BAKU: Paper weighs Azerbaijan’s benefits from situation in Armenia

Paper weighs Azerbaijan’s benefits from situation in Armenia

Zerkalo, Baku
14 Apr 04

The Azerbaijani daily Zerkalo has said Azerbaijan could have used the
situation in Armenia “to at least partially change the situation in
the conflict zone”. The paper sees no reason for Azerbaijani society
to rejoice at the possible power change in Armenia as the opposition
has a “tougher’ stance on Karabakh than President Robert Kocharyan.
The following is an excerpt from report by R. Mirqadirov in
Azerbaijani newspaper Zerkalo on 14 April headlined “Power change in
Armenia” and subheaded “What a point for us to be happy”; subheadings
in the text have been inserted editorially

The situation in Armenia is uncertain. Another “velvet revolution” in
the South Caucasus is seemingly approaching. Not thinking about
consequences and holding the logic “the worse for them, the better for
us”, many people in Azerbaijan are inspired by the events in Yerevan.
Strangely, a sober analysis demonstrates that neither preserving the
incumbent “throne” nor coming of the new authorities will be good for

“Weak” Kocharyan to come under pressure from the West and Russia

Let us start with a scenario whereby [Armenian President] Robert
Kocharyan manages to withstand the opposition pressure and to preserve
power in his hands. If the situation develops according to this
scenario, Kocharyan’s power will be very weak and susceptible to both
internal and external pressure. Some people believe that Azerbaijan
will benefit from the existence of a weaker leader in Armenia. It is
alleged that the positive aspect of this is the fact that the Yerevan
government will find itself under strong external pressure which can
make Kocharyan take a more realistic position on the Karabakh issue.

But at the same time these people forget that countries of the South
Caucasus, especially Armenia, come under external pressure not just
from one party. Along with the USA and the EU, which are interested
in any settlement of the conflict, Russia can also make a significant
impact on Armenia. But Moscow’s policy in the region is often aimed at
counterbalancing the West. The essence of this policy is in the
formula “what is beneficial to the USA and the EU is against Russia’s

In addition, Russia can continue to play its peace-making role in
future as well especially as the official position of the OSCE Minsk
Group co-chairmen is that the international mediators will be prepared
to back any scenario of the peaceful settlement of the Karabakh
conflict to be agreed by the conflicting sides. This position enables
Russia to constantly torpedo coordination of any peace proposals with
the help of the Yerevan government, keeping somewhat aloof.

The most interesting point is that there is no need for inventing
anything new. The Yerevan government should simply stand firm – “no to
a stage-by-stage scenario and no to Karabakh within Azerbaijan”. If
the Yerevan government follows this position, the peace talks might
continue forever. It costs the Kremlin nothing to get this out of the
weak Kocharyan authorities.

Opposition to use Kocharyan’s own weapon against him

Even if weak Kocharyan agrees to constructive concessions on the
Karabakh issue under pressure from the West, the opposition in the
country can use this against him. The position on the Karabakh
settlement of the current leaders of the Armenian opposition is much
tougher than Kocharyan’s. They are against the Karabakh clan which
usurped the power in Yerevan. If the Armenian president agrees to
concessions, the opposition may decide to use his own weapon against
Kocharyan because in his time the latter achieved [Armenian
ex-President] Levon Ter-Petrosyan’s resignation by accusing him of
inadmissible concessions on Karabakh.

Kocharyan’s presidency itself demonstrates that Armenia’s weak
authorities will be unable to conclude a peace accord on Karabakh.
Kocharyan was ready to sign a peace agreement before the terrorist act
in the Armenian parliament [in October 1999]. But after that, when he
was accused of organizing the terrorist act and his power weakened as
a consequence, Kocharyan rejected all previous agreements.

Kocharyan may provoke hostilities

On the contrary, under the circumstances Kocharyan may provoke the
beginning of hostilities in the conflict zone to somewhat neutralize
the opposition in the country. After all, in the absence of constant
monitoring of the contact line between the armed forced of the
conflicting sides it would actually be impossible to determine who
made the first shot. After the beginning of the commotion the sides
will be able to make endless claims that they cede to each other the
right of the first shot, as it was the case during the 100-year war
between France and England. But any defeat in this case would mean an
end to Kocharyan.

Baku unlikely to benefit from power change in Armenia

Under the circumstances Azerbaijan is unlikely to benefit from the
power change in Armenia. First, according to the above, the stance of
the Armenian opposition on Karabakh is probably tougher than

Second, the power change in Armenia as was the case during “the velvet
revolution” in Georgia, will be assessed by the West as a victory for
democracy. In a word, Azerbaijan will then be the only undemocratic
country in the South Caucasus given the Western standards.

[Passage omitted: more of the same and example from Israel’s history
and recap of ex-President Heydar Aliyev time]

Azerbaijan is not planning to start hostilities

Azerbaijan could have used the current situation to its own ends, it
seems it will not do so however. Armenia is in deep political crisis
which also applies to the armed forces. We will hardly have such a
chance again to at least partially change the situation in the
conflict zone for our benefit. But as the Azerbaijani-Turkish
declaration signed yesterday [13 April] in Ankara says, we are going
to settle the conflict “by peaceful means” and with respect for
territorial integrity… [ellipsis as published].