Baku and Yerevan promote dialogue
Informal meeting between Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, held on the sidelines of the Davos Economic Forum, confirmed that negotiation process on the Karabakh conflict settlement has noticeably quickened. Experts consider this hour and a half meeting similar to earlier negotiations in Paris between Foreign Ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia, which lasted four hours.
Current format of meeting suggests that Aliyev and Pashinyan are introducing certain adjustments to their own positions in order to advance negotiation process before the next meeting between Foreign Ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia, which will be held next month. It's possible that soon we will witness introduction of modern monitoring system on the contact line, which will be supported by the St. Petersburg agreements, reached after last armed escalation of the conflict in spring 2016.
Yerevan takes into account that in order to overcome current economic crisis, it needs to stop occupation of Karabakh. Current leadership of Armenia is trying to balance its position, recognizing that Nagorno-Karabakh remains the most fundamental issue that significantly hurts Yerevan both in foreign and domestic policy. Armenian authorities have to resolve this issue without causing public outrage inside the country. That's why in the near future, republic’s leadership is going to implement specific measures to prepare population for peace, paying particular attention to mutually beneficial initiatives aimed at improving economic potential of the region, using transit potential of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway route in particular.
Azerbaijan expects return of part of occupied regions under its control, so unless its territorial integrity will be restored, negotiation process may be delayed once again.
Turkey closely monitors current format of negotiation process, supporting Azerbaijan's foreign policy line. Ankara welcomes revitalization of the Armenian-Azerbaijani dialogue, believing that Yerevan is gradually being freed from "romantic illusions" of the former leadership. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavushoglu, commenting on the issue of improving relations with Armenia, said that initiative to resolve existing problems in the Karabakh settlement zone is extremely needed. Without the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement, improvement of relations between Turkey and Armenia is impossible.
Moreover, while Baku and Yerevan are still preparing their respective nations for peace, Ankara is also getting trying to change its former policy. First Armenian television channel Luys (“Light”) will begin broadcasting in the country since March. In addition, with support of the Swedish Foreign Ministry, Turkey has begun publishing country's first guidebook to Armenia in Turkish. Authors of the brochure call on fellow Turkish citizens to visit Armenia to learn more about neighboring country, avoiding closed border and using routes through the territories of Georgia or Iran. Considering favorable atmosphere of the Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations and in the event of their success, Ankara plans to ratify the Zurich documents, signed in October 2009, which involve restoration of bilateral relations with Armenia and opening of borders in the future. If this will happen, a significant change in the entire geopolitical layout of South Caucasus can be expected.
Nikol Pashinyan has a chance to achieve unprecedented success in relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan, if he will be supported in Yerevan. A significant part of young politicians, political scientists, social activists, who supported and participated in the change of power in Armenia, are now working in the government.
As for Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, as an experienced politician, will use techniques of step-by-step diplomacy, bringing situation to the point where Armenia can no longer turn back.
South Caucasus needs to overcome long-term conflicts as soon as possible. Tensions in relations between the United States and Iran forces countries of the region to keep situation under control, focusing on resolution of their own security issues.