The diplomatic tornado surrounding Nagorno Karbakh

This interview was originally published by

Ekho Kavkaza (Echo of the Caucasus)

 and has been translated for Meydan TV readers into English below:


PRAGUE — Recent talks aimed at resolving the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh have become more and more involved and intense. At what stage are the discussions now, as far as making headway towards a resolution? These and other questions we asked Ruben Mehrabyan, an expert from the Armenian Center for Political and International Studies.

Amina Umarova:

What is your assessment of the trilateral talks on the subject of Karabakh that took place on June 20th in Saint Petersburg? Why have discussions been intensifying as of late?

Ruben Mehrabyan:

Discussions concerning Karabakh have taken on new precedence as of late largely because of the Four-Day War of last April, which began on the night of April 1st – 2nd. It lasted four days and demonstrated the dangerous potential of the fact that the conflict remains unresolved. Some very important talks took place in Vienna, during which a number of measures were outlined for parties to implement by mutual consent.

However, the talks in Saint Petersburg on the 20th of June in fact turned out to be an attempt by Russia to divert the negotiation process out from under the auspices of the Minsk group, and onto Russia’s playing field in order to ensure the role of an exclusive intermediary for themselves and neutralize the three-chair format of the OSCE Minsk Group, where Russia’s power is only one-third.

The result of the Petersburg negotiations was that the negotiations in Vienna, which were meant to be the final stages towards a lasting agreement – such as mechanisms to continuously monitor the ceasefire, as well as to investigate possible violations, and all this under the auspices of the OSCE, as well as the expansion of the OSCE’s observation mission… all these mechanisms, which deny Russia the leverage to blackmail a number of political players with the recommencement of the war – practically all of these possibilities were erased.

As it stands now, everything will be dependent on Russia’s ‘good will.’ Despite this, thanks to the actions of Western mediators, the process is ongoing. Especially France, which proposed Paris as the site for a third meeting between Aliyev and Sargsyan. The Azeri Minister of Foreign Affairs has already announced Baku’s consent to attend such a meeting. However, Yerevan has not confirmed their participation nor mentioned a potential meeting date.

Moreover, despite Russia’s constant maneuvering, Washington and Paris have both stated that the commitments made in Vienna must remain valid and be implemented, whether or not the details were settled upon in Petersburg.

And so what we’re actually seeing is a kind of “diplomatic tornado” around the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement. We are seeing a level of diplomatic activity that is unprecedented in recent times, especially against the background of the so-called Russian-Turkish reconciliation. We are seeing this process unfold as if in conjunction with the very important NATO summit in Warsaw, which will be critical for the future state of relations between Russia and the West.


Russia and the US have notably different strategies for resolving the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. Which do you think are more acceptable and productive, and which would you make special mention of?


: Thank you for highlighting this important question. The difference here is reflected in the philosophy of resolution. The American side offers resolution on the basis of mutual concession and compromise; the State Department has repeatedly stated that the people of Nagorno-Karabakh need to decide their own fate, and American diplomacy talks about the need for a legally binding referendum. This is what the Russian side says. However, with their attempts to sabotage the Minsk Group and counteract its efforts, we don’t see this belief put into practice.

A.U.: And how would you describe the role of other players in these negotiations?


Here I’d like to underline that both France and the United States are interested in a final settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict because this would bring about the end of the fragmentation of the South Caucasus, which would in turn allow for transcontinental communication projects and other possibilities.

Naturally, these would be projects that would compete with Russian ones. And in order to prevent this from happening, Russia will do all it can to keep the “remote” in its hands, in order to control the temperature of the conflict and the tension in the region. One might even say that the Nagorno – Karabakh conflict is Russia’s ‘biggest love affair’ in the post – Soviet space.

A.U.: How would you further characterize this love affair?


First off, this affair consists of Russia’s ability to maintain its control over the region at large. Secondly, it allows Russia to create another space for itself in which the US and Europe are forced to meet Russia at the negotiation table as equals, which it does not only in Nagorno Karabakh but across the region, from the Arctic to Syria. In doing so, it adds to its credibility and importance as a world power, and detracts attention from its activities in the Ukraine.

Russia is actively trying to redraw geopolitical boundaries the world over.

Russia needs a second

“Yalta Conference.”

Which of course the West would rather not agree to, but for which the conflict in Nagorno Karabakh is just one of Russia’s many playing cards.

A.U.: Russia, while a participant in the negotiations, is also an arms dealer to both sides of the conflict. How do other participants in the negotiations react to this seeming contradiction?


This is a very difficult and, at times, painful question. Since 2010, Russia has been selling weapons to Azerbaijan, which has drastically changed the military – political situation in the region. Intermediaries in the conflict have reacted negatively to this development, as it of course has a number of serious implications and points to Russia’s desire for the conflict to continue.

The steady supply of weapons allows the Aliyev regime to take a ‘maximalist’ approach to the conflict, and gives support to his position of only supporting a settlement that would mean a return to pre – war conditions.

As concerns its supply of weapons to Armenia, Russia has given Armenia 200 million rubles worth of credit, the weapons for which have yet to be forthcoming. This points to a lack of equality in their relationship. It’s simply an attempt on the part of Russia to win favor in the eyes of Armenians. Even worse, it is a way to blackmail the country’s [Armenia’s] leadership, and make them understand just how reliant upon Russia they are for military parity against Azerbaijan.

I’d like to point out that in both France and in the United States and other members of the OSCE (with the exception of Turkey), there is a legal prohibition against the delivery of weapons to countries that are currently engaged in warfare. Russia does not respect this prohibition.

Russia would like to portray itself as the “fireman” of the region, when it is, in fact, perhaps the only arsonist.

Ana səhifəNewsThe diplomatic tornado surrounding Nagorno Karbakh