Merkel changes Nagorno-Karabakh rhetoric

Mikhail Belyaev, exclusively for Vestnik Kavkaza
Merkel changes Nagorno-Karabakh rhetoric

Speaking September on 14 in Lithuania, German Chancellor Angela Merkel accused Moscow of destabilizing situation in the post-Soviet space. "We see that almost all former Soviet republics that are not part of the EU and NATO are affected by the conflicts provoked by Russia," Merkel said. All these countries, according to head of German government, have problems restoring their territorial integrity, since Russia "separated parts of these territories" by "provoking conflicts." "I recently visited Georgia, and it simply lost parts of its territory - South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Moldova has problem with Transnistria, there's also issue of Eastern Ukraine. Armenia and Azerbaijan are dealing with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. So all these countries are trying to restor their territorial integrity, "Angela Merkel said.

Chancellor's rhetoric when it comes Moscow is nothing new, it's similar to overall western approach to secession conflicts in the post-Soviet space. However, there's interesting shift in Germany's position on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The thing is that Merkel's statement is somewhat strange due to the fact that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is usually viewed differently compared to conflicts in Georgia, Moldova or Ukraine. Even in recent past, Western politicians preferred to view Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria and Donbass/Crimea in the same way, so there was similar position on all these conflicts - unquestionable necessity of restoration of integrity of Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. When it comes to Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, West's position wasn't as clear - politicians always said that the OSCE Minsk Group is responsible for the conflict settlement, that dialogue is needed, all kinds of other statements were made, but all these statements were very ambigous. In general, the West had similar attitude towards both occupying (Armenia) and occupied (Azerbaijan) sides. There were several reasons for that: the West wants to keep the door open for Christian Armenia, hoping that anti-Russian sentiments will grow at all levels of society and government. In order to take Yerevan out of Russia's orbit of influence, the European Union and the US are ready to turn a blind eye to Armenia's occupation of Azerbaijani territories - especially since Baku itself doesn't want to take pro-Western or anti-Russian stance, unlike Tbilisi, Kiev or Chisinau.

However, in her recent statement, Angela Merkel mentioned the Nagorno-Karabakh problem along with other territorial conflicts. Perhaps during her visit to Baku Merkel was informed about Azerbaijan's position that it's unacceptable to apply double standards when it comes to the Karabakh issue. Moreover, as a demonstration of its position on this matter, Azerbaijanis didn't allow deputy of the Bundestag and Armenian lobbyist Albert Weiler to enter the country. He visited South Caucasus as part of parliamentary delegation, accompanying Merkel. He was denied entry for repeatedly visiting Nagorno-Karabakh without previous agreements with Azerbaijani authorities.

And yet Baku should have no illusions and expect any serious changes in Western policy. After all, even now Merkel didn't blame Armenia for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, but Russia. How else can you understan the phrase "...Armenia and Azerbaijan are dealing with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, so all these countries are working on restoration of their territorial integrity"? This statement is essentially nothing more than an awkward attempt to not offend Armenian side. After all, when it comes to Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, only one country restores its territorial integrity - Azerbaijan. Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as Azerbaijani territory, not Armenian, it's recognized that it's under occupation, and famous resolutions of the UN Security Council say that it's occupied territory that belongs to Azerbaijan. So what did she mead by "all these countries"? Merkel definetely understands everything, but she tries to shift responsibility for Armenia's occupation policy to Russia.

Of course, there are various assessments of Moscow's role in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict - including extremely negative for the Russian Federation, which maintains allied relations with Armenia. However, Armenian forces are in Nagorno-Karabakh, which was confirmed by German government in response to parliamentary request of the Left faction. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan sends his son to serve in Nagorno-Karabakh, trying to present it as a "peace gesture". Saying that Moscow is responsible for such situation, but not say that Armenia is a direct occupant is nonsense.

As long as Germany and other EU countries will adjust their approaches to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict for the sake of their own foreign policy interests, and not international law, their criticism of Moscow seems simply unfair. And if they support territorial integrity of Azerbaijan solely in the context of confrontation betweeb the West and Russia, then it would be unreasonable to rely on them. In the end, it's necessary to understand that neither Russia, nor the European Union, nor the United States will return occupied territories to Azerbaijan. This goal can be achieved only by Azerbaijan itself, by strengthening its economic, diplomatic and military potential.