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Time for a new diplomatic game: knocking off pieces from the chessboard

Serzh Sargsyan. Photo: panorama.am

The Armenian media space was livened up by the news that on May 5 the government is going to consider a bill recognizing Nagorno-Karabakh’s independence.

In contrast, the Azerbaijanis are nervous and have warned that this step will mean an end to the OSCE Minsk Group peace process.

They have called this a provocation and an act of disrespect for the OSCE MG co-chairs. They have probably forgotten that it is they who have kept acting aggressively so far in full disregard for the mediators and their calls for peace.

They have certain grounds for treating the mediators like this as the latter have been very unspecific in their attitude towards incidents on the contact line.

As far as the bill is concerned, Armenia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharyan has clouded the happiness of the Armenian society by saying that on May 5 the government is to consider a resolution rather than a bill.

“The resolution says that the recognition will depend on the situation. If Azerbaijan starts a new military aggression, this issue will be put on agenda,” Kocharyan said.

Sargsyan’s Spokesman Vladimir Hakobyan said that if Armenia recognizes Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenian president will be the first to make this public.

So, this is just one more warning to Azerbaijan and the mediators. The previous time Sargsyan made such a warning was last autumn.

Had that warning been followed by specific steps to recognize Nagorno-Karabakh, there might have been no “four-day war” as this would have been a signal for the mediators that Azerbaijan is not the only party that is ready for tough measures. But since no such steps were taken, Sargsyan’s current warnings sound like some formality.

After the “four-day war” the Armenians must review their tactics. The Madrid Principles were the biggest concession they might agree to. But for the Azerbaijanis this is not enough.

Logically, now the Armenians will have to toughen their policy, especially now that the mediators are neglecting the Azerbaijanis’ aggression and ISIL-type behavior.

Metaphorically speaking (considering Sargsyan’s love for chess), this situation is like a chess game between a good boy and a bad boy. The bad boy keeps cheating and stealing pieces from the board, but instead of reprimanding the bad boy, his older friends suggest that the good boy continue playing, and since they do nothing to stop the bad boy, the bad boy takes their silence for approval.

The Armenians have so far been easygoing, and in politics, like in a fight of a good and a bad boy, peace implies concessions by the good one – as those who try to settle the dispute usually tell him that he is not a bad boy and must realize that it is bad to fight.

In this situation, the best option for the Armenians is to knock off the pieces from the board and to say that they will no longer accept the existing terms. And recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh is the best way to do this.

If the mediators are unable (or unwilling) to tame the aggressive Azerbaijanis, they must be ready for the Armenians’ response. And if the Azerbaijanis are reluctant to negotiate with Armenia, let them negotiate with Nagorno-Karabakh.

And this will also be a chance for the Armenians to put some clarity into their relations with Russia. They have always respected the interests of the Russians and preferred not to ask them unpleasant questions concerning the Collective Security Treaty Organization. By doing this they helped the Russians to save the image of that organization and to play a double game with Armenia and Azerbaijan. Simply, the Armenians hoped that the Russians would support them in the face of force majeure.

But they didn’t support them during the April events, unlike the Turks, who were very supportive of the Azerbaijanis.

Even more, though suspecting a Turkish hand in the April events, the Russians have made a paradoxical decision – to continue arming Turkey’s ally, Azerbaijan, against own ally, Armenia.

But, geopolitically, the Russians are facing too many problems to be able to afford publically “breaking” their only military-political ally in the region, especially in favor of Turkey. So, no matter how hard the choice between Armenia and Azerbaijan may be, they will have to choose Armenia.

Today, the Armenian authorities must be ready for a strong pressure from outside. Their people trust them and this trust must help them in their talks with Russia and the other mediators. Let’s hope that the Armenian people will not be disappointed once again.

Now that the Azerbaijanis are reported to be deploying more forces and arms along the contact line, the Armenian authorities will have a chance to prove their readiness to keep their promises. Let’s hope that the promise to recognize Nagorno-Karabakh will not be as empty as the promise to fly to the Stepanakert airport.

Hayk Khalatyan, specially for EADaily

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