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Major task of Russian diplomacy in Karabakh is to prevent war: interview with Alexander Krylov

Alexander Krylov. Photo: apa.az

Baku has hosted a summit of the Russian, Azerbaijani, and Iranian presidents, who discussed among other issues the Karabakh conflict. The trilateral summit was followed by a meeting of the Russian president and his Turkish counterpart in Saint Petersburg. The sides discussed many issues and perhaps the Karabakh conflict too. Afterwards, Serzh Sargsyan is meeting with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan in Moscow. Russia has intensified its diplomatic efforts in the region. In this light, many in Armenia say Russia plans to speed up the settlement of the Karabakh conflict. At the same time, in Armenia they lament the format of cooperation that is taking shape between Moscow, Baku, and Tehran. What is the reason behind such diplomatic activity of Russia? What will the axis Russia-Azerbaijan-Iran mean for Armenia? Alexander Krylov, Head of the Center of Post-Soviet Studies at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences, shares his views concerning these and other issues in an interview with EADaily.

Which is the reason of such unprecedented diplomatic activity of Russia? Are all these meetings, their succession and intensity a coincidence or links in the same chain?

It is evident that Karabakh is among the issues that were discussed and are yet to be discussed at future meetings. However, one can hardly expect that anything fundamentally new, new ideas or breakthrough solutions will be suggested eventually. Russian President Vladimir Putin has recently reaffirmed Russia’s stance on it. It is a mutually acceptable concession reckoning with the interests of all sides to the conflict. Besides, Russia believes that the sides should find the formula of that concession on their own. Russia is not going to force anything upon the parties and speaks out against foreign forces having vested interests in it to force any formula upon the parties.

It is of fundamental importance that after his meetings with the leaders of Armenia’s neighbor-states, Putin is meeting with Sargsyan. It is evident that the two presidents will be discussing the results of the talks in Baku and Saint Petersburg in the context of the Eurasian Economic Union, Collective Security Treaty Organization, and our bilateral relations. This means that our relations continue to be allied and that Russia is not going to ignore, “bargain off” or “betray” Armenia. Unfortunately, this issue has become a target of political speculations in the Armenian mass media.

Both Russian and Armenian media often speak of a certain Putin’s plan on the Karabakh conflict settlement that allegedly implies ceding of certain territories around Karabakh to Baku in exchange for Karabakh security and the future status. Has Russia its own “recipe” of the Karabakh settlement?

It is another issue for propaganda by the forces in Armenia that advocate for a breach of the relations with Russia. There is neither Putin nor Lavrov’s plan, nor any other’s that would fully ignore the interests of Armenia, NKR or dictate anything to them. I’d like to reiterate that all the plans of Russia, Putin, Lavrov come down to the same thing i.e. the sides must find a mutually acceptable solution, while other countries can help them, become guarantors for them, but never force their own decisions upon them. The problem is that no conditions for development of such a concession have been created yet, and the situation on the Line of Contact is just growing tenser. Therefore, the major task of Russia’s diplomacy so far is to prevent war, help defuse tensions, and start creating conditions for practical steps towards achieving a mutually acceptable solution.

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The heavy situation in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone and around it has just worsened after the April flare up. Does it enable the moderators and the conflicting sides to speak seriously about a final settlement of the conflict? May the conflict flare up again with the growing pressure on the sides over a final settlement?

There are requests to the parties, but no pressure. No one threatens Armenia or Azerbaijan with sanctions, much less with bombardments, foreign intervention or others. Meantime, such measures are quite popular in the modern world. Such measures drove many countries into fratricidal wars, chaos, anarchy and collapse. There is a danger of a new flare up, but it is a result of the current stage of the Karabakh conflict. The goal of the Russian diplomacy is to prevent a destructive interference by foreign forces and aggravation of tensions in the region.

The region is changing. Iran is coming out as a new actor, while Turkey seeks new relations with Russia. At the same time radical changes are happening inside Turkey. Azerbaijan is trying to get adjusted to the changing regional environment. Is Armenia responding to these changes adequately?

Armenia’s diplomatic positions have weakened dramatically after the domestic political instability and the latest armed revolt in Yerevan. For Armenia’s neighbors, Azerbaijan and Turkey first of all, it was an evidence of the power crisis in Armenia with possible future escalation. Now, they will be building their policy taking into account that fact. And this will create additional problems to the Armenian diplomacy. In such situation, the opposition needs to act within the national interests of the country, not just by emotions towards the incumbent authorities.

Many in Armenia oppose vigorously the format of cooperation that is taking shape between Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran calling it another stage of Armenia’s isolation. Do you think that these are justified judgments? How does Moscow see the region in this light?  

Do they in Armenia perceive Iran as an unfriendly country or a threat? That country did not let that Armenia is blocked fully during the heavy years of war. Not only Iran but also many other countries show an interest in joining or cooperating with the EAEU. It is noteworthy that yet not so long ago many in Armenia and other countries called the EAEU a silly project. Now, the same skeptics are concerned about its possible expansion.

Armenia is a full member of the EAEU and the successful development of that integration union meets its interests. At the same time, as a full member the EAEU, Armenia has all chances to veto admission of other countries into the Union for various reasons. All this is just propaganda bogeyman of the forces in Armenia that advocate for a change of the foreign policy line and a breach of the relations with Russia.

By Arshaluys Mghdesyan

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