Promised meeting with U.S. on Friday raises speculations about U.S. mediation, Tartar shelling continues

"Mike Pompeo" by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

By | Rachel Brooks

October 20, 2020

Shelling continues to pepper the weary war front as Armenia continues to pursue Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan despite the territory’s legally recognized status as part of sovereign Azerbaijan. In the meantime, rival foreign ministers head to the United States to discuss a ceasefire. Talks shall be mitigated by the U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo who has traditionally kept a neutral voice in the conflict. 

Pompeo will hold separate meetings with each of the foreign ministers, as was reported by The Hill. The United States invited both of the foreign ministers to Washington. Both foreign ministers will meet with Secretary Pompeo on Friday. 

There is no clear indication that the United States will change its neutral meditative influencer status at this moment. However, the U.S. shrinking tolerance of the Iranian regime may have some influence over the stance the U.S. takes if it becomes more proactively involved in the region. 

Likewise, the United States, while not proclaiming a direct stance in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, has a growing sense of concern regarding South Caucasus and Eastern European geopolitical security. It is for this reason that the U.S. position toward the Nagorno-Karabakh, while to this point reserved and even described as “withdrawn”, has the potential to evolve into a more proactive stance. This, the Hill reported, was especially possible after Russia, as one of the three members of the OSCE Minsk Group, mediated two ceasefire attempts that consecutively failed. 

This is due to the status of the conflict as undermining the humanitarian principles of international law which the U.S. has boasted leadership of, to date.

Yet, in the meantime of diplomatic talks, civilians continue to perish on the ground.

On October 20, two civilians were killed in the continued shelling of Tartar. One additional civilian was injured, as reported by AzerNews. AzerNews cites the Azerbaijani General Prosecutor’s Office as their source. As Armenia continues to shell civilians, Azerbaijan continues to respond with countermeasures. This follows the death of one civilian and the open-fire direct engagement of a television news crew by Armenian forces on October 19. 

Likewise, the conflict continues to undermine regional security as the Armenian offensive is provocative of neighbors as opposed to both sides of the conflict. Turkey opposed to Armenian nationalism, has made scathing public rebukes against the press of Armenian forces in the region. By the same token, Iran has played a placating mediator of sorts as Iranian anxiety grows over the conflict. While having taken the Armenian position in the conflict to eliminate the threat of a strong Azerbaijan as a regional secular ally of Israel, Armenia still has concerns regarding the South Azerbaijani political protests and potential revolt against the mullahs. 

As international concerns grow over the conflict, the press likewise continues to inflame the public with daily updates that have been taken out of context. U.S. News posted a story on October 20 that revealed the shelling of a building in Stepanakert which has the appearance of a typical residence, as it is caught in the fire. The narrative has more or less presented the photographs of Stepanakert as if civilians have been placed in deliberate jeopardy due to return fire from Azerbaijan. The media fails to address the fact that Stepanakert is the military hub of the subordinate settlement Artsakh that illegally occupies the Nagorno-Karabakh territory. The civilians who are located in the surrounding region are settled in the area by the sponsorship of the Armenian government and are placed in habitats by the Armenia Fund Artsakh program. 

Despite these facts, the press has focused its efforts on showing the damages to the Armenian-controlled sectors of this subordinate settlement, while there has been some neglect of the events in Tartar.

Western rhetoric regarding the situation has lent to the reduced confidence in the South Caucasus region of the west as a mediator. Currently, U.S. security advisors urge Americans to support Azerbaijan’s international rights under U.N. law in the swift mediation of the end to the conflict. Such was the appeal via an op-ed published in Newsweek on October 20 in which Jason Epstein and Irina Tsukerman made the case for American enforcement of Azerbaijan’s international rights.  

While the U.S. has the opportunity to put to ease these concerns on Friday, there is also the problem of the U.S. domestic political push back. The United States is on the verge of a presidential election. The opposition of the current cabinet is strongly in favor of the Armenian lobby. As the heat of the presidential stakes increases, it will define how the United States will approach the issue of intervention in South Caucasus geopolitics.