Armenia was not successful in modifying the format of negotiations, and it was Baku’s diplomatic success, Ilham Aliyev said, noting that there has been no progress towards negotiations.
As Aliyev hails Azerbaijan’s diplomatic success, he points at Azerbaijan’s diplomatic retreat. In fact, throughout 2019 Baku has pushed back Yerevan’s attempt to return Artsakh to negotiations. Hence, Yerevan put forth queries while Baku tried to block them. Also, as Yerevan announced that Artsakh is a subject and without Artsakh negotiations are useless on 9 May 2018, the Azerbaijani president hints that Azerbaijan has “successfully” countered Yerevan’s effort for already two years.
At the same time, success is highly conditional if we consider that Azerbaijan has started speaking to Artsakh in an informal, indirect way.
In particular, the foreign minister of Artsakh, the candidate for president of Artsakh Masis Mayilyan told Radio Liberty that the relatives of the Azerbaijani saboteurs sentenced in Artsakh and the relatives of the Armenian hostages in Azerbaijan will soon be able to visit them. The sides have reached such an agreement through the OSCE mediation.
This is the second such arrangement after the mutual visit of journalists where Artsakh is involved at the level of its foreign ministry. And though this is happening with collaboration between informal delegations and with the OSCE mediation, one can see the ice is melting.
The process is happening in the framework of agreements reached during the Pashinyan-Aliyev meeting in Vienna in early 2019.
Baku finds it extremely difficult to shift to this regimen, though when there is no alternative, the military blackmail has run into a deadlock, nothing else is left. In this context, the only thing left to do is to present prevention of Yerevan from returning Artsakh to the table of the talks as a diplomatic success.
The point is that Yerevan does not need a quick return of Artsakh to the negotiations. After all, Artsakh as a subject allows for flexibility when it comes to escaping the trap of negotiations over the principles of Madrid. The factor of Artsakh is liquid not only around the table of talks.
In this context, Yerevan needs to retain the political-military balance that will keep Baku in the standstill of the military blackmail.
Let Azerbaijan resist successfully to the return of Artsakh, the longer, the better. And in 2020 Armenian diplomacy will mark its next success when Aliyev announces at the end of the year that in 2020 they prevented the Armenian side from changing the format of talks. It is possible that announcer will change.