The trilateral statement of 11 January is necessary for economic stability and prosperity in the region - Experts | Eurasia Diary -

4 March, Thursday

The trilateral statement of 11 January is necessary for economic stability and prosperity in the region - Experts

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The new geopolitical circumstances emerging in the South Caucasus as a result of the Second Karabakh War could bring about inclusive, effective and productive regional cooperation rather than  competition.  Permanent peace, harmony and firm security are important pre-requisites leading up to the economic stability and prosperity in the region, experts say.

On 11 January, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, President of Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan signed the next trilateral statement following four hours meeting in Moscow. In the statement there are four paragraphs all of which specify the unblocking of all economic and transport communication lines between Armenia and Azerbaijan as well as ensure the strengthening of security in the region.

Eurasia Diary took comments from experts about the perspectives of the next trilateral statement for economic cooperation and the peace process in the South Caucasus.   

Rusif Huseynov, from the Baku-based Topchubashov Centre considered that the trilateral statement was designed to cement the 10 November peace deal and prevent another large-scale flare-up in the region soon.

“Although many questions that concern Armenian and Azerbaijani societies were not addressed in the post-meeting document, the unblocking of communication lines in the region emerged as the key issue,” he said.

According to him, Moscow is more interested in restoring communication lines between Armenia and Azerbaijan. 

“Russia seems interested to get access to Armenia and its military base in Karabakh through Azerbaijan, while Baku wants to secure a land corridor to its Nakhchivan exclave. Armenia can also find advantages, if she wants, from this new reality by getting its borders with both Azerbaijan and Turkey unblocked,” he noted.

The trilateral meeting mostly served to the economic perspectives of the future. However, economic stability is the only way to forward. The region needs to achieve stability through interdependence and prosperity, said Turan Gafarli, researcher at the TRT World Centre, while touching upon the necessity of the 11 January statement.

According to his view, economic ties will not only connect Armenia and Azerbaijan but other regional powers as well.  

 “The restoration of transport roads will serve greater projects that may connect East to the West and North to the South. Therefore, any economic development after achieving ceasefire in Karabakh will create hope to sustain the peace. Thus, the outcome of the meeting on Monday is an important step forward and will lead to the creation of working groups that will design the new economic future of the region,” he said.

“As 2021 opened, it was absolutely necessary for this tripartite meeting between the Azerbaijani and Russian Presidents and Armenian Prime Minister,” said Neil Watson, British journalist.

According to Watson, much of the Armenian population were vehemently against the signing of the peace agreement and wanted the conflict to continue. He considered that Armenians have to understand that the Armenian economy has been negatively impacted by the illegal occupation of Azerbaijani territories, leading to the closure of the borders with Azerbaijan and Turkey and resulting in overt economic reliance on Russia.  

It should be noted that with the aim of implementing 9 clause of 10 November statement, Armenia has to provide for transport communications between the western regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic in order to organize unhindered movement of citizens, vehicles and goods in both directions, while the responsibility of Azerbaijan to provide for communication links between Armenia and Russia.

The impacts of the statement of 11 January on the Armenia-Azerbaijan Peace Process

Touching upon the impacts of the statement of 11 January on the solution of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, Huseynov said that Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to form a joint group to solve different issues.

“Apart from that another noteworthy moment was the joint group Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to form in order to address important issues. Perhaps more joint groups at expert level would finally reduce the bellicose atmosphere, enhance more dialogue and seek solutions to complicated matters at the table,” he stressed.

The most overtly 'political' impact of the agreement is that it sets in stone the new nature of the 'status quo' in the relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia, said Watson, while underlining a necessity of trilateral statement to the peace process.

“Armenians are now moving beyond wartime and immediately post-war footing, based on emotion and poverty. They are now agreeing a roadmap for the future through diplomacy, rather than bullets and cluster bombs,” he noted.

“By 20 January, the working group, co-chaired by the Deputy Prime Ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia and Deputy Chairman of the Russian government, will formulate a plan of transportation links in the liberated regions who, in turn, will initiate and instruct expert subgroups. This devolution of responsibility will see representatives of the three countries working together for the common good for the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union,” he added.

The attitude of Turkey and Iran to trilateral statement

Another important point is that regional powers, especially Turkey and Iran’s role in the recent geopolitical developments in the South Caucasus after the Second Karabakh war. 

Gafarli said that Turkey is delighted to have a direct transport link to Azerbaijan.

“The old railway that passes through Karabakh will be restored and connected to the new one built from Igdir to Nakhichevan. Turkish trucks and trade routes will be independent of Iran’s transit fees which will boost the economy. The so-called Nakhichevan corridor will foster relations between Baku and Ankara while also decreasing the security concerns of Azerbaijan,” he said.

“On the other hand, Iran is losing the transit role in between Turkey and Azerbaijan including a massive income. However, Iran will also gain new routes with Armenia and Russia which can be considered as a win. Therefore, the statement can be a win-win for aforementioned countries if there will be no tricky games,” he added.

According to the view of Huseynov, both Turkey and Iran still acknowledge how sensitive a region the South Caucasus is for Russia and would treat the Moscow meeting and the joint statement accordingly.

“Turkey, while challenging Russia overtly throughout the 44-day war, should be more or less satisfied with the statement as it envisages more efforts for the unblocking of communication lines in the region. Very interested in acquiring a secure and shorter overland corridor through Meghri, Turkey and Azerbaijan can strengthen bilateral economic relations and diminish the dependence of their direct trade on Iran or Georgia,” he said.

Huseynov also underlined that Iran is amongst the ultimate losers of the post-war order in the region.

“Unlike many other actors, Iran has gained nothing but a stronger Turkic alliance along its northern province predominantly inhabited by the Turkic population. Moreover, the communication lines that may develop in the South Caucasus seem to benefit Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Russia, leaving an already internationally isolated Iran aside and mitigating its role as a potential transport corridor,” he added.

Does the implementation of the 11 January statement depend on the full settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?

Some experts claim that the reopening of the economic and transport communication lines between Armenia and Azerbaijan would be impossible without the full settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Explaining the reasons why the peaceful solution of Karabakh conflict failed, Gafarli underlined that the continuing political interests of Russia over the region will not let the Karabakh problem to exist just in a few months.

“Moscow will try to exploit the conflict in the upcoming years as well. Therefore, besides the full settlement in Karabakh, Armenia and Azerbaijan need to agree to create bilateral relations without Russian interference. This would be the first step to build mutual trust to achieve the full settlement in Karabakh. Otherwise, the region will continue to suffer from Russian interventions and political ambitions,” he said.

However, Watson regards that the full settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is a necessary prerequisite before complete restoration of economic and transportation communications between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

For him, this would have been impossible without further continuation of the Second Karabakh War and more bloodshed.

“It is far better that the negotiations and roadmaps for rebuilding are developed now, breaking down real and imagined barriers between the parties,” he said.

Written by Yunis Abdullayev

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