Days after an agreement that ended the Karabakh war was signed, more details are being unspooled not by Armenian leaders, but the architect of the deal: Moscow.
On Wednesday, Ankara and Moscow signed a defense deal that would create a joint command center to “monitor the Karabakh ceasefire,” officials said. Elated by this agreement, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Ankara would send its own troops to join the Russian peacekeeping forces who were under ground minutes after the ink was barely dry on the agreement.
On Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov seemed to categorically reject Erdogan’s assertions saying there would not be any Turkish peacekeepers in Karabakh. However, he said, Turkey and Russia will have a command center nearby, in Azerbaijan, “not close to Karabakh.”
“No peacekeeping units of the Turkish Republic will be dispatched to Nagorno-Karabakh. There is a clear provision on that issue in the joint statement of the leaders [of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia on complete termination of hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh],” said Lavrov at a press briefing on Thursday.
Instead, Lavrov explained, the activity of Turkish observers will be restricted to the area of a Russian-Turkish ceasefire control center which be established in Azerbaijan.
“The mobility of Turkish monitors will be restricted by the coordinates to be set for the location and deployment of the joint Russian-Turkish monitoring center in the territory of Azerbaijan, which will not be close to Karabakh and will be determined separately,” Lavrov added.
Lavrov said he had seen statements by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Defense Minister Hulusi Akar who said Turkish peacekeepers would be operating in the same areas as their Russian counterparts.
“This concerns the center that will be stationary and will operate without sending out any missions. It is true that at this center proper Russian and Turkish specialists jointly will be working together,” he said.
“The center will operate remotely, using technical means of monitoring, such as drones, which will make it possible to keep an eye on the situation on the ground in Karabakh and determine which side observes the ceasefire and which violates it,” he stated.
Moscow is certain that all parties are interested in Russian peacekeepers’ presence in Nagorno-Karabakh, the foreign minister stated. “We are fully confident that the parties are interested in the presence of Russian peacekeepers. We made a stipulation about the possibility of terminating their [peacekeepers] mandate, but let’s refrain from making any forecasts now. Let’s support Russian peacekeepers in fulfilling their very difficult and important mandate to make sure that peaceful life reigns in Karabakh, in the entire territory of that entity,” he said.
Lavrov warned that many critics, including those in Russia, were trying to distort the essence of the agreement reached by the three leaders.
“I am surprised as I read some comments by armchair critics in this country and in other countries around the world. One should be guided by what is written on paper and what is a result of intensive negotiations that had was being conducted for a week before the ceasefire,” Lavrov said, adding that there has been no evidence of either side violating the current agreement.
Russia’s top diplomat highlighted the positive effects of the agreement saying, “I’m sure that if we fulfill all that has been agreed to, everyone will win and this will be a win-win situation,” Lavrov said.
“I’m convinced that the Armenian government fully understands its responsibility and is aware that it has signed these agreements in the interests of its people. I’m convinced that the integrity of this agreement will be preserved and it will be fulfilled,” Lavrov noted.
“At least, I see numerous political forces in Armenia that understand what is happening now and draw the right conclusions from this,” the foreign minister said.