Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Is Azerbaijan trying to change the Karabakh mediators?

Following up on an earlier post I wrote on the shifting dynamics of the Karabakh mediating process, comes an interesting comment from Azerbaijan's Deputy Foreign Minister (via Hurriyet):

“We observe the leading position of Russia in the Minsk Group [of the OSCE, tasked with mediating the negotiations] when the U.S. and France, the other partners of the trio, stay behind. The last nine meetings being led by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is a result of this development,” Azimov said. “We would like to see the U.S. and France become more active to create a balance.”
In addition Azimov criticised the absence of Turkey and - interestingly - Germany from the Minsk Group. The lack of a formal Turkish presence has long been a point of complaint for Azeri diplomats, which views the three co-chairs as too pro-Armenian for either geopolitical or domestic political reasons. That said, Ankara has exercised plenty of informal leverage over the years. 

Germany is an unexpected choice. Azerbaijan probably calculates that another major European power is needed, and that Germany's large Turkish diaspora would place it in the pro-Baku camp, as a counterweight to France, which is perceived to be pro-Yerevan due to its vocal Armenian diaspora.

The Deputy Foreign Minister also complained about the lack of a coherent NATO or EU strategy for the region, which has been a perennial issue - and one which is unlikely to change if the current process, dominated by the OSCE and driven by Russia, continues.

However calling for Turkey and Germany to be brought on board, encouraging NATO and the EU, and pushing for a more active role by the US and France, suggests that Baku is striving to alter the parameters of the existing peacemaking format. In particular it implies that Azerbaijan believes that the current arrangement is being overly influenced by Russia, which sent both Azerbaijan and Armenia a revised (and so far under wraps) peacemaking framework earlier this month. 

Grist to the mill is Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov's proposal to start drafting a peace agreement now, even before the existing disputes on the peace blueprint are settled. This will reinforce suspicions that Baku is seeking to circumvent the current process, avoiding excess pressure from Moscow which damages Azerbaijan's national interests. Which raises the question - just what has Russia been pushing  Baku to do?

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