Updated: May 26
Twenty-six years ago on 11th May 1994, the ceasefire that ended the Nagorno Karabakh fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia was signed. However, the return of forces and deployment of peacekeepers never took place, but instead, tensions kept increasing (Freizer, 2014). In view of the failed negotiations, Russia intends to play a significant role in the near future as a peacekeeping force in Karabakh in order to consolidate its influence in the region (Poghosyan, 2020).
Situation So Far
The Basic Principles For a Peaceful Settlement of the Nagorno- Karabakh Conflict (Armenian Research Center, 2016), popularly referred to as the Madrid Principles was proposed by France, United States of America and Russia on 29th November 2007 as co-chairs of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe Minsk Group for consideration by the Governments of Azerbaijan and Armenia to resolve the conflict (Oktay, 2016). As per the Madrid Principles, the resolution of the territorial dispute would have to take place by the return of territories around Nagorno- Karabakh to the control of Azerbaijan and the return of internally displaced persons and refugees to their original places of residence (Poghosyan, 2020). In light of the fact that the Madrid Principles were not accepted by humongous populations of Armenia and Karabakh, the Madrid Principles failed to achieve the intended result.
The failure of the Madrid Principles resulted in the Kazan Summit Negotiations in the year 2011 (Sammut, 2011). Despite the formulation of the Lavrov Plan by Russia in 2015 (International Crisis Group, 2016), a result of the failure of the Kazan Summit Negotiations, the four-day war in April 2016 reduced the likelihood of the agreement. Albeit the fact that the new leadership of Armenia and Azerbaijani leaders have had several negotiations, the Armenian leadership claims that no document has been put on the table till date and those meetings were not negotiations. (Poghosyan, 2020).
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, geopolitical problems have not ceased and the Nagorno Karabakh territorial conflict is bound to re-emerge sooner than expected. Under such circumstances, on 21st April 2020, the issue was brought back by Sergey Lagrov who stated that a new document had been disseminated in April 2019 and that this document had extremely few differences from the options that were discussed since 2007 in the Madrid Principles (Poghosyan, 2020). This is because the Armenian leadership has clearly stated that none of the propositions in the pre- 2018 phase documents were acceptable to it.
Lavrov’s recent intervention has been seen as an act in furtherance of Russia’s geostrategic interests in the South Caucasus. Russia seems to be confident about its influence and relations with Armenia (Poghosyan, 2020), even though the Velvet Revolution of 2018 caused disturbances between the two nations (Giragosian, 2019). The Moscow Kremlin is satisfied with its relations with Azerbaijan as well. This is due to the fact that although Russian influence by way of military presence may not be welcome in Azerbaijan by its leadership, Russia may still use the peacekeeping force clauses in the Madrid Agreement to ensure military presence and influence. Not only this, but even the April 2019 document contains provisions of deployment of Russian peacekeepers (Poghosyan, 2020).
Upcoming Future and Conclusion
Economic stagnation in Baku, the outbreak of the pandemic and slump in oil prices may force Azerbaijan to succumb to Russia’s offer since the military budget of Azerbaijan remains low and this will disable it from pressuring Armenia (Poghosyan, 2020). Concerns have floated that the withdrawal of the United States of America and France from the Nagorno Karabakh conflict may speed up the process of Russia increasing its control. Moreover, although Iran and Turkey have also opposed the Lavrov Plan, the sanctions imposed by the United States of America have imposed insurmountable pressure on Iran and this may work in Russia’s favour since Turkey then will not be in a position to oppose individually.