Karabakh pact major victory for Azerbaijan, Turkey - Thomas de Waal, observer

The Armenian military collapse was a big factor in determining the defeat of their troops against Azerbaijan’s forces, Thomas de Waal, British journalist and senior associate at the Carnegie Europe, told Ahval in a podcast interview.

Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to halt fighting over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh early on Tuesday in a pact signed with Russia. One of the conditions of the pact was the deployment of Russian security forces to the disputed region, de Waal said, which therefore opened up an opportunity for Russians to regain a foothold.

According to de Waal, long-time observer of the Caucasus, the pact is humiliating for the Armenian side even though there are still many unclear points that have not been adequately addressed.

“It is a big defeat for Armenians who are now relying on Russian peacekeepers for their own security,” the journalist said, adding that the Russia-brokered deal would increase Moscow’s influence on Armenia.

Another factor for the sudden defeat that shocked the Armenian community, de Waal said, was Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan doing nothing to prepare them, as Pashinyan was still talking about upcoming victory a few hours before signing the pact.

Azeri forces taking control of the Shusha town was enough for Baku to claim victory, de Waal underlined. “There are many reasons for them to be happy with what they signed,” he said, as the pact gives control of seven districts to Azerbaijan, which will be a moral boost for the country.

Shusha is both a historic cultural centre of the region, and a strategic location - “Whoever controls Shusha controls Artsakh," Karabakh President Arayik Harutyunyan had said during the clashes up to the pact, using the region’s name preferred by its residents and Armenia.

The pact isn’t everything Azerbaijan wanted, according to de Waal, but the country “got more than they had dreamed of.” It should be expected that Azerbaijan would rebuild the districts to hand over to Azeri citizens, he said.

This development is also a major win for Turkey, according to the journalist, as Ankara and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are deeply involved in the conflict.

At some point in a post-Erdoğan era, the Nagorno-Karabakh peace deal may lead to a Turkish-Armenian rapprochement, even if such a scenario doesn’t immediately look viable, de Waal said.