Independent analyst, ex-Foreign Minister of Nagorno-Karabakh Arman Melikyan in his interview with ArmInfo forecasts the prospects of Armenia-EU Agreement, talks about the possibilities of integrating Armenia into rapid global political changes. He speaks about Russia's role and Turkey's expectations of the Karabakh settlement, the beneficiaries of deterring Turkish military-political and economic activity in a number of areas.
What is your vision of the prospects for the implementation of the Agreement on a comprehensive and expanded partnership signed on November 24 at the Brussels summit of "Eastern Partnership" between Armenia and the EU and what, and under which conditions could this promise Armenia?
Without going deeper into all the details of the mutual obligations enshrined in the EU-Armenia agreement signed in Brussels, it is first of all worth noting that this document may paly, in time to a certain extent, a positive role in stabilizing, deepening and systematizing the Armenian-Georgian political and trade-economic relations . That is, thanks to this agreement between Armenia and Georgia, it will be easier to interact in the European direction in the future and even joint projects will be possible. Until now, Georgia has received all the main preferences from the West, and even the logistics of European companies were built in such a way that for cargo flows, passenger flows going from west to east, this country was a kind of transshipment point, a place for intermediate cargo handling. I especially focus on Georgia, since we have not had a common international platform for this kind of interaction - there were only bilateral relations burdened by difficulties connected with the diversity of our foreign policy orientation. At the same time, the EU has a legal basis for exerting political and legal pressure on the Armenian authorities so that the latter begin to pursue a more responsible policy in the sphere of state administration - seriously tackle the problem of eradicating corruption and total monopolization of the profitable sectors of the country's economy. For ordinary citizens of Armenia, the main positive effect of signing the agreement in the near future so far can only be the liberalization of the visa regime when traveling to EU countries.
We live in an era in which our security and the security of our neighbors are equally threatened by rapid global political changes. What place does Armenia occupy in these processes and could we somehow integrate into rapid transformations on a global scale in order to eliminate the risks of our own security?
Well, firstly, one should keep in mind that these processes are perceived unequally by both global players and by our less influential neighbors in the region. These processes are planned and directed, pursue definite, very specific goals related to a large-scale transformation of the politico-economic and military-political appearance of the entire Eurasian space and a radical redistribution there of the balance of forces and influence of world power centers. For example, Turkey will actively promote the success of its allies' initiatives aimed at achieving a radical breakdown of the previous balance of power in the regions of the Middle East and Central Asia, while Russia and Iran will do their best to keep this balance. In this context, Armenia first of all needs to assess the chances of success involved in this state confrontation, which will require the most serious work of narrow specialists. Based on the results of such evaluation work, it will be possible to develop an optimal policy line that will make our existence as safe as possible in the coming rather long period of military-political and economic turbulence that can cover our and adjacent regions for ten to fifteen years. It is theoretically possible to achieve the desired result, but for this, the incumbent authorities of Armenia will need to attract competent, unbiased experts who are able to do the necessary work at the appropriate level, and this will be very difficult - there can be a serious conflict of interests among specific individuals in power with the interests of the state.
On the eve of the meeting with Vladimir Putin and the tripartite meeting of Putin-Rouhani-Erdogan, the Turkish president announced discussion of other issues and the Karabakh problem at the meeting. Erdogan expressed the supposition that if the Russian colleague is concentrated on this issue, it "will be easily solved". How likely do you think the Russian president's desire to "focus" on Artsakh right now and what options for a settlement could be there ?
In fact, largely Erdogan simply laid the entire responsibility for the course of the process of peaceful settlement of the conflict on the Russian side, on President Putin personally. Thus, the Turkish leader, stating that the fate of the settlement of the conflict is in Russia's hands, as if accusing Moscow of the fact that there is still no peaceful solution and there is no hope that positive changes will take place in this direction in the near future. As for the Russian leadership's desire to solve the problem, there is no reason to doubt it. Another thing is that in Russia, most likely, there is no any desire in this issue to "take a share" of Turkey, and even more so to act on the proposed last scenarios. For Turkey, the only way to practically participate in the settlement of the conflict could be the proposal to open the Turkish-Armenian border, in exchange for the surrender of 2/3 of the territory of the Republic of Artsakh to Azerbaijan.
Do you consider serious, substantial negotiations on Karabakh possible in 2018, given the presidential elections in Azerbaijan and the final transition of Armenia from a semi-presidential to a parliamentary system of government?
As for now, I don't see any preconditions for radical shifts in the negotiation process in 2018. At the same time, in my opinion, the tension on the contact line will start to grow again if Armenian negotiators do not develop new approaches within the next two to three months and do not revise the philosophy of negotiating.
Russian diplomats and experts periodically repeat that Moscow is interested in keeping the existing status quo around Artsakh. Does, in your opinion, the consistent Russian policy reflect this interest in feeding up the South Caucasus with modern armaments, including offensive weapons? If not, what motivation could this line of Russia be based on?
The sales of arms to the parties to the conflict by Russia pursues a completely pragmatic goal: through arms transfers, the Russian leadership decides to increase the military-technical dependence of the parties on Russia, earns money, and controls the balance of offensive and defensive weapons in the conflict zone, which also allows it to have decisive political influence on Yerevan, Baku and Stepanakert. Of course, this behavior of Russia does not correlate with the statement that the Armenian-Russian relations are of a strategic nature, but if we proceed from the fact that it is strategically important for Russia to maintain its military and political presence in the South Caucasus, and this presence can be reliably ensured , if Armenia in all spheres will critically depend on Russia, then a certain logic in the actions of Moscow can be discerned.
An opinion exists in the political sphere according to which the coincidence of interests of Russia and the West over Nagorno-Karabakh has already become a tradition. If you agree with this, how can this be justified, if not by Armenia's international role in restraining Turkey?
For the United States and its closest allies, there is no real problem of restraining Turkish military-political and economic activity in the east. So far, Russia, Iran and China will be really interested in restraining Turkey's peaceful expansion. We should first of all bear in mind that Russia, the United States and the EU are united in one thing: an agreed and jointly approved mechanism for settling the conflict based on the principle of "territory in exchange for status" threatens Artsakh with the loss of most of the territory. That is, it does not matter for us at all under whose patronage such a settlement will be implemented - the result will be the loss of almost 8,000 square kilometers of the territory and precisely to protect the country from such an extremely undesirable development of events, the current Armenian leadership must seriously engage in the preparation of new interrogative positions in the negotiation process and do it in such a way that the world centers of power treat this favorably or at least neutrally. And we still do have this opportunity.