Armenia and Azerbaijan’s internal political contrasts in post-conflict

Rachel Brooks

March 18, 2021 

News Analysis 

Image credit: “CBSS Ministerial Meeting 2020” by CBSS Secretariat is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Above: Swedish Foreign Minister Anne Linde, as she appeared in 2020, represented the OSCE Minsk Group in recent talks with Azerbaijan. Armenia undergoes political infighting and a move to snap elections, while Azerbaijan appears to be signaling a time of national restructure with recent domestic political moves. This juxtaposition may influence the international approach to the region. 

Armenia and Azerbaijan stand in mirror contrast as the political narrative of the region changes. On March 18, the Associated Press reported that Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan had declared an early parliamentary election to commence in June. In contrast, the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev signed letters for a series of prisoners, with reports by human rights groups that some of those released were prisoners held for political reasons, reported Radio Free Europe.  

Azerbaijan has denied holding political prisoners, but a pardon of prisoners may be the signal of a move for rebirth in the post-conflict society. 

The contrast shows a great shift internally in both states. Post-conflict Armenia sees upheaval, and post-conflict Azerbaijan appears to be set on the path to greater cooperation between the government and the citizens. A changing dynamic in the region may also put pressure on the international community to change its position and rhetoric toward the region. The international community has been accused of biases and/or inconsistency in the era between the First and Second Conflict for its approach, particularly with regards to international press coverage. 

Opposition continues to demand that Pashinyan step down before the vote. Supporters have rallied to the opposition, as earlier in March, 124 officers of the Artsakh militia signed a letter of support for the Chief of the RA General Staff Onil Gasparyan. This was publicly acknowledged by Armenians as of March 7. On March 3, the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhum Bayramov presented a letter to the U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, warning of intelligence reports that stated Armenian forces continued to violate the terms of the ceasefire. Bayramov relayed to the Secretary-General that Azerbaijan would take necessary measures if these violations continued. 

The two nations stand in contrast to each other in terms of their political restructuring post-conflict. Azerbaijan has warned Armenia regarding issues that might strain the peace cooperation in the post-conflict transition, states Eurasia Daily Monitor on Wednesday. The report stated that on March 14, President Aliyev had received the delegation of the OSCE Minsk as his guest. This year’s delegate was the Swedish Foreign Minister Anne Linde. A statement made by the presidential office in Azerbaijan confirms that Swedish Foreign Minister Linde was welcomed into Aliyev’s office to hold a one-on-one meeting. 

“Welcome, Madame Minister. I am very glad to see you. We had an opportunity to talk to each other tete-a-tete, and now with delegations. We pay very big importance to your visit. OSCE is an organization which is directly involved in the resolution of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan,” said Aliyev, as the meeting regarding conflict resolution between Armenia and Azerbaijan commenced. 

Aliyev then echoed once more previous statements that, as far as the Azerbaijani government was concerned, post-war rehabilitation had commenced. He noted that the liberated territories are “completely destroyed” and will require massive investments for post-war rehabilitation. He then, once again, stressed that establishing communication with Armenia was a priority of his government, highlighting that “now was the time to concentrate on the future.” 

“Because the opening of communications will be in the benefit of all the regional countries. We will create new opportunities and bring new dynamics to regional cooperation,” said Aliyev, as quoted by the presidential statement. 

“And it can bring many other areas of potential cooperation. I already publicly spoke that Azerbaijan is ready for that. We have completed our task, we liberated the territories, implemented the resolutions of the Security Council of United Nations, and decisions of OSCE. So, now we need to concentrate on the future.” 

The Swedish Foreign Minister thanked President Aliyev for hosting her, and then addressed the interests of the OSCE in “defending European security order” and also to “approve the concept of a comprehensive strategy.” 

“As you know, as a chair of the OSCE our key priorities are to defend European security order and also to approve the concept of comprehensive security, which links security also to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law,” said Foreign Minister Linde, as quoted by the Azerbaijani presidential office. 

“And of course, we would see if there is anything we can do to contribute to resolving conflicts in the OSCE area. So, in this context, of course, international law, international human rights, humanitarian law, women, peace, and security are our priorities. So, I think it is possible to work together on those issues.” 

Armenian news outlets reported that similar meetings with chapters of the OSCE Minsk Group occurred this week. Rhetoric and Armenian lobbies of the United States and the west continued to rally, as Radio Free Europe reported that Armenia eyes a “strong OSCE” involvement in the post-conflict processes. 

Anne Linde completed a working visit to Armenia as well, as was reported by News Armenia on March 18. During this visit, Linde noted the importance of “making progress” in resolving issues in context to the Karabakh. She underscored the need for compliance with the principles set forth by the OSCE. Linde met with Prime Minister Pashinyan, President Sarkissian, Foreign Minister Ara Ayvasyan, and various other elected officials in her state visit. 

“As Chairperson-in-Office, I fully support the work of the Co-Chairs of the Minsk Group and my Representative in their efforts to advance peace and contribute to a comprehensive, sustainable settlement. The OSCE and the international community as a whole have an important role to play in dealing with outstanding issues and in finding ways forward,” said Linde, as she was quoted by News Armenia. 

The heat of internal rhetoric in Armenia continues, and delays the process of post-conflict stabilizing, with Azerbaijani politicians “condemning” Armenia for failing to produce maps of the mines planted in Karabakh, see AzerNews. 

As these political issues continue, it adds pressure to the mediative approach of such international entities as the OSCE Minsk Group. Radio Free Europe reported that, during Linde’s visit to Armenia, the Armenian government relayed that they see the signing of the trilateral agreement as an “interim” solution. 

“Although it contains some provisions concerning the peaceful settlement, it does not address its key elements, and the most important among them is the issue of the status of Artsakh, based on the right of the Armenians of Artsakh to self-determination,” Ayvazian said, referring to the Armenian settlement in Karabakh, as he was quoted by Radio Free Europe. 

Political pressures within Armenia and divisive policy toward the status of the peace resolution as an “interim” solution may create problems in cooperating with Armenia toward a lasting regional peace. By contrast, a shift in Azerbaijan’s approach to internal social debates may signal a change in opinion of the nation in the western and international community. Changing dynamics and cooperation tactics will have an impact on a lasting peace resolution.