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There are no external solutions to the local disputes in Karabakh

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On 16 August, the United Nations Security Council met to discuss the situation in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. Armenia had requested the meeting with a hope that the world body would adopt a resolution or issue a statement aimed at exerting pressure on Azerbaijan. This has been part of wider attempts of Armenia to garner international support to its policies vis-à-vis the peace process with its neighbor, in particular, concerning the future of the Karabakh region. To the disillusionment of the Armenian side, the Security Council did not adopt any document and as such ended with no outcome expected by the initiators. This meeting and its outcome (or lack of thereof) clearly demonstrated that there are at the moment no external solutions to the local disputes between Armenians and Azerbaijanis. Both sides, but primarily, the Armenian side that still hopes for an international intervention, should draw conclusions from this event.

First and foremost, it is of utmost urgency for Baku and Karabakh Armenians to start dialogue and talk to each other. The earlier attempts for such meetings have failed due to the refusal of the Armenian side to attend. It has been unclear why the representatives of the Karabakh Armenians refused to meet the Azerbaijani representatives as previously agreed in the Yevlakh city of Azerbaijan at the last moment. In a similar way, the reasons for their rejection of the internationally-supported arrangement for opening of the Agdam-Khankandi road and intensification of the passage through the Lachin road remained unclear to many observers.

This strategy of the Armenian side has been so far counterproductive and is likely to remain ineffective due to a number of reasons. Above all, the past three years since the end of the 2020 war, along with the developments along the Lachin road over the past several months, have demonstrated that the principle of territorial integrity is considered a paramount priority today. This has gained new momentum in the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which constituted a flagrant violation of the latter’s territorial integrity, among other reasons, under the pretext of protecting the Russian-speaking minority. Under these circumstances, the Armenian side’s attempts to advance self-determination or remedial secession claims, with the hope of garnering international support to separate the Karabakh region from Azerbaijan’s sovereignty, are unlikely to succeed.

Baku has made it clear that it is not ready to make compromises when it comes to matters of territorial integrity and national sovereignty. The withdrawal of Armenia’s armed forces from the Karabakh region, the dissolution of the illegal armed detachments of the separatist regime, the use of the Agdam-Khankandi road for the transportation of goods to the region and the restoration of full control of Baku over this area are part of the Azerbaijani demands. President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan has recently stated his government’s plan to give municipal rights to the Armenian community of Karabakh. Thus, no autonomy or special rights are on the table.

Even though Armenia has acknowledged Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, including Karabakh as a part of it, it contradicts Baku’s efforts to consolidate its sovereignty over that region and hinders the process of reintegrating the area into Azerbaijan’s legal and economic framework. These conflicting strategies pursued by the Armenian government have resulted in a deadlock in the broader peace negotiations, and the prospects of overcoming this impasse in the near future are becoming increasingly more challenging.

Complicating the process even more, some international actors encourage the Armenian side to hold firmly on their uncompromising position. As the Security Council discussions demonstrated, France comes atop in this list. Supporting Armenia’s propaganda campaigns concerning the so-called “blockade” of the Karabakh region, France becomes part of the problem, rather than solution. Disregarding the fact that Azerbaijan offers alternative routes to transport food, medicine and other goods to the Karabakh region and Baku’s readiness to intensify the passage along the Lachin road, France and the like-minded international actors undermine the efforts to resolve the present disputes within the international law and as such within the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.

Hence, it can be assumed that this support by France and others has played a significant role in the decision of the separatist regime to reject the Yevlakh meeting and the simultaneous opening of both Agdam and Lachin roads. Quite the contrary, the Security Council discussions demonstrated that the hopes of the Armenian side for an international intervention, sanctions or other forms of pressure against Azerbaijan are unrealistic. Azerbaijan’s policies concerning its own territorial integrity are based on the norms and principles of international law. Consequently, the pursuit of external solutions to the local disputes between Baku and Yerevan not only hampers the progress of the peace process but also poses the risk of undermining any remaining chance for a peace treaty in the near future.