What would Karabakh clan's removal from power do?
Since Nikol Pashinyan came to power in Armenia, many experts have put hopes on a young, progressive politician, who was not involved in the Karabakh clan, in the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The new leadership's awareness of the fact that due to the ongoing confrontation with Baku, Armenia remains under the economic blockade - its borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan are closed, its communication with Moscow is through Georgia, and in terms of sanctions Iran does not look too reliable as a partner - could theoretically create favorable environment for progress in the negotiations.
The first steps to mutual understanding were made last September in Dushanbe, later on the sidelines of the unofficial summit of the CIS heads of state in St. Petersburg, as well as at Pashinyan's meetings with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Davos. However, the negotiation process hampered by Yerevan’s claims to change the format of the talks by attracting representatives of the separatist regime created in the occupied territories to the negotiation process. "The Prime Minister of Armenia, claiming that he cannot speak on behalf of the Armenians living in Karabakh, cannot answer the simple question: what are the Armenian armed forces doing in Azerbaijan's sovereign territories," Baku wonders.
It is not a secret that the self-proclaimed 'NKR' exists at the expense of military, political and financial support of Yerevan and the diaspora, and it is Armenia that controls Nagorno-Karabakh and the adjacent territories.
In this regard, experts' attention was attracted by the statement of American political analyst, consultant with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Ray Salvatore Jennings, who, in his article 'Upgrading US Support for Armenia's Post-Revolution Reforms', called on the Armenian leadership to remove the Nagorno-Karabakh siloviki and initiate criminal proceedings against them. According to the expert, it will give the Armenian side flexibility in negotiations with Azerbaijan.
This idea did not arise suddenly. At the beginning of last summer, about half a thousand people gathered for a spontaneous rally in the unrecognized republic's capital to protest the beating of two local residents by special forces, they not only demanded to arrest the special forces members, but also dismiss the security leadership of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Then local experts began talking that the political consequences of the action could be serious. It became clear that the possibility of nominating the current 'president' of 'NKR' Bako Sahakyan for another term was almost excluded in 2020. Before the change of power in Yerevan, the 'NKR' security leadership had a 'cover' in the person of Serzh Sargsyan. But after his removal from power, they should not expect any serious protection.
In the summer, the situation in Karabakh was somewhat smoothed out after Pashinyan’s request for the protesters to calm down and give the authorities an opportunity to solve the problems. Then the director of the Karabakh National Security Service, Lieutenant-General Arshavir Garamyan, the head of the 'police', Major General Kamo Aghajanyan and the "state minister" Araik Arutyunyan were dismissed. Moreover, the latter said that the citizens are dissatisfied not only with lawlessness of individual law enforcement officers, but also with the social conditions prevailing in the republic as a whole. At the end of last year, commander of the 'NKR defense army' Levon Mnatsakanyan said goodbye to his post.
Now, observers are inclined to believe that 'cleansing' in both Karabakh and Yerevan can be regarded as measures indicating Pashinyan’s readiness to implement confidence-building mechanisms with Baku, which will bring significant benefits to Armenia’s current economic situation, for example, the opportunity to join international projects, such as the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway.
At the same time, it is obvious that in order to advance in resolving the conflict, Armenia will have to withdraw its troops from the occupied Azerbaijani territories and build civilized relations with its neighbors, which will help the country to escape isolation.