Author: Namig MAYILOV
The war in Karabakh occupied the headlines of the world media for exactly 45 days. It still remains one of the main topics on the international agenda with the only difference that the guns are silent now. The war ended with the victory of Azerbaijan, and Armenia giving up.
With the mediation of Russia, on November 10, Azerbaijan and Armenia agreed on a complete ceasefire in the zone of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The relevant statement was signed online by the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and the President of Russia Vladimir Putin. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan had to sign the document, despite his earlier refusal to do so.
“The joint statement signed on November 10 was actually an act of Armenia’s peaceful surrender. I said that just as after the end of the Second World War, Hitler's henchmen signed the Act of Capitulation in front of the military leaders of the Allies, Pashinyan should sign the document online during a video conference. But my Russian counterpart, Mr. Putin, asked me not to insist on this issue too much. I thought that Pashinyan had already been humiliated enough, punished for his dirty deeds, actually knelt down, and accepted all my conditions,” President Ilham Aliyev said.
As to the historical significance of the event, the document provides for the restoration of Azerbaijan's sovereignty over all the territories occupied by Armenia, including Nagorno-Karabakh. It also stipulates specific terms for the return of the remaining three of the seven regions around Nagorno-Karabakh - Aghdam, Lachin and Kalbajar. This process should be completed by December 1, 2020.
Remarkably, Lachin and Kalbajar are on the border with Armenia. With their return, Azerbaijan is fully restoring its state border with Armenia. Earlier, during the current counter-offensive, Baku took control of the entire section of the Azerbaijani-Iranian border, which was previously under Armenian occupation, - in the territories of the Jabrayil and Zangilan regions of Azerbaijan.
As a result of the counter-offensive, which began on September 27, Azerbaijan liberated 5 cities, 4 settlements and about 300 villages from the Armenian occupation. One of these cities is the ancient cradle of Azerbaijani culture–Shusha.
The parties also agreed on the return of refugees and internally displaced persons to their homes, the exchange of POWs and the bodies of dead servicemen.
According to the statement, the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh will continue to maintain contact with Armenia through the Lachin corridor. A peacekeeping contingent of the Russian Federation will be deployed along the corridor. In addition, a Ceasefire Control Center will be established, which will include representatives from Russia and Turkey.
A fundamentally significant point is that the Russian peacekeeping units are deployed in parallel with the withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from Nagorno-Karabakh.
All economic and transport links in the region are also being restored, including land transport links through Armenia between the western regions of Azerbaijan and the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. For over 30 years, this Azerbaijani enclave was deprived by Armenia of direct transport links with the rest of the country.
It is extremely important to underline that the issue of granting any special status to Nagorno-Karabakh is not on the agenda any more. The Armenian population of the region will be able to enjoy all the rights of the peoples populating Azerbaijan.
Thus, by launching a counter-offensive in response to yet another Armenian provocation, Azerbaijan actually ensured the implementation of the Security Council resolutions, which remained on paper for 27 years. In other words, Baku ensured not only the restoration of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, but also the triumph of international law.
Nikol Pashinyan and the leader of the Armenian separatists of Karabakh, Arayik Harutyunyan, admitted that they had no other way but to capitulate. The Armenian army was completely defeated, and the final defeat was only a matter of several days, or even hours.
To justify the shameful defeat on the battlefield, the Prime Minister of Armenia admitted that it was Azerbaijani drones and mobile special forces groups that won the war. At the same time, military analysts draw attention to how the Azerbaijani Armed Forces liberated the impregnable fortress of Shusha - without air coverage and support from armored vehicles.
Le Monde reported from Khankendi that the Armenian soldiers and officers wounded in Shusha mostly have pistol and knife wounds. This means that the city was taken almost in hand-to-hand combat. Note that the city of Shusha is located on top of a mountain, which is about 1800 m above sea level.
Le Monde also reports how Azerbaijan competently built the counter-offensive tactics, and offers its readers to study the Azerbaijani experience of waging modern war. “This war has demonstrated what the wars of the future will look like. The drone strikes gave Azerbaijan a huge advantage in the 44-day war and provided a clear understanding of how battlefields are being transformed by unmanned attack drones. An expanding arsenal of relatively inexpensive drones could offer countries aviation power as an alternative to maintaining a traditional air force. The situation in Nagorno-Karabakh also highlighted how drones can suddenly change the flow of a protracted conflict and leave ground forces unprotected,” The Washington Post reports.
Analyzing the course of hostilities, most analysts note that the Second Karabakh War was a fight between the armies of the 20th and 21st centuries, the latter being the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan. It is noted that the war was an irreparable blow to the Armenian army. According to Avia.pro, the Azerbaijani army, due to the captured Armenian military equipment, managed to get almost 7 times more tanks than was lost during the clashes.
Armenia is in chaos
Meanwhile, Armenia could have avoided a fiasco on the battlefield if it had taken a constructive position in diplomatic negotiations. The first president of Armenia, Levon Ter-Petrosyan, warned about what Armenia is facing today. “We will have to ask for what we reject today in the future, but we will not receive it, as has happened more than once in our history,” L. Ter-Petrosyan wrote 23 years ago.
However, neither the previous nor the current leaders of Armenia stopped deluding their own people turning them into a victim of territorial claims.
Today Armenia is in chaos. Opposition political forces and ordinary Armenians do not forgive Pashinyan for his shameful surrender. Moreover, none of them can offer any other way. “The situation in Armenia now can most accurately be described in one word – chaos, which does not obey the laws of logic, as it is irrational, and therefore unpredictable. Only one thing can be said with certainty: the country is going through a period of turmoils, which do not show any signs of the end in the near future. Armenians are facing not a political crisis that can be overcome by changing the incumbent government. A crisis of statehood begins in Armenia, which can be compared with a zugzwang in chess, when each move only worsens the situation of the players. It just cannot get any worse,” Lenta.ru said.
Meanwhile, the Armenians have already begun to leave the occupied territories of Azerbaijan according to the agreed schedule of withdrawal. However, when they leave, they burn forests and their houses in which they lived a little more than 20 years. They destroy monuments, and take out historical artifacts to Armenia. “I would like to note that Armenians have not lived in those areas until the mid-1990s. Therefore, the Armenians are burning down the houses in which they lived for 25 years, but which previously belonged to the Azerbaijanis, particularly in the regions of Lachin, Kalbajar and Agdam,” Russian expert Alexander Perenjiyev said.
“We must remember that Karabakh belongs to Azerbaijan under international law. Azerbaijan was fighting for the return of these lands. Most importantly, after the return of Shusha, Azerbaijan stopped before the triumph and nobly agreed to let the peacekeepers in and gradually transfer the rest of the regions back to Azerbaijan. The Armenians were given a week to leave these areas. Yes, it is a short period of time. Yes, we feel sorry for them. But we remember that back in 1993, Azerbaijanis were expelled from these lands naked, and anybody who could not escape the occupants, was killed,” another Russian analyst, deputy head of the Foreign Policy Department of Коммерсантъ and the expert of the Russian Council on International Affairs Alexei Naumov said.
Meanwhile, the former Prosecutor General and Representative of Armenia to the ECHR Gevork Kostanyan did not rule out that Armenia would have to pay Azerbaijan more than $50 billion as a compensation. “Two years ago we warned that Azerbaijan was preparing a lawsuit against Armenia demanding compensation for material damage incurred by Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh and seven regions... However, they could not submit this claim, as they did not have sufficient evidence that Armenia was the responsible entity. Recently, the President of Azerbaijan said that Azerbaijan is indeed preparing a similar claim against Armenia. They hired an international organization to calculate the damage done to Azerbaijan, which estimated it at more than $50 billion. I am sure that the work in this direction has intensified, since the Prime Minister of Armenia, having signed the well-known document on November 10, in fact confirmed that the Republic of Armenia is a subject of the obligation and thus directly assumed the obligation for any damage caused,” Kostanyan said.
But even if Azerbaijan does not sue Yerevan, it will be extremely difficult for Armenia to recover from the blow. Soon the socio-economic and demographic consequences of the defeat in Karabakh will make themselves felt with greater intensity.
Azerbaijan will also have large economic consequences, as it will have to de-mine and restore all the liberated territories. Photo and video footage shows that during the years of occupation, the Armenians turned the occupied cities and villages to ruins.
Russia and Turkey pushing out the West from the region
As of the release of this issue, part of the Russian peacekeeping forces had already been deployed in the conflict zone. It only remained to agree on the issue of organizing the activities of the Russian-Turkish monitoring center. Judging by the statements of the parties, Russia proposed to organize the work of the center on a permanent basis, while Turkey insisted on ensuring the mobility of the staff. At the same time, there is no reason to doubt that the parties will come to a common denominator. According to the spokesman of the Russian president, Dmitry Peskov, the differences between Moscow and Ankara over Karabakh are resolved through dialogue. “In solving various regional problems, the interaction between Russia and Turkey has shown its effectiveness,” Peskov said.
Analysts note that the interests of Moscow and Ankara match on many international issues, and even in Syria, where these countries are on opposite sides. Turkey's increased role in the final solution of the Karabakh problem should be viewed in the same context.
It is quite obvious that the Russian-Turkish rapprochement, including Turkey’s interception of the initiative in the settlement of the Karabakh conflict, the strengthening of its positions in the South Caucasus with the prospect of entering Central Asia, causes concern in the West. France especially does not hide its irritation. Moreover, everyone understands that by speaking with Ankara in the language of demands, sanctions and threats, the West is actually pushing away such a strong NATO ally.
The agreement to end the war reached with the personal mediation of Vladimir Putin, as well as the introduction of Russian peacekeepers into the Karabakh conflict zone, further strengthened Moscow's regional positions in the foreseeable future. This factor will perhaps make itself visible during the upcoming contacts between Moscow and other co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group.
The US is still puzzled by the change of power at home. But, according to political scientist Maxim Shevchenko, Joe Biden, who won the presidential elections in the United States, disavows the trilateral agreement between the leaders of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia by the right of the strong. “He will simply declare that the agreements were reached bypassing the OSCE Minsk Group, declare it a collusion or something like that. Representatives of the Armenian lobby will appear, who will call the agreement illegitimate and imposed on Yerevan,” Shevchenko noted.
As for France, it demonstrates an openly biased, pro-Armenian position that runs against the status of an objective mediator. In this regard, Radio Liberty notes that France, as a mediator, was to some extent ousted by Moscow's actions in the conflict. "Although Macron tried not to support any side in the conflict, he still has to acknowledge the power of about half a million Armenian diaspora in France," Radio Liberty noted.
As we can see, the objectivity and impartiality of at least one of the mediators is in serious doubt, and the attempts to rehabilitate the OSCE Minsk Group in the mediation mission are doomed to failure.
Moreover, Azerbaijan has already ensured the implementation of the requirements of international law in the conflict zone and has begun to develop and restore infrastructure in the liberated territories. We expect that the former population of this territory, which has been subject to ethnic cleansing in the past, will return to their homes. For example, an international culinary festival has already been scheduled to be held in Shusha in August 2021.
In general, the victory of Azerbaijan in the Karabakh war certainly creates new geopolitical realities in the region. This historic event will inevitably add to the intensification of regional security and the future development of both Azerbaijan and the neighboring states. Armenia, however, lost its future the moment it unleashed the war of occupation.