BY HAGOP A. KEUCHKARIAN
A few days ago, a draft of an “agreement” between the Republic of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the Russian Federation emerged on various Internet platforms. Hours after the publication of the document, the Acting Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan, addressing the National Assembly, stated that the signing of such a document would be 100% favorable to the interests of the Armenian side.
According to the first and second paragraphs of the proposed agreement, “in furtherance of efforts to strengthen long-term peace and stability,” it is necessary to define and delimitate the disputed borders between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which will take place through Russian mediation.
Despite the fact that the document is legitimate or not, its content, and the promises of the Prime Minister, even the discussion of the document, can be considered disappointing and miserable for the Armenian side.
Despite the appealing headlines of the above-mentioned document, the underlying facts include three main diplomatic encroachments, which can be defined under three broad headlines.
1- Negotiation Process
Theoretically, the main principle of “negotiations” is to create favorable and fair principles for all negotiating parties, around which the agreement of both parties and a sense of fairness are necessary and basic preconditions.
However, in practical terms, the Armenian side today does not control its destiny to fully participate in the negotiating process and implement its will in this process. In a series of statements, the dictator of Azerbaijan has already doomed all the principles and customs of the negotiation process, thus paving a sequence of negotiations which can only end in favor of the Azerbaijani side.
The content of this document and its future application is also to be looked at with the same criteria.
2- Status of the Artsakh Republic
The signing of this or any other comparable document is tantamount to legal recognition of Azerbaijan (including Syunik to the eastern part of southern Armenia, Artsakh) as a border state of the Republic of Armenia, confirming Artsakh’s status as an integral part of Azerbaijan’s territorial sovereignty.
3- The Unknown Fate of Captive Soldiers and Citizens
To understand the fate of the prisoners of war, we must recognize two main facts. First, it is obvious to all of us that the Armenian side has not yet achieved any significant success in the effort to secure the release of the prisoners. Secondly, Aliyev has made it clear that the main condition for the exchange of prisoners is the delimitation of borders and the establishment of long-term peace.
So, given the overall political-negotiation positions, what fate can be hoped for?
If the Armenian side fails to reach any negotiated success over the issue of its captured soldiers, before the signing of the agreement and the implementation of the border adjustments, the return of prisoners of war and their fate will remain uncertain and unknown.
In case the document is signed, the Azerbaijanis will have enough legitimacy in considering most of the prisoners of war to be citizens of Azerbaijan, and therefore having the right to treat them as “insurgents.”
More than 140 years ago, when Khrimian Hayrik, the Catholicos of All Armenians, returned empty-handed from the Berlin Conference, he told the story of his famous “Iron Bucket,” which introduced the notion that armed struggle is the only way for the salvation of the Armenians, which, since then, became the foundation for a new national purpose.
Today, the symbol of the “Iron Bucket is not even comprehensible. We live in a different political-historical environment. We have a state, and a diplomatic department that must play an important role next to the army.
Therefore, what is achieved by force is only kept by force. In addition to arms, we need effective diplomacy, science, economics, and a clear vision for the future on how to build the Armenian State.