Pashinyan’s rhetoric stalled rapprochement;what happens now?

The rapprochement was frozen under Pashinyan

Rachel Brooks

April 2, 2021

Image credit: “File:Nikol Pashinyan 13 Apr 2018.jpg” by Yerevantsi is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Armenia and Azerbaijan are entangled in a forever war that had opportunities for rapprochement in the stillness of its halted 30-year cold conflict. Yet, the power of rhetoric and the weaponization of past casualties prevented peace-making efforts from success and the olive branches from reaching. 

Irina Tsukerman, an American geopolitical expert and Timberwolf Phoenix media vice president, spoke with International News.az on March 31. She addressed the issues that have prevented rapprochement between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the years before the outbreak of conflict in 2020, and in the time since the conflict has simmered to a ceasefire once again. 

“This ideology had been weaponized by the Red Army and survived the massacres for over 100 years,” said Tsukerman, as she was quoted by International News.az.

” No outreach to the Armenian leadership had brought about mitigation in the dehumanizing worldview that brought about this mass atrocity, for which no one ever took responsibility nor was held accountable whether in a court of law or the court of public opinion.” 

“The importance of commemoration of these events in light of this lack of closure for the families and descendants of the victims and survivors of these horrific events is in acknowledging that ideology can lead to a cycle of violence, incitement, fanaticism, bigotry, and hatred,” she said. 

Oxford Analytica noted that the rhetoric between Armenia and Azerbaijan has been “riskier than gunfire” of late. Regardless of what sides are backed internationally, the Karabakh conflict is recognized worldwide as one of explosive political rhetoric, and clinging to the past has created a barrier that makes diplomatic transcendence a Heraclean feat. 

In her International News. az interview, Tsukerman noted the possible scenarios that would need to be in place before a rapprochement could logically occur. 

“Reconciliation and peace are only possible when the “otherization” of one’s neighbors comes to an end, human beings are regarded as individuals, not as groups that are hated and blamed en masse, and when leadership ceases the incitement and continuous propaganda of dehumanizing language and instead takes measures to promote peaceful education and a culture of coexistence and respect,” said Tsukerman, as she was quoted by International News. az. 

“Over a hundred years later, Azerbaijan and Armenia stand at the threshold of a possible breakthrough from a long history of tensions and conflict, with Azerbaijan offering not only an olive branch towards a peaceful and prosperous neighborly relationship that can inspire and enrich all of South Caucasus but a helping hand in creating a better future together.”

In terms of national rhetoric, the rise of Nikol Pashinyan to political power was characterized every step by a stiffened policy toward the Karabakh.  Geostrategic Pulse commented on Pashinyan’s harsh Karabakh rhetoric in 2018, early in Pashinyan’s time as a new head of state. 

Geostrategic Pulse noted that Pashinyan made three bold statements in regards to the Karabakh at the outset of his role as prime minister that was in opposition to President Sargsyan’s position. His position was one stating that Azerbaijan would have no choice but to recognize Artsakh’s right to self-determination, even though Artsakh was an illegal settlement, or there would be no room for consensus or concessions talks. Pashinyan’s exclusivity left no room for diplomacy. 

Pashinyan’s divisive rhetoric regarding the Karabakh and the two nations was buried beneath the western opinion that the Karabakh conflict was a proxy war between Russia and Turkey. Yet political analysis of the Karabakh conflict at the time that Pashinyan took power shows that his posturing in the conflict was integral to secure power in the internal climate of Armenia at his rise to the statehouses.

“Differentiation may be necessary for Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s inner circle, the old bureaucracy, and other forces that position or can potentially position themselves in opposition to the government,” wrote Anahit Shiriyan in “Karabakh Discourses in Armenia Following the Velvet Revolution.”

“The new opposition is likely to adopt harsher rhetoric and use the Nagorno-Karabakh issue as a trump card against the government. Such contention could divert the government’s position toward more defensive posturing.”

As Pashinyan’s future hangs in the balance, the international community looks on at the frozen dialogue and frozen goodwill between the two nations. A recognition of this rhetoric’s harmful perpetuation of conflict, is, in Tsukerman’s analysis, vital to establishing a long-lasting de-escalation in the region.