In an extended interview with the “Tert.am” electronic news agency, Regional Studies Center (RSC) Director Richard Giragosian assessed the current status of the peace process over Nagorno-Karabakh. In light of the new context of a degree of “diplomatic urgency” in the wake of the April fighting, which marked the most serious military clashes since the implementation of the 1994 ceasefire, Giragosian noted that “looking at the recent meeting between the Armenian and Russian presidents, there was neither positive progress, not serious surrender, despite many informed comments and opinions. Clearly, the real challenge to the Karabakh conflict stems from the imperative to return to ‘back to basics’ diplomacy, focusing not on peace talks over resolving the Karabakh conflict, but rather, more limited to diplomatic engagement to restore calm, regain control and rebuild an effective ceasefire.”
He argued that “this basic diplomacy is now driven by Russia and backed by Moscow’s influence over all sides to the conflict. And at least in part reflecting Russian leverage, the difficult agreement over a cessation of hostilities was both announced in Moscow and attained by Moscow. But as the primary arms supplier to both Armenia and Azerbaijan, the Russian role as mediator will be neither easy nor unchallenged.”
Giragosian also stressed that “ironically, the challenge for Russia stems not from Western opposition, but rather, emanates from an unlikely source: its “strategic partner” Armenia. Amid a deep and widening crisis in Armenian-Russian relations, Moscow will have to steer carefully and tread delicately. For Yerevan, the crisis in relations with Moscow represents deepening dissatisfaction not with the relationship itself, but over the unequal terms of the ‘strategic partnership.’ For many Armenians, this crisis was marked by a culmination in frustration with the asymmetry and disrespect afforded to its alliance, and was exacerbated by the sense of betrayal by Russia, which sold the weapons used by Azerbaijan against Karabakh.”
He then pointed to the fact that because Armenia is hostage to a wider “region at risk,” the imperative is to embark on “a new course aimed at overcoming the threat of isolation. In a strategic sense, Armenia is becoming more successful in maximizing its strategic options, and is now beginning to challenge the dangers of its over-reliance on Russia as its primary security patron and partner.
Moreover, as Armenia’s ‘strategic partnership’ with Russia has become steadily one-sided, Yerevan has begun to finally see that although close relations with Russia are essential over the longer term, the imperative is now to maximize its options and garner dividends from a more concerted embrace of the West. Thus, although Armenia has yet to graduate from this ‘region at risk,’ the deeper trends clearly suggest a more prudent policy aimed at finally overcoming Armenia’s isolation and building a new degree of stability and security.”
For the full interview (in Armenian): www.tert.am/am/news/2016/08/19/kirakosyan/2108236
For the full interview (in the original English): www.tert.am/en/news/2016/08/19/kirakosyan/2108236