On the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, at a plenary session on the South Caucasus on 19 February 2023, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan met. At the meeting, the Azerbaijani president outlined concrete plans to end separatism in Azerbaijan's Karabakh region once and for all and to establish lasting peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Following the trilateral meeting Ilham Aliyev stated that a peace treaty between Azerbaijan and Armenia must be based on international norms and principles, and any "provisions on Karabakh" are unacceptable in it.
Ilham Aliyev also stressed that there is no such administrative unit as "Nagorno Karabakh" in Azerbaijan. There is a Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, where there is an Armenian population. According to the President of Azerbaijan, a two-sector approach to the situation in the region is necessary. The first is peace talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia. The second is Azerbaijan's communication with the Armenian population of Karabakh.
According to Ilham Aliyev, Armenians living in the Karabakh region are citizens of Azerbaijan and the country's authorities are ready to start practical communications with representatives of the Karabakh Armenian community.
"Karabakh Armenians are citizens of Azerbaijan, they are a minority. Azerbaijan is a multinational country. And all minorities in Azerbaijan have equal rights and privileges, including cultural, linguistic and others, and their security is ensured. - Ilham Aliyev noted. Adding that Azerbaijan will start communicating with representatives of Karabakh Armenian community only if Ruben Vardanyan, a Russian citizen, criminal oligarch "a person involved in money laundering in Europe" will leave Azerbaijani territory. Which, by the way, he is on, completely illegally.
The Azerbaijani president has proposed the creation of checkpoints on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, in particular the checkpoint on the internationally recognized border in the Lachin region of Azerbaijan. This is where the Lachin road now runs, linking Armenia to areas of Azerbaijan populated by Armenians and so far under the responsibility of Russian peacekeepers.
This road is now blocked by Azerbaijan's environmentalists - the Azerbaijani public is demanding that the illegal exploitation of the Azerbaijani deposits in Karabakh be stopped. Once a full-fledged checkpoint is established on the road and the Azerbaijani customs authorities stop the illegal export of ore from Karabakh to Armenia, allowing legitimate peaceful cargoes and consumer goods through, the issue will be resolved.
But most importantly, the checkpoint in the Lachin district on the border with Armenia will once and for all destroy any preconditions for the "resuscitation" of the "Artsakh" separatist project. Azerbaijan will not allow any movement of weapons and extremists and political adventurers like Vardanian through the checkpoint. This will enable the Armenian population of Karabakh to integrate peacefully into Azerbaijani society and enjoy all the rights and opportunities of Azerbaijani citizens.
The separatism in the South Caucasus was initiated by Armenian extremists demanding "miasma of Artsakh" from Azerbaijan's Karabakh. The separatism in Georgia's Samachablo and Abkhazia, "on the Artsakh model", had already started after that. It is therefore important that in Karabakh this first separatist project in the region should be definitively and completely closed down.
The checkpoint on the Lachin road will help make this happen quickly and painlessly. This allows us in Georgia to look with hope in the near future that similar checkpoints will be established by Georgia on the border with Russia at the southern portal of the Roki tunnel in the Tskhinvali region and on the river Psou in Abkhazia. This will also make it possible to quickly eliminate separatist projects that brought so much grief and suffering to Ossetians, Abkhazians and Georgians alike.
It is symbolic that heads of all three states of the South Caucasus, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili spoke at the panel organized as part of the 59th Munich Security Conference. At the same time, we must not forget that it is Armenia and the Armenian lobby in the Russian Federation that have long been the main sponsors of separatism, which has led to tragedies not only in the South Caucasus but also in Ukraine.
Georgian Prime Minister Garibashvili did not casually mention the Russian aggression in Ukraine and stressed that the Russian-Ukrainian war had brought difficulties to everyone. He recalled that Europe and the world as a whole had not experienced such difficulties since World War II. Irakli Garibashvili noted that Georgia also had to face aggression and also fought against Russia in 2008. Russia occupied Abkhazia and South Ossetia, a part of the territory of Georgia, and established military bases on the occupied territories of Georgia.
Irakli Garibashvili said that Russia is now focused on Ukraine and stressed: "This is a destructive war. We must do everything we can to end this war. We have no alternative but peace.
Thus, Georgia, as the country which has suffered the most from separatism in the region, is objectively striving for a peaceful resolution based on the complete elimination of the bloody separatist projects. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev also noted that Azerbaijan supports the Tbilisi format of talks with Armenia, where Georgia is the mediator interested in peace between its neighbours.
By definition, this format is far more effective than the OSCE Minsk Group format, which the Armenian side insisted on recently. We should also remember that France played the most destructive role in the Minsk format, essentially creating conditions for the "legalisation" of border redrawing and ethnic cleansing and bringing the conflicts to a standstill. And not only in Karabakh. In the Russian aggression against Georgia in 2008, it was French "mediation" that resulted in Georgian territories being occupied to this day.
Such dubious "diplomacy" as in the framework of the OSCE Mission, which essentially encourages the aggressor and the occupier, has created a precedent of impunity for the aggressors and sponsors of separatism at the international level. Armenia has occupied 20% of Azerbaijani lands, in violation of UN requirements, but no sanctions have been applied to it so far.
The Azerbaijani leader pointed out that the OSCE Minsk Group had failed in 28 years, so now there was a platform organised by the US, Russia and the EU, based on which there was now a chance of establishing lasting peace in the region.
Interestingly, after the trilateral talks in Munich, the Armenian prime minister's office stated that it confirmed Armenia's determination to reach an agreement that "will truly guarantee long-term peace and stability in the region". That is to say, Yerevan no longer has any fundamental objections to the outlined progress in the peace process. This is also evidenced by the almost hysterical reaction of opponents of peace and supporters of the "Artsakh" separatist project from the "Karabakh clan".
The secretary of the Armenian National Assembly's 'I have honour' faction (led by former Armenian president Serzh Sargsyan), Tigran Abrahamian, wrote the following on his Facebook page:
"Both Armenia and Azerbaijan state that Armenia should withdraw from the 'Artsakh' negotiations and that a bilateral Azerbaijan-Artsakh format should operate.
The leaders of both Armenia and Azerbaijan believe that Yerevan and Baku should negotiate only on issues relating to the two countries; the 'Artsakh' issue has no place in these negotiations.
The approaches of Armenia and Azerbaijan regarding the status of "Artsakh" are also quite similar: "Armenians of Nagorny Karabakh" (Pashinian) and "Karabakh Armenians" (Aliyev).
It is true that Azerbaijan is also opposed to the wording 'Nagorny Karabakh', but for it this is not a substantive, ideological issue, but simply does not reflect the law on the administrative-territorial division of Azerbaijan.
Both the Azerbaijani and Armenian authorities view the problem of 'Artsakh' not in terms of status, the realisation of the right to self-determination or its international recognition, but in terms of the 'rights and freedoms of Armenians living in 'Artsakh'.
This is carte blanche in the hands of Azerbaijan; it can declare that it is ready to ensure the freedoms and rights of the Armenians living in 'Artsakh' and consider the issue closed....
On the key issues concerning 'Artsakh' the positions of the Armenian and Azerbaijani authorities were similar, only their formulation differed a little.
And the main concern of the Pashinian authorities is to convince the Armenian public that not they but others are surrendering "Artsakh".
And it did not matter who these "others" were - the "Artsakh people" who had been set up, Russia or the collective West.”
The fact that the Armenian MP writes such opuses is further evidence that the final "burial" of the "Artsakh" separatist project will occur in the near future. And it cannot be resuscitated even by swindlers and con men like Vardanyan.