BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
The leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia met in Moscow on Monday to hammer out the details of the November 9 agreement, which has already wreaked havoc on the lives of lay citizens in Armenia and Artsakh who have had to come face-to-face with Azerbaijani soldiers because of the uncertainties of the document.
After four hours, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev announced the signing of another agreement, this time regarding the steps to be taken to “unblock” transport routes in order to “normalize” economic and trade. In layman’s terms this means opening the border to Azerbaijan and allow Baku unimpeded access to Nakhichevan and Turkey.
Aliyev hailed Monday’s agreement, saying that after more than 30 years, Azerbaijan will have a transport connection through the territory of Armenia with its Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic, and Armenia through the territory of Azerbaijan will have a railway connection to Russia and Iran.
“We will also have access to the Turkish market through the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic, the Turkish and Russian railway arteries will be connected,” Aliyev said, adding that this can create a huge momentum for the development of the region and strengthen its security.
Pashinyan also hailed the agreement, saying that opening transport routes will increase investment and economic prosperity.
“I will not hide the fact that its [the agreement’s] implementation may simply change the economic image and appearance of our region,” said Pashinyan, expressing hope that economic reforms will become another “reliable guarantor of security” and will increase the investment attractiveness of the region.
The agreement signed on Monday gives the sides a little less than two months to consult “experts” and come up with a blueprint how this “unblocking” process is going to take place.
It seems Pashinyan will have to come up with more elaborate excuses to back up what he said before the Moscow meeting, which was that the words “Meghri” and “Nakhichevan corridor” were not included in the November 9 agreement. The words “Sotk,” “Kapan,” “Shurnukh” and “Hintagher” were also not included in the November 9 agreement, but the fact of the matter is residents of those areas in Armenia’s Syunik Province and Artsakh woke up one day to find Azerbaijani soldiers either violently attacking them or forcing them out of their houses and places of employment.
What officials are not talking about are the verbal agreements that were made during the Moscow meeting. A dangerous precedent was set during the implementation of the November 9 agreement that provisions—or concessions—not overtly listed in the document were forced upon Armenia, while Aliyev and Putin boasted that the “Karabakh conflict” is over and that discussion on Karabakh’s status are tabled until further notice.
Pashinyan lamented that during the four hours in Moscow, the issue of captives and prisoners of war was not discussed, with Putin and Aliyev alluding to their conviction that this critical matter had already been resolved.
Hundreds of people are still believed to be held captive by Azerbaijan and neither Moscow nor Baku have lifted a finger to properly resolve the fate of those military and civilian Armenians that are currently held captive and are probably enduring unimaginable atrocities and violations against them.
Ahead of Monday’s meeting, Aliyev called the Armenian POWs still in captivity in Azerbaijan “terrorists” and threatened to prosecute them to the fullest extent of Azerbaijan’s laws—not a comforting prospect for the relatives of captive Armenians who have been holding vigil at the government building only to get the runaround by Pashinyan and his government.
The most egregious threat from the Monday agreement is that Turkey will have free reign in the region and what Ankara wasn’t able to achieve through the failed Protocols process, it can do so without having to make one single concession.
As Lilit Galstyan, a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Supreme Council of Armenia, aptly stated: Pashinyan green-lighted Ankara’s pan-Turkic agenda.
What is clear is that by March 1, the deadline set for finalizing the “unblocking” process, Pashinyan will make more concessions as we have seen during the past two months. Because, apparently, what’s not in the agreement is what actually matters.