Nagorno-Karabakh: 'Everyone benefits from Russia-brokered ceasefire deal except Armenia'

A service member of the Russian peacekeeping troops stands next to a tank near the border with Armenia, following the signing of a deal to end the military conflict between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces, in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, November 10, 2020.
A service member of the Russian peacekeeping troops stands next to a tank near the border with Armenia, following the signing of a deal to end the military conflict between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces, in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, November 10, 2020. © Francesco Brembati, REUTERS

Russia brokered a ceasefire deal on Monday that secured territorial advances for Azerbaijan in the ethnic Armenian breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh. But some analysts say that Azerbaijan, Turkey and Russia all benefit from the agreement while protests have sprung up in Armenia accusing Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan of betraying the national interest.


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The Russian-brokered ceasefire deal on November 9 ended six weeks of conflict between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces – and envisages the use of Russian troops as peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The agreement, which entails Armenia accepting Azerbaijani gains in the region, has prompted demonstrations in Armenia calling for Prime Minister Pashinyan’s resignation and accusing him of “betrayal”. Russia is a longstanding Armenian ally, leading many Armenians to see the ceasefire deal Moscow arranged as another betrayal.

Russian President Vladimir Putin made the announcement himself at midnight from Monday to Tuesday, emphasising that the deal enshrines “a total ceasefire” and “cessation of military hostilities” in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Russia deployed some 2,000 troops as soon as the ceasefire came into effect. According to the treaty signed by Yerevan, Baku and Moscow, they will be deployed as Armenian forces leave areas under Azerbaijan’s control – that is to say, seven districts around Nagorno-Karabakh and a small part of the region itself. The now diminished self-proclaimed republic will remain under the protection of Russian soldiers. These troops will play a notable role in protecting the Lachin corridor, the only supply route connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia.

A win for Azerbaijan – with Putin’s blessing?

Azerbaijan looks like the big winner in this conflict with its neighbour and bitter rival. Significantly, the territories it has gained include the historic and strategic city of Shushi, which is located on the road linking Armenia to the separatist capital Stepanakert. Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliev was certainly keen to present this as a triumph for his country – hailing Armenia’s “surrender” and calling Pashinyan a “coward” for not signing the deal in front of the cameras, adding that he said “we would chase them off our land like dogs, and we did”.

Galia Ackerman, a Paris-based historian specialising in Eastern Europe and author of Régiment Immortel: La Guerre sacrée de Poutine (“Immortal Regiment: Putin’s Sacred War”), argued that Azerbaijan has enjoyed Putin’s “tacit” backing: “Regardless of whether it’s under Armenian or Azerbaijani control, Nagorno-Karabakh is not a priority for Putin,” she told FRANCE 24. “The way he sees it, letting the war take its course was a means of trying to get rid of Pashinyan and change the political situation in Armenia.”

“Pashinyan was elected after a popular uprising in 2018 and was starting to look a bit too independent, as far as Moscow was concerned,” Ackerman added. “Notably, he got rid of a few people from his pro-Russian security services."

For his part, Pashinyan acknowledged that the ceasefire terms are a blow to Armenian national pride, describing the deal on his Facebook page as “incredibly painful for me and my people”.

‘Everyone benefits except Armenia’

Despite the arrival of French and American diplomats in Moscow on November 12, Paris and Washington did not play a role in the ceasefire accord. France and the US, along with Russia, co-chair the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which is tasked with ensuring peace in Nagorno-Karabakh.

“What is very important for the Kremlin is the diminished role of the West, which was mainly self-inflicted by the lack of focus” under US President Donald Trump, Alexander Gabuev, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center, told AFP.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is another big winner of this resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis. A close ally of Azerbaijan, Ankara will monitor the implementation of the ceasefire using a joint observation centre.

“There is a new regional order in the making, with Russia still indispensable, growth of Turkish role, and diminishing relevance of the West,” Gabuev wrote on Twitter.

“Russia was very struck by Turkey’s involvement in Caucasian geopolitics,” Gaidz Minassian, an Armenia specialist at Sciences-Po University in Paris, told FRANCE 24.

“Ankara got involved at all levels – especially on a military level – and now we can see how much more importance Azerbaijan places on ties with Turkey compared to those with Russia.”

In fact, all parties involved came out ahead – expect for one. “Turkey emerges particularly strengthened from this, but of all the players involved in this conflict, everyone benefits except Armenia,” Ackerman concluded.

“Russia regains its grip on Armenia and gets boots on the ground in Nagorno-Karabakh; Turkey strengthens its links with Azerbaijan; and Azerbaijan is delighted because they have recovered territory that separatists had occupied for more than a quarter of a century.”

This article was translated from the original in French.

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