Peace in the Caucasus

By Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos
Ambassador ad honorem

Nov. 10, 2020

On November 6,the Presidents of Azerbaijan,the Russian Federation and the prime Minister of Armenia signed an agreement that foresees a complete ceasefire and an end to all hostilities in the zone of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict..Article 2 mentions that the Aghdam region and the territories held by the Armenian Party in the Cazakh region of the Republic of Azerbaijan shall be returned to the Azerbaijan Party until November 20.Along the line of contact in N/K and along the Lachin corridor,a peacekeeping contingent of the Russian Federation is deployed in the amount of 1,960 serviceme with small arms,90 armored personnel carriers,380 units of automobile and special equipment (article 3)……the duration of the stay of the peacekeeping mission of the Russian Federation is five years,with an automatic extension subsequent five year periods,if none of the Parties declares six months before the expiration of the period,of the intention to terminate the application of this provision(article 4).The Republic of Armenia will return the Kelbajar region to the republic of Azerbaijan by November 15,2020 and the Lachin region by December 1,2020,leaving behind the Lachin corridor(5 km wide) which will ensure the connection of of N/k with Armenia and at the same time will not affect the city of Shushi.By agreement of the Parties ,in the next three years,a plan for the construction of a new traffic route along the Lachin corridor,providing communication between Stepanakert and Armenia ,with the subsequent redeployment of the Russian peacekeeping contingent to protect this route, will be determined.The Republic of Azerbaijan will guarantee  traffic safety along the Lachin corridor of citizens,vehicles and goods in both directions(article 6).

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The Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan characterised correctly  the agreement as “unbelievably painful for me and my people”.since territory taken over by the Armenians in 1994 after bloody battles, would have to be returned to Azerbaijan.

In the war that started on September 27,the Armenians were fighting alone against an enemy that was being helped by Jihadists from Syria,Turkey and Israel.The odds were overwhelming against the Armenian side and when the military front collapsed and Shushi (which is close to Stepanakert,the capital of Nagorno Karabakh or Artsakh) was occupied by Azerbaijani forces,Pashinyan sued for peace.The alternative would be to lose all.It was a very difficult decision for him to take,but he had the courage to do so.It is interesting to note that all the territory that is being returned to Baku,belonged to Azerbaijan proper and is not located in Artsakh.Only Shushi is in Artsakh and that will be given to Azerbaijan.With this agreement,Artsakh remains united with the exception of Shushi,which is the best that Pashinyan could get,under the circumstances.The agreement also provides transport links,provided by Armenia ,between the western regions of the Republic Of azerbaijan and the Nachicevan enclave which belongs to Baku.It also leaves the Lachin corridor to Armenia,thus allowing a direct transport link between Armenia and Artsakh

Russia and Azerbaijan come out with essential gains from this agreement. Moscow ensures that Baku will not join NATO in the next five years,since Russian troops will be stationed there and Azerbaijan will present itself as a victorious country having regained territories that it lost in 1993-1994,thus enhancing support to the autocratic President of that country.

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Of course many things can go wrong,as usually happens in the Caucasus.Pashinian may be obliged to resign,Turkey may want to participate in the peacekeeping forces,or the ceasefire agreement may be broken and hostilities may start again.

As far as Turkey is concerned,it cannot participate in the peacekeeping forces along with the Russians basically because it is not a member of the Minsk group,which has been trying over many years to resolve the dispute.No mention of Turkey is mentioned in the Agreement signed by the three (and it is doubtful if Pashinian would have signed the Agreement had it included a Turkish participation.).

The EU once more was  absent,expressing  only its concern over the situation and doing nothing more.

One hopes that peace may prevail once more in the Caucases.It will be difficult but not impossible,as long as it will benefit the people of the region.

* Ambassador Chrysanthopoulos was the first Greek ambassador in Armenia in 1993 and is the author of the book “Caucasus Chronicles,Nation Building and Diplomacy in Armenia ,1993-1994”