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Armenia provokes new international drama - Andrew Korybko

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12 Punto 14 Punto 16 Punto 18 Punto presents the article "Is Armenia trying to play Russia & France off against one another?" by American political analyst Andrew Korybko.

Armenia attempted to provoke international drama last week after accusing Azerbaijan of violating its borders around the Lake Sev Lich region of Syunik Province. Yerevan subsequently sought consultations with the CSTO mutual defence alliance. Baku denied the claims and proposed bilateral talks for resolving the issue instead. The controversy erupted because Azerbaijan was finally practising its international legal right to secure its borders after it finally regained control of them following its victory in last year's Patriotic War.

These frontiers hadn't previously been formally demarcated since Armenia de facto controlled them as a result of its nearly three-decade-long occupation of approximately a fifth of universally recognized Azerbaijani territory up until last November. It was therefore natural that Azerbaijan would seek to exercise its sovereignty in the aftermath of that conflict just like every member of the United Nations does. There's nothing provocative about this decision. On the contrary, it was Armenia's overreaction that was intended to provoke problems.

Azerbaijan isn't attempting to “invade” or “annexe” any parts of Armenia's internationally recognized territory, but the dispute lies in the fact that it's presently unclear exactly which land is Armenia's for the earlier mentioned reason. The solution obviously rests in bilateral consultations between their armed forces and respective governments. It's understandable that third parties like Russia might be concerned about the consequences that could erupt if this dispute isn't peacefully resolved, but there's no need to worry for now.

What those extra-regional parties should do is encourage Armenia to behave responsibly instead of overreacting for self-interested reasons. To explain, Yerevan is attempting to misportray the situation in order to distract the international community from the indisputable fact that it was guilty of aggression against its neighbour for nearly thirty years. By falsely presenting itself as a victim of so-called “Azerbaijani aggression”, Armenia hopes to make everyone forget that it's responsible for regional destabilization in the first place.

Prime Minister Pashinyan might also expect to court nationalist votes ahead of next month's elections by manufacturing a crisis where there objectively doesn't even have to be one. This explains why he's trying to multilateralize the border issue by reaching out to Russia and France. From a broader strategic perspective, Armenia might be trying to provoke competition between those two Great Powers in order to indefinitely play them off against one another for its own benefit. Should that be the case, then it's arguably irresponsible.

Azerbaijan isn't acting “aggressively” against Armenia, not only because Baku strictly adheres to international law, but it's also very well aware that any serious violation thereof against Yerevan might prompt Moscow to defend its CSTO ally. Russian-Azerbaijani ties are better than at any period in their post-independence histories, which satisfies the interests of both parties and perfectly aligns with their leaders' joint vision. Azerbaijan certainly wouldn't risk them for the sake of several hundred meters or so of uninhabited mountainous territory.

Armenia, on the other hand, might recklessly believe that it has nothing to lose by provoking the latest round of drama. After all, its leadership has repeatedly signalled that it might not abide by the stipulation of last November's ceasefire to unblock all economic and transport links in the region, especially between the western regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic which Baku refers to as the Zangezur Corridor. This artificial crisis might thus be exploited as an excuse to not comply with those terms.

In addition, considering the observation that Armenia might be trying to play Russia and France off against one another, Yerevan might be hoping to secure Paris' support for its obstinate stance in refusing to respect the terms of last November's Moscow-mediated ceasefire agreement. Russia should therefore do its utmost to encourage Armenia to immediately enter into bilateral talks with Azerbaijan as well as close the strategic window that Yerevan suddenly opened for Paris to meddle in the South Caucasus on this false basis.

2021.05.16 / 13:32
Andrew Korybko
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