By Dr. Ashfaq Ahmed & Qamar Abbas
Armenian illegal occupation of Azerbaijan’s sovereign territory in violation of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) had been the bone of contention. Mistrust, security dilemma, and mutual misperceptions dominated bilateral relations of South Caucasian states.
The history of South Caucasian states is incomplete without referring to the Wars of Khojali Massacre, wars of 1994, 2016, and 2020, border clashes, and politico-military crises. Forty-four Days 2020 Patriotic War was concluded on November 10, 2020, as Moscow mediated it. The November Accord ushered in a new era in the bilateral relations among these states.
Bilateral strained relations and continued hostility are not in favor of South Caucasian states. Dust of destruction of historical-cultural-religious sites, genocide committed by Armenia against Azerbaijan, and 2020 war is settling.
In post-2020, Karabakh War Ilham Aliyev made serious efforts including normalizing ties and signing a peace agreement with Armenia. Verifiable data affirms substantial unconditional steps have been taken by Ilham and his administration to normalize tense relations. President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev acknowledged tensions cannot run forever so the process of normalization of relations between the two neighbors should be initiated.
Taking voluntarily first step as a Confidence Building Measure (CBM) Ilham announced that for Azerbaijan the war is over. However, the inherited problem of CBMs is unilateral effort alone cannot ensure to achieve lasting peace, financial stability, and security. Ilham acknowledges that national interests and goals i.e. sustainable development, economic growth, and poverty alleviation to lift people out of poverty cannot be achieved in a regional environment based on uncertainty.
In March 2022 Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov reaffirmed Azerbaijan’s desire to bury a contentious and difficult past. Commitment to coexist peacefully with Armenia ensures mutual benefits. Bayramov asserted Baku has presented five new points/ principles to normalize ties with Armenia. Minister’s reference to new points or peace formula affirms Baku favors complete normalization of relations with Yerevan.
President Ilham is making every effort to ensure conflict is permanently resolved so war does not break out in the future. President’s May 20 Brussels meeting, Establishment of a Commission to Demarcate Borders (Commission held the first meeting on May 24), Working Group on Transportation, and acceptance of ethnicity are a few notable examples. He is investing increasingly in restoring mutual trust, to normalizing ties leading to perpetual peace in South Caucasus. Certainly, violence will be thwarted and the use of weaponry be avoided.
It opens up space for economic opportunities and energy cooperation. Dream of regional integration connecting Azerbaijan’s mainland with Nakhchivan, Turkey, and Armenia will become reality. An energy corridor can be established linking South Caucasus with the European continent. South Caucasian states will achieve economic gains (particularly Armenia) in return European countries will meet their growing energy requirements. Suspension of energy supplies from Russia to Europe requires the development of new energy supply routes to meet European energy demands.
Azerbaijan’s peace initiatives track record ensures that President Ilham is personally involved in and monitoring peace talks with European Union (EU) and Russia to bring an end to hostility with neighboring Armenia. Ilham’s administration negotiated with EU representatives in December 2021 and April 2022. Major breakthrough in the agreement on demarcation and delimitation of borders was achieved in April.
The successful “Borders Demarcation” is key to ensuring the sanctity of the territorial integrity of each country. Consequentially, mitigating bilateral security dilemmas results in bilateral economic cooperation. The key takeaway gleaned from the above passage is that the geo-economic framework will replace geostrategic rivalry. Azerbaijan not only is economically strong it is one of the responsible rational members of international society. Inferences drawn from Azerbaijan’s peace efforts include restoration of peace will ensure regional peace and mutual prosperity. Secondly, Azerbaijan’s readiness to include external members in the peace process affirms its sincerity to replace mutual trust deficit with mutual respect, animosity with amity, and geostrategic rivalry with geo-economic cooperation. Third, Baku’s readiness to work in collaboration with international society makes the peace process transparent. Apparently, the peace process is slowly and gradually moving in the right direction. Hopefully, the goal of restoration of diplomatic ties and complete normalization of bilateral relations will be achieved. Peace and stability in the Caucasus will benefit the region.
Note: Dr. Ashfaq Ahmed is serving as an Assistant Professor Department of Politics and International Relations (DPIR) University of Sargodha Pakistan. He was a research fellow at the School of Public & International Affairs (SPIA) Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy (ADA) University Baku Azerbaijan.
Qamar Abbas is an M.Phil Scholar at the Department of Politics and International Relations (DPIR) University of Sargodha, Pakistan.
The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk (DND). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk News Agency.