TODAY.AZ / Politics

Beware Of Greeks Bearing Gifts: S Caucasus facing risk

14 April 2024 [20:10] - TODAY.AZ
By Talya Iscan, AZERNEWS

This expression, known for centuries, symbolizes the idea of distrust of supposedly friendly gestures by those who may be hiding secondary intentions or dangers.

The South Caucasus is becoming a new platform for confrontation and clashes, which is worrying. The recent special meeting in Brussels between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan underscores the attention that major world powers are paying to Armenia, a nation of just 2 million people in the South Caucasus. This interest may come as a surprise to some, but not to those familiar with recent Western movements in this peace-seeking region.

It is obvious that Azerbaijan has expressed its dissatisfaction with this initiative, interpreting it as an attempt to incite in Armenia and divide the South Caucasus, including the isolation of Azerbaijan. Also interesting was the quick and direct reaction of another regional power, Turkey, which called the meeting an attempt to undermine the neutral approach that should be the basis for solving complex problems in the region.

Turkey has warned that any initiative that excludes Azerbaijan risks turning the South Caucasus into a zone of geopolitical confrontation instead of serving peace. Following these reactions, both Blinken and von der Leyen rushed to call Azerbaijani leader Ilham Aliyev to explain that the initiative was not aimed at Azerbaijan and that the goal was to help Armenia's economy. Is the meeting masquerading as a meeting on economic interests truly aimed at cooperation or is it just divisive rhetoric tearing the region apart? Do we hear Europe talking about “alarming” scenarios, which in fact do not exist, in order to arm Armenia and push it away from Russia, in order to control the South Caucasus zone under the influence and interference of the West?

However, it is difficult to believe in selfless feelings on the part of the West, especially after the daring actions of French President Macron, both in support, including military, of Armenia, and in his aggressive statements about the deployment of French troops in Ukraine to openly confront Russia.

This is confirmed by social media posts by the French ambassador in Yerevan, who stated that “France has military weapons that everyone wants to have, and France is providing them to Armenia,” demonstrating France’s overly aggressive position in the Caucasus.

At the same time, some European countries see these positions as dangerous and recognize the important role of Azerbaijan as a partner of the EU, especially in the energy sector as a key partner. For example, Italy's deputy foreign minister acknowledged the importance of Azerbaijan and criticized his French counterpart's statement as unhelpful, suggesting that it would be more appropriate and necessary for the French minister not to jeopardize the efforts of many who are moving intelligently toward a final peace settlement in the region.

It is clear that the West's attempts to alienate Armenia from its historical and most important ally, Russia, are creating another area of tension between major Western countries and Russia. In turn, the Armenian government is trying to benefit from this situation, positioning itself as a potential Western outpost against Russia and Iran.

Russia's reaction was not long in coming, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov calling the Armenian Prime Minister's statement about freezing its participation in the CSTO (a collective security organization controlled by Russia) an unfriendly step that jeopardizes the allied relations between the two countries. Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, noted that the EU mission in Armenia, which they describe as a civilian mission to control the borders of that country, is in fact a NATO mission, since Canada is also included in it.

Although the reaction from another regional power and long-term ally of Armenia, Iran, has not been as visible, there are many signs indicating that the Iranians have categorically warned the Armenian government against this Western offensive. After Azerbaijan regained control of its territories that had been under Armenian occupation for decades, the region has seen new and real hope and development towards long-term peace. New regional cooperation platforms such as the “3+3” (Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia, Russia, Turkey and Iran) are emerging and first meetings are being held, while the final peace agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia is still being negotiated.

While Armenia still must overcome legal and constitutional obstacles to renounce territorial claims against its neighbors and achieve final peace, recent events and Western attempts point to a very dangerous trend toward fragmentation of the South Caucasus region as the scene of yet another confrontation between the West and Russia, with subsequent possible “Syrianization” of Armenia, which means undermining Armenian sovereignty.

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