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This is not diversification, Armenia has changed the vector of its foreign policy - interview

Caucasus (bbabo.net), - In an interview with bbabo.net, the former Ambassador of Armenia to the Netherlands and Indonesia, Dzyunik Aghajanyan, analyzes the geopolitical processes taking place in the Transcaucasus, the Armenian-Azerbaijani settlement negotiations, as well as the involvement of regional and world players in them.

— Apparently, the Israeli-Palestinian war is seriously dragging on. Moreover, the area of military operations in the Middle East is expanding. In particular, Iran is involved in them - through the activation of its proxy structures. Could a Middle Eastern war—including in the context of the Iran factor—bring serious risks to the security of the neighboring Transcaucasian region?

— The Israeli-Palestinian war must be viewed in the context of larger geopolitical processes in which the West plays a very important role. This is part of the West’s desire to reformat current geopolitical realities in favor of further maintaining its hegemony. One of the West's goals is to drag Iran into hostilities. In this sense, the situation around Iran and what is connected with Iran, naturally, can directly affect the situation and future military-political developments in the South Caucasus. It must be stated that every day Western politicians are purposefully acting in the direction of surrounding Iran with unfriendly neighbors and also using unfriendly actions to force Tehran to respond to the current situation by military means.

In this context, Iran today is acting very carefully so as not to directly come into conflict with Israel, that is, with the West, and not give them a reason to launch a comprehensive attack from all sides, including from the north, namely from Azerbaijan. I hope that this will not happen, and Iranian politicians will find appropriate options to postpone the existing risks for some time, and in general - with the change in the geopolitical situation in the world - to avoid such a development of events altogether.

Naturally, the situation in the Middle East affects political developments in our region. Unfortunately, what our (Armenian - ed.) government is doing today can be said to add fuel to the fire in favor of the West. If there is an attack on Armenia, on the Syunik region, then the entire South Caucasus region will burn. And in this sense, naturally, there are very big risks for us.

— It is obvious that the negotiations on signing the Armenia-Azerbaijan peace agreement are clearly stalling. As a consequence, there is an uncertain situation in the region and the likelihood of a new conflict between the two countries. And, accordingly, the involvement of interested regional and global players in this conflict. Do you think such a scenario is realistic?

— Regional and global players are already involved in all political and military-political developments in our region. And they will no doubt continue to be involved in the future. The fact that the signing of the so-called “peace treaty” is stalling is obvious, since now it is simply not profitable for Azerbaijan to put its signature on any document, based on its obligations to the West regarding Iran, which it must fulfill. And Aliyev simply does not want to create unnecessary problems for himself when, as they say in Baku, he has “restored territorial integrity” and is now at the peak of his prestige both in the country and in the world. In this context, Azerbaijan will delay the process of Armenian-Azerbaijani normalization.

Part of the Western plan is the opening of a front against Iran from Baku. There may be a war with Armenia, and then Iran will be obliged to join the conflict. After Azerbaijan, through the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Armenian population, received Artsakh (the Armenian historical name of Nagorno-Karabakh - ed.) without Armenians, it is, in principle, not beneficial for the Azerbaijani leadership to become involved in any military-political projects of the West against Iran. And so, after the last Armenian left Artsakh, Aliyev began to seriously flirt with Russia and Iran in order to avoid his obligations to the West. In particular, he immediately began military maneuvers with Iran in the Caspian Sea.

And now, when Aliyev has temporarily moved away from the West in order not to fall under sanctions from its side, as well as financial, political and internal blows, he is delaying the process for at least several months, each time putting forward new demands to Armenia, which, in in principle, are very negatively perceived by the Armenian people and society. Thus, Baku wants to “shift” away from itself responsibility for the failure to sign the so-called “peace treaty”.

Today the situation is as follows: the moment Aliyev signs this ill-fated document, he will no longer have any excuses to avoid starting military actions against Iran according to the Western plan.

— Russia and Iran and, to some extent, Turkey are trying to transfer the settlement of Armenian-Azerbaijani relations into a regional format. Thus, to create some kind of negotiation platform similar to the Astana process on Syria. It is obvious that Washington and Brussels are actively opposing such a development and are in favor of direct bilateral contacts between Yerevan and Baku under their auspices. How, in your opinion, will this situation be resolved?

— The fact is that, in principle, except for Armenia, now all other players in the region, with the exception of Georgia, benefit from the regional format. Let me explain: not to the Armenian leadership, which is changing the foreign policy vector to the West, but to Armenia. Russia and Iran, on the one hand, and Azerbaijan and Turkey, on the other, do not want much broader Western involvement here. Although they proceed from different goals, in the short term the approach is the same - to exclude a possible Western military-political presence in the South Caucasus. This explains Azerbaijan’s refusal, despite previously reached agreements, to host so-called European observers (to monitor the border with Armenia - ed.).

In turn, Turkey believes that at a time when Armenia is weak, and the latter is reconsidering its strategic relations with Russia, it is necessary to keep Yerevan under its control, eliminating Russian influence in the region. For Moscow, of course, it is also not beneficial to have a wide Western presence here, since this will lead to Russia’s withdrawal from the South Caucasus with the corresponding consequences. Iran, naturally, is against having a NATO or other Western presence on its borders: this would put it in a very difficult situation.

The Armenian leadership, unfortunately, has the weakest position, since it has obligations to the West, for example, the EU observer mission on the borders with Azerbaijan. Obviously, these are NATO peacekeepers in five minutes. Judging by the policy pursued by the Armenian government, Yerevan, I will say, does not have very many friends in the region. That is, this policy and the desire to gain a much larger Western presence here, in principle, contradicts the positions of all other players in the region, which can lead to conflict.

The format of the Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations cannot be regional, since in the current configuration Armenia is very weak. It is not profitable for Azerbaijan now to negotiate under Western auspices; I repeat: it wants to get out of the obligations it has to the West, and Artsakh was a kind of reward for these obligations. And naturally, Baku strives to have direct negotiations with Armenia without any mediators. A regional format is also impossible because Turkey is an unofficial participant in these negotiations, so to speak, by default. Russia, naturally, wants it to be a mediator. Thus, due to such diversity and conflict of positions, it is unrealistic to expect diplomatic progress at this time.

In such a situation, a forceful solution or the threat of forceful resolution of issues becomes increasingly likely. In this context, consider the following scenario. If there is an attack on the Syunik region from the western regions of Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan, then Russia, as a strategic partner of Armenia and as a member of the CSTO, will have to get involved in the conflict. And this will mean the opening of a second front (along with Ukraine - ed.), which the West is very keen on, with subsequent risks for Russia’s security. If Moscow does not react, this will lead to the defeat of Armenia, the loss of territories and the demand from the Armenian public that Russian military bases be withdrawn from Armenia.

Under the above scenario, Iran could also find itself in a very ambiguous position. Judging by the statements of its leadership, Tehran must react. If this happens, Azerbaijan will be justified to open a front for the West and Israel against Iran. However, no one can guarantee the outcome of such a development in favor of Baku. Therefore, Azerbaijan is trying to dodge, maneuver and get the maximum, using the levers of pressure of Western capitals on Armenia, in order to avoid failure of the negotiation process. Thus, the situation may turn out to be a stalemate. And yet, Armenia has opportunities that the Armenian leadership ignores.

— Recently, high-ranking representatives of Western states and structures have been constantly saying that they are satisfied with today’s bilateral relations with Armenia. This was recently stated, in particular, by the Special Representative of the NATO Secretary General for the South Caucasus and Central Asia, Javier Colomina. He is also “encouraged by the decisions that Armenia has made in foreign and defense policy, the shift that they have decided to implement.” Do you agree with the opinion that Yerevan is already in the process of diversifying its foreign and defense policy?

— This is not just about diversification. Armenia has changed the vector of its foreign policy and is gradually coming under Western control. NATO is now speaking out more and more openly on this issue. Judging by the feedback and statements that we receive from Western countries and NATO officials, we can say that the process is proceeding according to their scenario. In addition, the involvement of Western and NATO intelligence services is becoming more and more obvious.

— Today, the Turkish-Azerbaijani alliance cooperates very effectively with Russia. The same cannot be said about Armenia. Is it possible to say that we are talking about pragmatism in interstate relations, when the priority is not formal allied relations, but geopolitical and geo-economic interests?

— Geopolitical and geo-economic interests have always been a priority for the leading states of the world, and, in principle, should be the primary goal for any normal state. But, unfortunately, the Armenian leadership, instead of serving the interests of our state and our people, began to serve the interests of countries at war with us in the name of Western goals and principles. It is important to note that for Russia, judging by its involvement in the Ukrainian direction, at present, naturally, it is impossible to react much more sharply to the developments and events that are taking place in our region. Nevertheless, I believe that Russia chose the lesser evil: it did not allow a massacre - like what is happening today in the Gaza Strip - against the population of Artsakh, and helped its residents move to Armenia. At the same time, it is clear: everything that happened means ethnic cleansing on the part of Azerbaijan in one of the parts of the historical homeland of the Armenian people.

I think that the current very ambiguous situation in Armenian-Russian relations is not final. Allied relations are formally important, but for their effectiveness it is necessary to work on both sides. If one of the parties works against this relationship, then the other cannot take full responsibility. And yet, Moscow has miscalculations regarding the situation, the intentions of the Armenian leadership, and, in general, the plans and policies that official Yerevan has pursued and is pursuing.

And in this regard, it is important to note that today’s Russian cooperation with the Turkish-Azerbaijani alliance is more situational. What transformations it will undergo and what it will lead to need to be analyzed. However, in the short term—during the current year—Armenia needs and is important to exclude further losses. And Russia and Iran can play a huge role in this.

This is not diversification, Armenia has changed the vector of its foreign policy - interview