Swiss Ambassador to Armenia Lukas Gasser: Switzerland will try to contribute to a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict without questioning the established formats such as the OSCE Minsk process
Provision of the status of a European Union associate member to Armenia may considerably complicate the relations between Azerbaijan and Europe. However, the process of Armenia's European integration gives a common ground to Baku and Moscow and contributes to qualitative improvement of the Azerbaijani-Russian relations, Simon Manukian, a political expert from London, says in his interview with ArmInfo.
According to the European expert, this is proved by a number of facts, specifically, by the publicized talks of a high-ranking official at the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry and the Lithuanian Ambassador to Romania, who are saying that they support Armenia's stance in the Karabakh peace process in the prejudice of Azerbaijan. In addition, the Azeri authorities have been harshly refused by Lithuania's official representative to fix Moldavian Ombudsperson Aurelia Grigoriu's anti-Armenian statements about "Armenia's occupation of 20% of Azerbaijan's territory and the genocide in Khojalu" in the final act of the conference held in Yerevan in early July 2013 under the aegis of the European Union. Baku lobbied these statements through Moldova's ally Romania, which has an unlimited impact on Chisinau and has recently been actively supporting Baku in the Karabakh peace process in exchange for provision of Azeri energy resources and investments to Romania. However, these initiatives of Azerbaijan have successfully been neutralized by the lobbying efforts of Armenia and Armenian communities in Lithuania and other countries of Europe. Given that since 1 July 2013 Lithuania has been holding the Presidency of the EU and expressing the joint stance of all the EU member countries, the specified actions of the Lithuanian officials demonstrate that the European Union's interest in Azerbaijan is gradually diminishing.
The expert believes that the fact that the EU has offered a special status of trade relations to Nagorno Karabakh within Armenia's European integration also demonstrates that Brussels is inclined to support Armenia in the international arena. This exclusive regime fixed in the Armenia-EU Association Agreement will allow Stepanakert to join the EU common customs area and deliver its goods to the European market at reduced tariffs. This will contribute to enhancement of the economic and military strength of Nagorno Karabakh and its independent status in general. So, the signing of the Association Agreement between Yerevan and Brussels will be the European Union's symbolic recognition of the NKR's sovereignty through trade and economic instruments. One can say confidently that Armenia has smoked the competition against Azerbaijan for the attention and support of the EU. Simon Manukian thinks that one of the most important tasks of the Armenian leadership is to gain Azerbaijani officials' participation in the Eastern Partnership Summit in Lithuania in November 2013. The presence of at least one representative of the Azeri authorities during the initialing of the Armenia-EU Association Agreement in Vilnius will mean Baku's actual consent to the launch of the process of international recognition of the NKR's sovereignty under the aegis of Eastern Partnership. However, these unambiguously pro-Armenian political steps of the EU make Azerbaijan fly into Moscow's arms. Russia signed military contracts and agreements on promotion of cooperation with Baku in the field of mining and transportation of gas and oil resources to Europe on the threshold of the presidential elections in Azerbaijan. These agreements give an excellent opportunity to the Russian authorities to strengthen their influence on Azerbaijan. Moscow has realized at once that Armenia's European integration is a purely political project and is unlikely to bring any economic dividends to Yerevan in the near
future. In the meantime, Russia may no more have such chance to strengthen its positions in Azerbaijan. However, such a situation will seriously threaten Yerevan. The matter concerns Moscow's creation of an ad-hoc alliance with Baku and the possible admission of Tbilisi to that alliance following Georgian Dream's victory during the presidential elections in Georgia. If Russia starts conflicting with Armenia because of the latter's European integration, the Moscow-Baku-Tbilisi alliance will not be against the economic blockade of Yerevan, not to mention Azerbaijan's possible desire to dispose of Armenia with Russia's "hands"!
Manukian thinks that at the moment the EU high-ranking officials have no clear understanding of the instruments of Armenia's political reorientation and at the same time prevention of both deterioration of the relations with Baku and Russia's creation of an alliance with Azerbaijan and Georgia. The Armenian authorities should take into account these risks when signing agreements with the EU. Probably, the Armenian authorities will need to prepare and sign an additional agreement within the frames of the Association Agreement to spell out the parties' obligations in case of economic and military conflicts with Russia and the neighboring states, including resumption of armed hostilities in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict zone. The information leakage in Armenian expert Sergey Minasyan's recent statements about the ongoing Armenia-EU private negotiations on Nagorno-Karabakh's status following the signing of the Association Agreement is probably the evidence of discussion of the specified additional agreement within the Association Agreement.