The establishment of a Stability and Cooperation Pact in the South Caucasus is an idea that dates back to the end of the 1990s, when the countries of the region had just regained their state independence. Proposed by former Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev at the OSCE Istanbul Summit, the initiative aimed to facilitate the settlement of regional disputes and ensure peace, security and stability in the region.
It was a requested initiative for the peoples of the South Caucasus who have long suffered from ethno-territorial conflicts, violence, instability and economic turmoil. This is the reason why the former president’s proposal was supported not only by Turkish President Suleiman Demirel, but also by the heads of the other two South Caucasus states, President Robert Kocharyan of Armenia and President Edward Shevardnadze of Georgia.
However, despite this consensus on the need to establish a pact on peace, security and stability in the South Caucasus, there was a major obstacle which it was not then possible to overcome. The former Azerbaijani head of state declared that “there is a condition” for the realization of these proposals: “It is the solution of the conflicts in the South Caucasus in the first place … Armenia must liberate the territories occupied Azerbaijan and over a million Azerbaijanis. The internally displaced must return home.
The parties, unfortunately, failed to make a breakthrough in the settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. For Azerbaijan, it is unacceptable to establish relations with Armenia as long as 20% of the internationally recognized territories of the country remain under its illegal occupation.
The idea of a regional cooperation platform was put back on the agenda in the wake of the resolution of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict and the liberation of the latter’s occupied territories in the autumn of last year. The trilateral declaration signed by the leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia on November 10 was more than just a ceasefire agreement. Not only did he cease the fire, but also declared that the parties were ready to open up regional transport and communication routes and, as such, laid the foundations for lasting peace and security.
On this basis, on December 10, 2020 in Baku, during a press conference with his Turkish counterpart President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev suggested creating a new platform for cooperation in the region. He proposed to combine the existing cooperation platforms (Turkey-Azerbaijan-Georgia, Azerbaijan-Russia-Iran, Turkey-Russia-Iran) and to unite them in a single framework of six.
To this end, the Azerbaijani side has repeatedly declared its readiness to normalize relations with Armenia and to sign a peace treaty recognizing the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the other.
A similar initiative has been taken by the Turkish side. President Erdogan called on Armenia to relaunch talks on the normalization of interstate relations based on trust, including respect for individual territorial integrity and sovereignty. Although Yerevan has yet to respond positively to calls from Baku, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s government has been more receptive to messages from Turkish leaders.
However, as also shown by the conditions proposed by President Erdogan, the recognition of the territorial integrity of each will constitute one of the pillars of regional cooperation in the region. Having long made territorial claims against Azerbaijan and Turkey, Armenia is now expected by its neighbors to make appropriate changes in its foreign policy and denounce those claims which have brought no good neither to Armenians nor to other peoples. of the region.
In his interview with Turkish television channel CNN Turk on August 14, President Ilham Aliyev reiterated this call, saying: “If Armenia is ready for this, if it is ready to recognize the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan , which is recognized by the whole world, then, of course, long-term peace will come to the region, “adding that” a specific proposal to achieve this [long-term peace] are already on the table ”.
It is therefore hoped that the normalization of Turkey-Armenia relations will also have a positive impact on easing tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The reopening of transport routes will likely serve as another inspiration and confidence building between the two countries. It is important for the Armenian government and its society to note that not only peace and security as well as economic development and prosperity in Armenia and the wider region are inextricably linked to the restoration of peaceful relations with the neighbors. States in the region must therefore rejoice in the historic opportunity offered by the post-war negotiations and build a better future for their people.
Vasif Huseynov, Principal Researcher at the Baku-based Center for Analysis of International Relations (AIR Center), especially for News.Az
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