In an interview with EADaily, Azerbaijani political analysts Ilgar Velizade and Zardusht Alizadeh have shared their views concerning the situation in Armenia and its possible impacts on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the South Caucasus, in general.
Even though Serzh Sargsyan has resigned, the situation in Armenia is not stable. How will it develop?
Ilgar Velizade: What is going on in Armenia is a crisis of power and the attempt of the local political elites to develop a new strategy. The Armenian state system is paralyzed. The ruling party has split into several groups, which are fighting for power. Serzh Sargsyan was practically forced to give up as the leader of the party as his leadership was compromising it.
Some of the RPA’s members broke away and that was not good for Karen Karapetyan and the party. So, they decided to get rid of Sargsyan even though he had big influence in the RPA. Among the candidates for the new leader are Karapetyan and Robert Kocharyan. Even though Karapetyan was believed to be Kocharyan’s man, now we see that he is not. Sargsyan is trying to keep power in Armenia in the hands of the Karabakh clan, namely Kocharyan.
Zardusht Alizadeh: What is going on in Armenia is redistribution of power among clans. After two terms as president, Robert Kocharyan gave his office to Serzh Sargsyan but continued to control the situation. Sargsyan tried to break the rules of the game and to stay in power for the third term. So, the political elite decided to get rid of him. They found an Armenian analogue of “Azerbaijani Neimat Panakhov,” Nikol Pashinyan, who took people into the streets. As you might see, the police and the army did not interfere as Robert Kocharyan still has influence on them.
I know this method: during the first protests of the People’s Front in the Soviet Union, the police were also passive. Now Pashinyan is beginning to enjoy the situation and wants to be prime minister and everybody knows that he is more pro-Western than pro-Russian. This is why Armenia’s Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian and Deputy Prime Minister Armen Gevorgyan went to Moscow for consultations. Later Karapetyan had a phone talk with Putin and the Russian president made it clear that “the political processes in Armenia must comply with the constitution.” This means that the new prime minister should be elected by the RPA as that party has a majority in the Armenian parliament.
As regards Pashinyan, on May 1, he will not be able to gather as many protesters as he did before: people will hide in their houses as the police will be much tougher.
How can this situation affect the South Caucasus and the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process?
Ilgar Velizade: We are talking about destructive processes, so, naturally, they will have a negative effect on the situation in the South Caucasus. The Nagorno-Karabakh peace process will face very hard times. Pashinyan is very radical and advocates revenge on Azerbaijan. So, in order to gain people’s confidence, the authorities will use bravado and will urge people to unite. Under such circumstances, we can hardly expect serious compromises from the Armenians.
On the other hand, the Armenians do not have a real negotiator as they have no legitimate government. The peace process is entering a period of uncertainty and this is not good. Part of the Armenian army has joined the protesters, which means that the Armenian commanders have no control of their armed forces. Under such circumstances, we may expect provocations on the contact line.
Zardusht Alizadeh: It will have no impacts as everybody understands that what is going on in Armenia is a conflict among clans rather than some wester-type revolution. So, I expect no serious changes.
Can Azerbaijan make use of this situation and start a war?
Ilgar Velizade: Azerbaijan will attack if faced with a large-scale provocation. We always say that we only react to the Armenians’ provocations. At least, the events of 2016 were a response to a provocation. Only a large-scale provocation can make the Azerbaijanis react and they will react only if they are sure that everybody knows that it came from the Armenian side.
I see no such processes for the time being. If Azerbaijan starts the first, it will receive a very negative response from the world community and the OSCE Minsk Group. On the other hand, the Armenian authorities may use that situation and take repressive measures against the protesters.
Zardusht Alizadeh: Azerbaijan will not do anything. The Azerbaijani authorities perfectly know that if they try to do something, Russia will calm them down.