Aliyev-Pashinyan summit demonstrated real situation in negotiation process
The long-awaited summit of Ilham Aliyev and Nikol Pashinyan in Vienna confirmed the preservation of the current format of the negotiations that makes possible to reach the agreements necessary for the Karabakh settlement. The contacts of the leaders and foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan provide a reliable basis for developing joint mechanisms for overcoming the conflict. Mediators of the Karabakh peacemaking process spoke in favor of preserving the existing bilateral format, insisting that there is no need to invent a new framework for the sake of novelty. What is involved here is the confidence-building measures and facilitating cooperation between the countries of the region, and not about the expansion of the circle of participants.
The atmosphere of the summit demonstrates that there was no significant misunderstanding between the parties, although Pashinyan had earlier stated that he would insist on the inclusion of the self-proclaimed NKR in the negotiation process. The noticeable exacerbation of the situation on the contact line on the eve of the Vienna summit demonstrated the possible risks due to the conflicting statements by the Armenian side since an attempt to expand the negotiation format could nullify the entire negotiation process and lead to a new aggravation of the situation in the conflict zone. Baku from the very beginning, defined this step as undermining the mechanisms of political settlement, adversely affecting the general atmosphere of the negotiations. Given the possible aggravation, Aliyev and Pashinyan agreed on the need to intensify the process, continue the substantive negotiations previously proposed by the Azerbaijani side. It can be assumed that the position of Baku turned out to be dominant on the summit.
Meanwhile, Nikol Pashinyan avoids speeding up the negotiations, since, at the moment, he is worried about the internal political situation in the republic. Pashinyan fears a gradual loss of legitimacy within his team, as well as a loss of influence on the security forces and the economic bloc of the government, which are capable of incriminating the incumbent prime minister of his inability to withstand external threats. Pashinyan feels and tries to prevent this by speaking of "three rooms", implying intra-government groups. Yerevan's reserved position during the Vienna summit was obviously predetermined by the position of the mediators. However, taking into account the threat of conspiracy on the sidelines of the Armenian parliament, the Prime Minister is afraid of the "Karabakh factor", which is promoted by the provocative rhetoric of Armenian Defense Minister David Tonoyan, who during the military aggravation in April 2016 served as deputy defense minister. Tonoyan never concealed his pro-American views. As a representative of Armenia to NATO, since 2005, he has maintained close contacts with the CIA. The inclination for adventures of the current minister of defense alarms Pashinyan, especially since after his appointment the ambitious Tonoyan repeatedly stated the need to revise the Armenian military doctrine. Given that the Karabakh crisis is the eternal Achilles heel for all Armenian politics, Pashinyan tries not to comment on the situation on the contact line without having to do so, while Tonoyan reckons neither with the Prime Minister nor with the prospects that open to Armenia in case of the problem settlement.
Although the statement of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs did not refer to the agreements in St. Petersburg, Vienna and Geneva and only mentioned the verbal agreements reached between the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan, further negotiations will take place in the framework of the Madrid principles. Official Yerevan diligently bypassed the recommendations of US National Security Adviser John Bolton and did not raise the issue of the de-occupation of the Azerbaijani territory. Nevertheless, Baku as a whole positively perceives the negotiation process, believing that it is possible to establish contact with the current leadership of Armenia. Azerbaijan made an important diplomatic move, linking the "importance of creating an environment conducive to peace" through the "humanitarian actions." The parties should consider restoring popular diplomacy. Negotiations of representatives of the Armenian and Azerbaijani communities of Karabakh can be an effective tool for overcoming the crisis in the relations between nations. If Nikol Pashinyan is really ready for peace and a solution to the conflict, he should support this initiative, since being a “people's prime minister” he cannot but take into account the power of a public resource. It would be the best fit for the spirit of cooperation in the humanitarian sphere.