offer was designed as a collection of proposed precepts, aimed as a foundation for building a prospective peace deal around, and one would have reasonably assumed that an Armenian answer would also follow suit and be “principle-based”.

The point in question merely indicates the specific date on which the Azerbaijani offer was received – 11 March. Since Baku communicated its five-point proposal on 21 February, the intention here is likely to clarify that the document was submitted three weeks after, thereby placing the blame on an unnamed intermediary, the identity of which one can guess and make one’s own judicious conclusion.

Levon Zarubyan, the Vice-Chairman of the Armenian National Congress, led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosyan, was highly critical of Yerevan’s six-point package, believing that the document represents a futile and dilettantish attempt to respond to Baku’s proposal and that its first point is ultimately unconstructive.

Constructive ambiguity

Point 2 states that Armenia does not have, nor has ever had, any territorial pretension in relation to Azerbaijan. This, of course, should not be taken at a face value, but with an industrial-size vat of salt. The meaning ascribed to this provision is fluid and tends to acquire slightly modified proclivities, depending on the exigencies of a given time.

In principle, the original thinking behind this formula has been based on a construct, enabling Armenia to look plausible in the eyes of international law without renouncing its claims to Karabakh. When Yerevan felt strong and bolstered in the past, its interpretation of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan did not include the Soviet-era Nagorno-Karabakh Oblast.

From December 2021, this provision gained a new meaning. On 26 December, The beleaguered and irrefutably quixotic Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan acknowledged that, from the perspective of international law, Karabakh was Azerbaijan, and within the OSCE-mediated format no alternative provenance would ever be determined.

Whilst addressing the Armenian National Assembly after the 6 April Brussels summit, Pashinyan emphasised the critical importance of lowering the bar on “status expectations”, focusing mostly on the rights and security of Karabakh Armenians.

Against the backdrop of the rhetoric displayed from December 2021 to April 2022, the meaning of “we recognise and have already recognised Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity” line could, of course, be interpreted in a way that would incorporate Karabakh. Yet the Armenian vision regarding this is a long way from crystallizing into a constant, and thus periodic modifications are yet to impinge upon the minds of those determining Yerevan's foreign policy.

Point 3 is a clear example of the aforementioned. It does not merely emphasise the importance of addressing the subject concerning the rights and security of Karabakh Armenians, but specifies that this should be undertaken in the context of the final determination of the status of the region. Since, in Baku’s post-war vision, the conflict is over and the status subject is a relic of the past, this point has no chance of being of constructive value.

Point 4 does not amount to a principle either. In fact, it says nothing that could contribute to a peace treaty. Interestingly enough, if to judge by the Russian translation available, point 4 emphasises the importance of the 2020 ceasefire deal and the implementation of the 11 January and 26 November statements.

Article 4 of the 10 November deal states that “the peacekeeping forces of the Russian Federation shall be deployed concurrently with the withdrawal of the Armenian troops”. This remains unfulfilled due to Yerevan’s deliberate inaction, and it is of some import that, when referring to the ceasefire deal, the six-point proposal merely “emphasises its importance” in general, not “the importance of its implementation”, as was stated in relation to the 11 January and 26 November statements.

Point 5 refers to the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act, and the International Pact on Civil and Political Rights. Clairvoyance skills are unnecessary to appreciate that the latter is included with the purpose of connecting the question of the rights and security of Karabakh Armenians with political self-determination. Point 6 is also doomed to be opposed by Baku, as it ascribes the misbegotten and archaic OSCE Minsk Group with a central role in future peace negotiations.

In the final analysis, Yerevan’s proposal could be regarded as contributing to slackening the zeal engendered in April. It is true that Azerbaijani demands and Armenian acquiescence have not yet merged into a domain where the rubrics are firmly established.

Yet there is a clear framework within which an exchange leading to a peace deal could take place, and a sufficient degree of clarity on the principal terms to enable forward traction. However, this is not properly appreciated by large swathes of the Armenian public.

For instance, Alexander Iskandaryan, the Director of the Yerevan-based Caucasus Institute, believes Armenia should not rush to a deal and states that a peace treaty is not always a guarantee for lasting peace.

The latter part is, in a sense, true. A peace treaty that imposes unfair terms on the vanquished may indeed lead to even a greater crisis in the future, as demonstrated in the annals of history. The question arises as to whether Baku's five points could lead to such an eventuality.

The point is that the Armenian disinclination to move towards a comprehensive deal is driven by a desire, dormant in Iskandaryan's case, to reverse the consequences of the Second Karabakh War as extensively as possible and to achieve the zenith of obstreperousness.

Baku and Yerevan see the matter through the prism of different priorities. Azerbaijan's five-point plan aims to normalise the fundamentals of interstate relations firstly and then move to the fate of Karabakh Armenians, and hence Baku views the mutual recognition of territorial integrity, non-use of force, the avoidance of territorial pretensions, delimitation, and demarcation of borders and the opening of communications routes as key steps.

For Yerevan, the starting point is the fate of the Karabakh Armenians, and thus classical normalisation within an interstate framework is something of which Pashinyan's government has yet to convince itself. As ever, a peace treaty is so near, and yet so far.

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