Thomas de Waal: “Aliyev is not interested in a new large-scale conflict”

Thomas de Waal

The expert did not rule out pressure on Armenians

“I think that President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev is not interested in a new large-scale conflict.”

Thomas de Waal, the leading analyst of the Carnegie Foundation and an expert on the Karabakh conflict, voiced this in an interview with the Armenian service of “Azadlig” radio .

Thomas de Waal expressed his concern that 2023 will be tense and difficult, but he hopes that there will be no new conflict:

“Of course, there will be no conflict until serious negotiations take place. The point is that there are no serious negotiations and the November 2020 statement is not being implemented. One of the main conditions of this agreement is that there is no transit in the Lachin corridor. But now there are symptoms of a new conflict there.”

The expert believes that if there is a conflict, its scale will be smaller than in 2020:

“This may be due to the lack of military resources of the Armenian side. I also think that Aliyev is not interested in a new large-scale conflict. Rather, it is possible that if he does not get results through negotiations, there will be an attempt to put pressure on the Armenian side.”

“Why does Russia not intervene in the process?” Thomas de Waal answered this question:

“The more general reason is that all of Russia’s military, economic and political resources are now focused on Ukraine. Of course, the peacekeeping mission in Karabakh remains, but the contingent is not as strong and professional as it was a year ago. Also, Moscow has hoped for good relations with Baku and Yerevan for many years. The second factor is that Russia does not want to irritate Azerbaijan.”

He believes that recent events have undermined the November 2020 agreements and Russia’s authority:

“Because the mission of Russia, the peacekeeping contingent in Karabakh, is responsible for the opening of the road to Lachin.”

According to the analyst, Russia has been maneuvering between Armenia and Azerbaijan for 30 years:

“Of course, as written in the 2020 agreement, Moscow has an interest in opening the road to Nakhchivan and ensuring the security of this road by the FSB. But Moscow has another interest, that the mission in Karabakh should stay longer, especially after 2025. I believe that Moscow is not against pressure on Armenians. There is an impression in both Baku and Moscow that the Armenian side is delaying the negotiations.”

Thomas de Waal also emphasized that the European Union is a neutral, influential mediator that is trusted more in Baku and Yerevan, and less in Stepanakert (Khankendi):

“But still the main diplomatic players are Baku and Yerevan. However, the more the European Union is involved in the process, the better. There is hope that there will be a new round of negotiations this year. Negotiations between Aliyev and Pashinyan will begin with the mediation of Charles Michel. I just don’t see any other option, and I think that a lot can be achieved peacefully both in Baku and Yerevan.”

According to him, any option of sanctions against Azerbaijan is not discussed in the West:

“The sympathy of the West is most likely on the side of Armenia. I think that the policy of the West is different, even if we take into account everything that is happening in the world now, there is a desire to establish some kind of partnership with Azerbaijan.”

De Waal also said that Azerbaijan’s claims regarding the Lachin Corridor can be understood:

“Azerbaijan has more pragmatic considerations that there was no transparency in the Lachin corridor before. Landmines and weapons were being transported, there was no transparent regime”.

A brief chronicle of the action in the corridor of Lachin

From the morning of December 12, a group of non-governmental organization, media representatives and social activists connected to the Azerbaijani authorities closed the Shusha-Khankendi road, which is under the temporary control of Russian peacekeepers.

Although the participants of the action wanted to move inside Karabakh, saying that they were protesting the illegal exploitation of mineral deposits of Azerbaijan, the peacekeeping contingent did not allow them.

The participants said that the ranks of the action were expanding.

On December 13, various voluntary groups and civil society representatives joined the action.

It is also claimed that representatives of the civil society who could not join the action were instructed to carry out propaganda on social networks and media.

The protesters set up tents in the area and demanded a meeting with the commander of the Russian peacekeeping forces, Major General Andrey Volkov.

On the 4th day of the action, the protesters put forward a new demand: the establishment of separate checkpoints of all state institutions in the area, including the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the State Border Service, and the State Customs Committee.

The blockage of the road is on-going, blocking the passage through the Lachin corridor.

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