From 'Non-Aggression' to a South Caucasus Conference

31.01.24 16:55

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan recently announced that Yerevan has proposed a 'non-aggression pact' to Baku.


Pashinyan stated that they have also suggested border demilitarisation, mutual arms control, and the signing of a non-aggression pact if the peace treaty takes longer than expected.


The Armenian Prime Minister stated that Yerevan has no territorial claims beyond its sovereign territory and is willing to provide guarantees to that effect. However, he also expects similar guarantees from Baku.


It should be noted that Armenia currently occupies eight Azerbaijani villages, which is not in line with international law. Referring to these villages as 'enclaves' is misleading. Only three out of the eight occupied Azerbaijani villages are enclaves, with two located in the Gazakh region and one in the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. The remaining five villages in the occupied Gazakh district of Azerbaijan are not enclaves and can be returned without any issues. However, it appears that the authorities in Yerevan lack the desire to return the territories that do not belong to them.


Pashinyan offered a 'non-aggression' agreement without mentioning the liberation of Azerbaijani villages. However, Armenia proposed 'mirror withdrawal of troops from the border' as one of several security guarantee mechanisms.


"The border became a state border in accordance with the 1991 Alma-Ata Declaration, and on 6 October 2022 in Prague, Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to recognize each other's territorial integrity on this basis." Pashinyan explained that the mirror withdrawal would allow all territories of the Azerbaijani SSR to be under the control of Azerbaijan and all territories of the Armenian SSR to be under the control of Armenia.


However, Armenia's continued occupation of eight Azerbaijani villages has already violated all the principles of the 1991 Alma-Ata Declaration. The question remains: from which 'border' should we withdraw our troops? Should it be from the line of Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani territories? However, it should be noted that legalising such an occupation is the intended outcome.


It is important to remember that the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia was initiated by Armenia's attack on Azerbaijani territory. As a result of this attack, Azerbaijani Karabakh was occupied, over 1 million indigenous people were expelled, and approximately 20% of Azerbaijan's territory was occupied. The 44-day war was, in fact, a war of liberation.


Today's proposal by Pashinyan for a 'non-aggression pact' with Azerbaijan bears a striking resemblance to the proposals made by the separatists of Sukhumi and Tskhinvali, as well as the Russian Federation's occupation of the respective Georgian territories, to sign a similar agreement between Tbilisi and the separatists. It is important to note that the use of biased language has been avoided and the text has been restructured to ensure a logical flow of information. However, this agreement was named 'On non-use of force' and aimed to establish both the separatist status and occupation.


This proposal by the separatists was recently addressed in November 2023 by Paata Zakareishvili, a conflictologist and expert on regional, foreign, and domestic policy of Georgia. Zakareishvili, who served as the Minister of Reconciliation and Civil Equality from 2012-2016, has extensive knowledge of the issue.


Below is an excerpt from Zakareishvili's introduction on the subject:


"The Abkhaz have been requesting that Georgia sign an agreement with them on the non-use of force for years. However, Georgia has responded that Russian troops are present in the region. Therefore, the logic of signing such an agreement with Abkhazians on non-use of force and non-resumption of war when Russian tanks are present is questionable.


Abkhazia does not have any tanks to stop them.


Additionally, it should be noted that Turkey is a member state of NATO. Georgia aspires to join NATO, and Turkey also borders the Black Sea.


It may be necessary to invite a Turkish peacekeeping contingent. Currently, Turkish forces are stationed in Kosovo, which is an EU topic.


By strengthening Turkey's presence, we can send a message to Russia that it should not interfere, as the presence of Turkish forces serves as a NATO defence.


Turkey and Azerbaijan recently signed an agreement on joint defence of airspace. It is worth considering whether Georgia should also be included in this agreement. Rather than publicly complaining about standing alone against Russia, our authorities should seek partnerships.


  Turkey and Azerbaijan have planned 16 military exercises for this year. It is worth considering our participation and informing Russia that our security is not threatened due to our alliance with Turkey, a state that is accountable to and friendly with Russia.


A meeting with Abkhazians can be arranged quickly, for example in Istanbul or Vienna. Guarantees can be offered to ensure their safety and security. During the meeting, it can be communicated that they are alone and that there are no Russians present.


 It should be acknowledged that recognition is unlikely as neither Georgia nor the international community will recognise them.


Let's discuss a common state. I suggest a federation model that should be completed by now.


We can publish this model in a media resource by December 2023. We can say to Abkhazians, 'This is our proposal, a project. We can say to Abkhazians, 'This is our proposal, a project. Let's collaborate on it, regardless of your personal opinion.'»


The proposal is interesting in principle. Broad analogies can be drawn not only for Abkhazians and Ossetians in Georgia but also for Azerbaijan and Armenia. 


If non-aggression is desired, all foreign troops must be withdrawn from the territory, including those that are being persistently drawn into the region, such as French troops. Additionally, the population of Armenia is already dissatisfied with these new allies. The public is outraged at the authorities for allowing two French soldiers from the EU monitoring mission's 'escort' to rape and brutally beat a high school girl in Kafan without consequences.


Turkish peacekeepers could potentially help resolve the situation on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. While the Armenian authorities may currently feel uneasy about working with Turkey, cooperation with the country may be necessary for the future of the Armenian people.


After resolving the 'non-aggression' issue, the question of how to move forward becomes paramount. It is evident that Armenia cannot survive long-term in a state of blockade with restricted communication. However, there is a mechanism that can unblock communication in the South Caucasus and create opportunities for economic cooperation and joint development among the region's countries: a confederation.  


If Georgia were to offer Abkhazia a confederation within a single state after the de-occupation of the territory, it would be possible to establish a confederation of three countries in the South Caucasus region while preserving the independence and sovereignty of all participants. Two attempts at such a confederation have already been made. The first was in 1918 at the dawn of independence for the South Caucasus countries, and the second was after the 'sovietisation' of the South Caucasus in 1922 within the Bolshevik USSR. Today, all three countries have become independent states to a greater or lesser extent, making a third historical attempt at a confederation possible.

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