Azerbaijan 5, Armenia 6 – But What Are the ‘Secret Points’?
The newly laid Victory Road "Zefer Yolu" snakes around mountains on its way to the city of Shusha, Azerbaijan. Image: Christian Frederiksen
Azerbaijan 5 points, Armenia 6 points.
That ‘score’ features widely in Caucasus media reports at present. But, no, we’re not talking predictions for next weekend’s Eurovision song contest.
The points in question here are the number of key conditions set out by each country as the basis of their respective plans to hone a lasting peace agreement in the wake of the 2020 Second Karabakh War.
Azerbaijan set forth its five points with considerable fanfare and clarity in a letter dated February 21, 2022, and made public on March 12. The letter, handled by mediators, had only reached Yerevan on March 10 for reasons that remain somewhat unclear.
Armenia is said to have six points to its own peace proposal. However, quite what these are has proved to be a mystery and the cause of considerable local media interest. Their existence first emerged on May 5 when referred to by Armen Grigoryan, secretary of Armenia’s National Security Council. He suggested then that Yerevan had not found Baku’s five points unacceptable but that a lasting solution would require “two packages, 5+6 points,” including acceptance of Armenia’s six points. But what are they?
Grigoryan was not explicit. He mentioned only that they include some form of “solution to the security, defence, and rights” of ethnic Armenians in Karabakh. Yerevan’s failure to more clearly list the complete set of points has led some to wonder why not. Questions grew further when it was revealed that this 5+6 plan had already been brought up in the Brussels talks of April 6, almost an entire month before the existence of the 6 points were publically mentioned.
Talking to Eurasianet, analyst Benyamin Poghosyan suggested that the Armenian authorities were afraid to publish their 6-point peace proposal in case they might “further destabilize the domestic political situation in Armenia.” He’s referring to a series of opposition-led demonstrations which have continued over several weeks and seen dozens of arrests. This unrest has been whipped up since comments made to parliament by Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan back on April 13. His statement back then said that due to the stance of the ‘international community,’ Armenians would need to lower their expectations on the status issue of Karabakh. For many, this signalled the unpalatable possibility that the Armenian government is prepared to accept Azerbaijani sovereignty over Karabakh. While fitting international law, such a move would prove highly unpopular with many Armenians who fear that a lack of protection for Armenian communities in Karabakh might follow.
Jeyhun Bayramov told reporters that Armenia's points were "not proposals, but reactions" to Azerbaijan's own.
The clearest hint about Yerevan’s six points came, curiously enough, from Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister, Jeyhun Bayramov. After all, Baku had been in possession of Yerevan’s 5+6 proposal for over a month. Bayramov suggested that, in fact, Armenia’s six points were less proposals than they were responses to Azerbaijan’s originals. The main point of disagreement was Yerevan’s hope to re-involve the OSCE Minsk Group as peace-making moderators. Baku considers this idea unworkable, not least because the “group is almost paralyzed” due to a breakdown of relations between co-Chairs following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Other points, Bayramov noted, were the need to stand by previous agreements and mutual recognition of territorial integrity. The devil will be in the detail.
Sustainable peace-making after any conflict is always a delicate dance with lots of behind-the-scenes work to ensure a treaty in which the victor is rewarded while sparing the loser such loss of face that no agreement can be sold to its people. However, getting to that point requires time, balanced with the right combination of secrecy and apparent openness.
For Pashinyan, the process remains a political tightrope, and demonstrations continue. He’s probably hoping that this weekend, protesters in Armenia will go home at least long enough to see their Eurovision singer Rosa Linn compete in Turin, perhaps to face off against Azerbaijan’s Nadir Rustamli.