The last obstacle to the Armenia-Azerbaijan peace treaty must be overcome - OPINION

  29 June 2024    Read: 893
 The last obstacle to the Armenia-Azerbaijan peace treaty must be overcome -  OPINION

CNA, an Albanian news agency, has published an article entitled “The last obstacle to the Armenia-Azerbaijan peace treaty must be overcome”. reprints the article by Vasif Huseynov, Head of Department at the Baku-based Center of Analysis of International Relations (AIR Center).

It has come a long way since Armenia and Azerbaijan were fighting a violent war that erupted in the wake of a nearly three-decade stalemate in peace negotiations. As the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev rightly said, the chance for peace was finally brought by the 2020 war that ended the occupation of Azerbaijan's territories. After liberating its occupied territories, Azerbaijan immediately initiated a Peace Treaty with Armenia based on the basic principles of international relations, including mutual recognition of each other's territorial integrity and non-use of force.

It is a telling fact that Azerbaijan presented this initiative in March 2022, when the Armenian separatist regime still had some control over parts of the Karabakh region, where Russia's peacekeeping mission was temporarily stationed. This clearly manifested Baku's intention to peacefully reintegrate the Armenian population in the Karabakh region and to diplomatically resolve the remaining disputes with Armenia.

This goodwill, unfortunately, was not properly reciprocated by the Armenian side. The refusal of separatist leaders in the Karabakh region to meet with Azerbaijani officials, the continued military supplies of the Armenian government to these forces, the reluctance to recognize the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, etc., led to the anti-terrorist operation in September 2023. This marked the definitive end to the Karabakh conflict and the restoration of Azerbaijan's territorial integrity – which opened a historic window of opportunity for regional peace and security.

Unfortunately, the newfound chance to sign a peace treaty was overshadowed by Armenia and its supporters in the West, making baseless claims about Azerbaijan's alleged plans to occupy the southern part of Armenia. Despite Baku's repeated denials, including President Aliyev's rejection of these claims on multiple occasions, those spreading them have continued unabated, while their targets remain unclear. Some argue that Armenia and its Western partners sought to legitimize the West's growing military and political presence in Armenia by using a potential attack by Azerbaijan as a scapegoat. In early June, Thomas de Wall, a prominent South Caucasus analyst, suggested conspiratorially that Azerbaijan is collaborating with Russia to invade Armenia. In turn, whether intentional or not, these claims seriously undermine peace efforts by instilling fear in Armenian society, inciting them against peace initiatives with their neighbor, and instilling distrust in their intentions.

However, in the meantime, Baku and Yerevan have made significant progress on the road to a peace treaty and normalization of bilateral relations. The initiation of the demarcation of the inter-state border and the peaceful return of four occupied border villages of Azerbaijan really underlined the potential for peace between the two countries. Now there is only one major obstacle to signing a Peace Treaty, which began to be discussed by President Aliyev immediately after the 2020 war. In an interview with a Turkish media channel on September 28, 2021, Aliyev stated: "There is a territorial claim against Turkey (and Azerbaijan) in the Constitution of Armenia. They must abandon it. They should review and re-approve their constitution... They should give up their claims against Turkey and Azerbaijan." Armenia's recent territorial claims against Azerbaijan are prompting Baku to ensure that no future revanchist government will have legal pretexts to reignite the conflict.

In a crucial development for resolving the dispute, Armenia's Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, has acknowledged the importance of the issue and attempted to address it. During a meeting with members of his political party on January 20 this year, Pashinyan stressed the need for Armenia and Azerbaijan to ensure that there are no grounds for future territorial disputes. He declared: "Diplomatic documents often contain nuanced implications and warnings. The subtleties of Azerbaijan's proposals, and potentially ours, highlight the dangers of territorial disputes, whether immediate or imminent." He went on to call for a new constitution, asserting that Armenia needs "a new constitution, not constitutional changes," that would make the country "more competitive and stable in the new geopolitical and regional environment."

To the detriment of the Peace Treaty talks, the Armenian government appears to have backed away from this position. The June 7 statement by the Armenian Foreign Ministry rejects calls for the removal of territorial claims from the constitution and presents this request as "a complete interference in the internal affairs of the country." They ignore the fact that a state's constitution is no longer its exclusive internal matter if it contains territorial claims and legal bases for a military conflict against another state.

Baku's position on this issue is crystal clear, outlined by President Aliyev a day before the statement of the Armenian Foreign Ministry: "Azerbaijan does not plan to sign a Peace Treaty with Armenia as long as the state constitution of this country has claims to territories of Azerbaijan".

"Azerbaijan has the legitimate right to demand the removal of this claim from the Constitution, which directly affects our national security and cannot be labeled as interference in the internal affairs of Armenia," the Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan said in response to the Armenian ministry's statement.

It is true that a constitutional amendment is not an easy endeavor for the Armenian government, especially given the current anti-government sentiment in Armenia. However, this cannot serve as an excuse to change Baku's position on this crucial legal issue. Azerbaijan is in no rush and can afford to wait for Armenia to change its constitution before signing a Peace Treaty, as both countries need a lasting solution to their conflict and the eradication of its root causes.

More about:

News Line