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Ilham Aliyev cornered Pashinyan (Prompt comment)

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BY EYNULLA FATULLAYEV

Once upon a time, for it is almost untrue already, at the time of early youth, in search of sensational and hot reports, at the behest of the ill-starred fate of a journalist, I ended up in the very cauldron of the Azerbaijani information war: I was preparing hot reports one after another from the occupation zone of Nagorno-Karabakh. And the final point in my brief mission was a meeting with the separatist leader, who in the occupation zone was called 'NKR president,' Arkady Ghukasyan.

After an entertaining interview, drinking tasty Armenian brandy, the talk was about the newly elected President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev. I paused and scrupulously caught every word of the interlocutor. What do they think of the successor of Heydar Aliyev? I sincerely admit, I was struck by Ghukasyan's confession. Of course, fifteen years ago it was not for print, and all this time I kept the recognition of my interlocutor for history. But it seems to me that just now the time has come to share it with the readers.

- After the first round of negotiations [we are talking about the negotiation process in the format of the OSCE Minsk Group between the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia - Auth.], I asked Kocharyan [in 2004 Kocharyan served as the president of Armenia - Auth.], what were your impressions of the new president of Azerbaijan? How can you characterise him? - Ghukasyan told with his inherent ironic grin.

- And what did Kocharyan answer? - followed my straight question. And at that moment, the expression on Ghukasyan's face changed noticeably.

- He said that Ilham Aliyev was a worthy successor to his father. Grandmaster, not inferior in negotiations to Heydar Aliyev.

This episode from my Karabakh memoirs again surfaced exactly after yesterday's speech by President Ilham Aliyev during discussions of the Valdai Club. Aliyev, in the presence of many leaders of the region, in particular, Russian President Vladimir Putin, the presidents of the CIS member-states, and an influential expert community, had to check and call to order the presumptuous snob, that mediocre journalist, who, on a spontaneous wave crest with a selfie stick in his hands, flew into big Armenian politics. This Pashinyan - a crow with peacock feathers, having flown up to the podium in the occupied Khankendi, frivolously exclaimed for the sake of populism: 'Karabakh is Armenia and that's that.' Apparently, the newly made Armenian prime minister did not even think about the far-reaching consequences of his frivolous and politically insolvent and inadequate statement.

Pashinyan's fatal mistake

None of Pashinyan's predecessors allowed themselves such categorical and unambiguous formulations: after all, the measure of responsibility of the head of state obliges to preserve the format of peace negotiations. For the alternative to peace negotiations is an inevitable and fateful war. What to talk about and what to discuss with the hardened head of government of a hostile state, if the very idea of the likelihood of a compromise peace seems seditious to him? The long-standing Karabakh conflict, like many conserved hot spots on the planet, has long gone beyond the borders of internal or inter-ethnic strife and acquired the outlines of a global conflict, in which the interests of many leading capitals of the world have been entangled. And one does not need to have a deep and analytical mind in order to be aware of these elementary truths.

Of course, master of power and stoic politician Ilham Aliyev, experienced by protracted political and regional battles, sustained a grandmaster's pause. During his entire political career, the president of Azerbaijan has never given rein to emotions and momentary feelings. Calm, composure, the ability to predict and calculate the political steps of the enemy are just touches to the political portrait of the President. Ilham Aliyev understood that Pashinyan deserves a tough and merciless answer. However, he did not respond from Baku to an inexperienced politician in Yerevan. Indeed, unlike Pashinyan, who is unsure of tomorrow, Ilham Aliyev has no need to play for the internal audience. The President of Azerbaijan, the unconditional and indisputable leader of the public opinion of his country, for many years has been retaining the role of indicator and spokesman of public consciousness.

Certainly, Ilham Aliyev could have responded to the blurred groundless thesis of Pashinyan from the rostrum of the UN General Assembly. However, given the decline and degeneration of the General Assembly, as well as of the entire UN, about which Ilham Aliyev spoke convincingly and argumentatively the day before, given the fact that this organisation is falling into a political coma, as if the notorious League of Nations in the crisis 1930s, which had become a tool of manipulation in the hands of the self-proclaimed world arbiters, given all these, the Azerbaijani leader needed a more convincing and authoritative platform.

Ilham Aliyev deliberately paused, because the co-chairing countries, acting as guarantors of the status quo, should have passed their verdict too. Pashinyan's call, which intended to cut the tangled Gordian knot in Karabakh with one blow, met the irreconcilable consolidated position of world referees, and especially Russia. Everything went so far that the ethnic Armenian, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, made a literally ultimatum-like statement.

Lavrov delivered the verdict

Russia, the leading regional power valued by the Armenian establishment, has placed Albania on the same footing as Armenia, and Kosovo as Karabakh. Of course, in the mouths of American diplomats, such a monstrous parallel would have buried all the hopes of Azerbaijani society for a just peace. But after all, it was Russia that became the grave digger of the Kosovo sovereignty project, regarding the attempt to dismember the allied Serbia as the West's desire to cover up the traces of its political crimes in the former Yugoslavia. Otherwise, how could one justify the overthrow of a legitimate power by bombing and undisguised military intervention? In the mouths of Lavrov and the Kremlin, the Kosovarisation of Karabakh sounds like a slap in the face to Yerevan and personally to Pashinyan himself. For a quarter century of the undeclared military intervention of Armenia, this is the first loud reproach publicly made by Moscow. Please note that Lavrov's accusation was made a day after Putin's return from Yerevan and the day before Aliyev's visit to Russia and his negotiations with the Russian president.

Moreover, immediately after Lavrov's loud reproach, a statement of the Armenian Foreign Ministry was issued, in which Armenian diplomats tried in vain to correct the mistake of the head of their government, focusing on Pashinyan's interest in a peaceful settlement and mutual compromises. Yerevan demonstratively makes a step back. They create the illusion that they overlooked the monstrous for Pashinyan parallel with Kosovo. Pashinyan himself is silent.

Ilham Aliyev waited... and won

And this time, Ilham Aliyev spoke. The time has come. In the presence of Putin, who returned from Armenia, the President confidently declares: 'Karabakh is Azerbaijan, and that's all there is to it!' Further, the president of Azerbaijan rightly points to the merits and personal qualities of President Putin himself, who revived Russia as a world power. The hall greets Ilham Aliyev with a standing ovation.

Think about it. With his grandmaster's pause, Ilham Aliyev provokes a stunning reaction from Sergey Lavrov, who threatens Pashinyan with the fate of Kosovo in diplomatic language, and then, in the presence of Putin, who has returned from Yerevan, he leaves no room for insinuations and manipulations: 'Karabakh is ours!' And in this fatal diplomatic battle, Yerevan is retreating, confining itself to unintelligible diplomatic vocabulary.

Ilham Aliyev drove Pashinyan into a corner. And now it will be difficult for him not to get into a checkmate on a broken chessboard. The Armenian prime minister has been accused by a leading world power of disrupting the negotiation process. And if Pashinyan once again takes the liberty of repeating the call for legitimising the annexation of Karabakh, then this time the mouth of the diplomats will be silent. Pashinyan still does not know what happens when diplomats are silent...

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