by Ashot Safaryan
Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan has become the first and still the only president in the South Caucasus to support the Crimean referendum by calling it the exercise of the right of peoples' right to self-determination, Russian political expert Stanislav Tarasov says in his article published by REX news agency.
According to Tarasov, unlike Sargsyan, Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili thinks that "Crimea's unification with Russia may threaten the global order established after World War II" and he urges "the whole international community to assess the current situation calmly and crucially at the same time". As regards Azerbaijan, Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan Elmar Mammadyarov said, "We call for settlement of the conflict in Ukraine with due regard for the country's Constitution. Our country itself came across aggression, which resulted in occupation of our territories". So, in Baku's opinion, Moscow is an "aggressor" and it "has occupied Crimea". Nevertheless, the authorities did not allow the World Azerbaijani Congress to picket Russia's Embassy in Baku "to support the territorial integrity of Ukraine and to protest against Russia's actions in Crimea", whereas Stepanakert marked Crimea's self-determination at the state level.
Tarasov points out that if Georgia and Azerbaijan, which do not support Crimea's return to Russia, are called pro-Western, then Armenia and Karabakh have made their strategic choice in Russia's favor. Now the intrigue is whether the Crimean incident will be applied to the Karabakh problem. Actually, many understand the unique nature of the reasons and the domestic and foreign circumstances that have led to such an unexpected outcome of the "Maidan revolution".
"Many experts point at the UN Court's advisory opinion on Kosovo as an argument in favor of Karabakh and Crimea. That opinion created a precedent and was included in the European international law. Now it may refresh the Karabakh peace process within the OSCE Minsk Group format, which remains the only international mechanism in the Karabakh peace process. No wonder that according to media reports, "in a telephone conversation with Putin, Sargsyan confirmed Armenia's willingness to continue the joint work with the OSCE MG Co-Chairs". In the meantime, it should be admitted that the steadiness of that mechanism was mostly based on the fact that the US and its European partners were playing the Karabakh card in their own interests. What will happen if the West, which has singed its wings by Crimea, restarts advocating the "old" standards of international law and giving high priority to the principle of territorial integrity? What if it joins Azerbaijan's side in the Karabakh peace process because Armenia has joined Russia's side and decided to join the Customs Union?" the author says.
Tarasov says that theoretically this maneuver is already being carried out with regard to Ukraine, but it is difficult to do that in practice, because the peoples' right to self-determination tends to prevail in Europe, e.g. in Catalonia, Scotland, Transylvania, etc. Nevertheless, Armenia is in a hard situation. Trying to avoid military confrontation with Azerbaijan, it refrained or refused to recognize the independence of Karabakh along with the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In the meantime, Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said that Yerevan wants to ensure the Karabakh people's right to live and create in their own land exclusively in the peaceful way.
Tarasov wonders how Armenia can do that if it may be put on the "black list" of the West by supporting its key military and political ally - Russia. On the other hand, the expert thinks that Russia's opportunities to conduct its previous balanced policy with respect to Azerbaijan and Armenia will be reduced.
Tarasov thinks that there is one more scenario: the agreement on creation of the Eurasian Union must be ready by May 1 and Armenia intends to sign the agreement on accession to the Customs Union in early May. Yerevan will join the Customs Union without Karabakh. Earlier Baku placed a stake on Astana, which was going to lay down "special conditions" related to Karabakh for Yerevan's accession to the Customs Union. In December 2013 President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev said in Moscow that the question about the Customs Union borders hangs in the air for Astana because of the Karabakh conflict. Now Kazakhstan and Armenia support the Crimean policy of Russia and become not only trade and economic partners, but also military and political allies.
"In case Azerbaijan gives its preference to the Customs Union, which is low probable, a new combination with the future status of Karabakh will arise. Anyway, the Transcaucasus is entering a phase of dynamic processes and it is rather hard to predict their consequences", says Tarasov. It is time for everyone to make a historical choice, he says.