According to the Collins online dictionary, rapprochement means “an increase in friendliness between two countries, groups, or people, especially after a period of unfriendliness.” In this context, two parallel processes towards the normalization of the relationships between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and Armenia and Turkey can be considered as examples of rapprochements that became reality owing to the outcome of the Second Karabakh War and the contents of the 9-10 November 2020, Trilateral Statement. Since then, Armenia’s presence as an occupying force on the territory of Azerbaijan has eliminated and Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity restored.
At a press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on 11 January 2021, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev stated that “the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has been consigned to history and we must think about the future, how to live together as neighbors, how to work to open transport arteries and strengthen regional stability and security.” Since then, he has repeatedly stated in his public speeches and various interviews with the representatives of local and international media that Azerbaijan is ready to sign a peace treaty with Armenia. “If Armenia is ready for this, if it is ready to recognize the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, which is recognized by the whole world, then, of course, long-term peace will come to the region.”.
However, Armenian officials were in no hurry to respond positively to the offer of the Azerbaijani president. It is perhaps understandable that Armenians within Armenia and Karabakh, as well as representatives of the Armenian diaspora, were deeply dissatisfied with the result of the Second Karabakh War, and many in the country immediately called for Nikol Pashinyan to resign. However, to the surprise of many, Pashinyan’s Civil Contract Party won the snap parliamentary election held on 20 June 2021, garnering nearly 54 percent of the votes cast.
After this snap election, Nikol Pashinyan tried to overcome the consequences of the country’s internal political crisis caused by the outcome of the war and made several moves to consolidate power. But the process of serious reflection on the causes of Armenia’s failure in the Second Karabakh War has not yet begun in Armenia because, for such recognition to occur, it is first necessary to destroy many fundamental myths. However, some initial steps in this direction are currently underway.
First of all, in January 2022, during an online press conference organized for representatives of the mass media and non-governmental organizations, the Armenian prime minister responded positively to the offer from the Azerbaijani president. He spoke about the need for negotiations on a peace treaty between Armenia and Azerbaijan and stressed that the whole purpose of the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process was to sign such a treaty: “When we look at the documents of negotiation, the goal of the whole process is to sign a peace treaty. We also have it as a peace agenda; we must pursue the agenda of signing a peace treaty. But you have to negotiate before signing any contract. Armenia is ready to negotiate. After all, the discussion of all these issues is for solving those problems,” he underlined.
Secondly, the Armenian prime minister while answering the question of whether official Armenia should recognize the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, said that there was “an agreement ratified by the Armenian parliament in 1992, which states that Armenia recognizes the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and the inviolability of its borders, and Azerbaijan has ratified a similar agreement.”
Thirdly, Nikol Pashinyan also touched upon his government’s interest in normalizing relations with Turkey “without preconditions.” He mentioned that the international community also supports this process; not only Russia, the EU, and the United States, but also other countries in the region are “very interested” in the normalization of ties between Armenia and Turkey. Nikol Pashinyan also stated that his government adheres to the approach that started with ex-president Robert Kocharyan, who had already stated that Armenia had no territorial claims against Turkey, and this approach was preserved during the years of ex-president Serzh Sargsyan’s rule. Thus, in December 2021, Turkey and Armenia each appointed a special envoy, Ambassador Serdar Kılıç and Ruben Rubinyan respectively, to realize this task. They have met twice, on 14 January 2022, in Moscow and on 24 February 2022, in Vienna. Furthermore, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met his Armenian counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan on the sidelines of the Antalya Diplomacy Forum on 12 March 2022. This meeting was described by Mr. Cavusoglu as “extremely fruitful and constructive.”
Azerbaijan also sent a new, five-point proposal to Armenia on the normalization of relations; the five basic principles to which the parties must adhere in order to establish relations were published on 14 March 2022. They are: 1) mutual recognition by states of sovereignty, territorial integrity, inviolability of state borders and each other’s political independence; 2) mutual confirmation by states of the absence of territorial claims against each other and their acceptance of a legal obligation not to make such claims in the future; 3) refrain from threatening each other’s security in international relations, using threats and force against political independence and territorial integrity, as well as other circumstances that are not consistent with the purposes of the UN Charter; 4) delimitation and demarcation of the state border and establishment of diplomatic relations; and 5) opening transport links and communications, establishing other relevant communications, and cooperation in other areas of mutual interest.
On 31 March 2022, the Armenian Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, in his turn, expressed readiness to sign a peace treaty with Azerbaijan and to immediately launch peace talks.
Thus, at the meeting hosted by the President Charles Michel of the European Council in Brussels on April 6, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan agreed to instruct their Ministers of Foreign Affairs to work on the preparation of a future peace treaty as well as to convene a Joint Border Commission by the end of April in line with the Sochi Statement of 26 November 2021. This Commission will be in charge of delimiting of the bilateral border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and ensuring a stable security situation along, and in the vicinity of, the borderline. The leaders also “welcomed the meeting of senior representatives from Armenia and Azerbaijan on 30 March 2022 under EU auspices in Brussels and agreed on the necessity to continue this engagement to ensure adequate follow-up to agreements reached at leaders’ level”.
In this context it is necessary to underline that in preparation for the above-mentioned meeting of Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders high-level government officials from Armenia and Azerbaijan, Secretary of the Security Council of the Republic of Armenia, Armen Grigoryan, and Assistant to the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Hikmet Hajiyev met in Brussels on 30 March 2022 and reviewed the political and security situation and the full spectrum of issues between Armenia and Azerbaijan through the facilitation of the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus Toivo Klaar. A separate, bilateral conversation also took place between Mr. Hajiyev and Mr. Grigoryan.
Furthermore, on 11 April 2022, the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov and the Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan discussed work on preparations for a future peace treaty and the establishment of the Joint Border Commission, as well as humanitarian issues during their first and direct phone conversation, as a follow-up to the agreements reached in Brussels on 6 April.
Thus, these latest developments can be considered as the very initial steps towards the future Armenian-Azerbaijani rapprochement. If both parties carefully craft their future policies towards the normalization of their relationship in parallel with normalization process between Armenia and Turkey, these could lead not only to the opening of the borders between Armenia and Turkey and Armenia and Azerbaijan but also bring the long-awaited peace, prosperity, and development through mutual security-based cooperation to the states and people of the South Caucasus.
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