Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan is now fighting for his political life after admitting defeat in the war with Azerbaijan.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have signed a ceasefire mediated by Russia seemingly ending the war for control of the formerly Armenian occupied Karabakh.
The agreement will see Russian troops deployed in the region in a bid to enforce the truce in the six week old conflict.
The truce came as Azerbaijani forces captured the strategic town of Shusha representing a decisive blow to Armenia’s control of the wider Karabakh region.
For Armenia’s Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, the deal is a humiliating defeat after weeks of claiming that victory was within grasp.
An outpouring of anger in Yerevan saw parliament being ransacked by protestors and rumours swirling that Pashinyan had left the country, which he later had to deny. The Armenian speaker of parliament was left beaten and bloodied and in videos posted online protestors could be heard chanting "Nikol betrayed us!”
The trilateral deal between Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, however, was ultimately “predictable” says Assistant Professor Volkan Ozdemir and Director of the Asia, Turkey, Europe Platform.
From the beginning, Russia has diplomatically observed an “objective” position, says Ozdemir speaking to TRT World, thereby allowing Moscow to maintain an open channel of communication with both parties.
As part of the deal, Russia will eventually deploy 2,000 soldiers in Karabakh guarding the Lachin corridor, which is the main artery Armenia has used to keep control of the region and is also linked to Karabakh’s main city of Stepanakert.
In return, Armenia agreed to allow a corridor linking the Azeri Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan, which is an exclave separated by Armenian land, that will also be manned by Russian peacekeepers.
Turkey, while not part of the negotiations, welcomed the deal as a “sacred success” and it could yet carve out a role on the ground.
“Turkey, with consultation with Russia, should join this peace keeping force in Karabakh,” added Ozdemir.
During the 44 days of conflict, Turkey has openly sided with Baku to ensure that Azerbaijan re-establishes it’s territorial integrity. It has also given Azerbaijan the technical military edge by delivering drones which established a commanding aerial superiority.
The truce brokered by Russia was done outside the auspices of the Minsk Group which was set up following the 1994 ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Led by France, Russia and the United States the grouping has failed to produce any concrete outcome to the conflict.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev had openly floated the idea that Turkey should become one of the presidents of the Minsk Group, seeing the organisation as unrepresentative of Baku’s interests.
“The Minsk group was not functional,” says Ozdemir. “There was no point for Ankara to insist on joining the group as a president country alongside the other leading members.”
The deal in Moscow has arguably put an end to the Minsk Group.
While the technical implementation of the agreement has not been fully outlined, it does state that by December 1, Armenia should withdraw from the districts of Kalbajar, Aghdam, Qazakh and Lachin.
Rauf Mammadov, a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, called Baku’s diplomatic achievement as the “implementation of the UN resolutions without any further bloodshed.”
Russia has also been a significant winner in the process, says Mammadov speaking to TRT World. It has achieved a “military presence in Karabakh” - a mission that could last up to a decade according to the agreement - and it has “emphasised its unchanged role as a sole arbiter of the conflict and any potential problem in the South Caucasus.”
Even as Turkey’s role is not yet clear in the peacekeeping mission, Aliyev has made it clear Turkish military personnel will be part of any “peace enforcement” says Mammadov. But more broadly, the conflict has been a victory for Turkey “given the importance of Azerbaijan and particularly Karabakh for the Turkish people,” added Mammadov.
One of the most significant victories that Azerbaijan obtained from the trilateral agreement is to remove any mention of a referendum on the status of Karabakh, something the Armenian side had long sought.
“To solve this frozen conflict, a military solution was necessary and a prerequisite and the Azerbaijan army won the war. The first phase of this conflict has been achieved now diplomacy is the second stage in this process,” says Ozdemir.
Going forward, Armenians in Karabakh should receive the necessary “cultural autonomy”, however Azerbaijan should not allow Armenia to have a “legal status” in Karabakh added Ozdemir, which would effectively crystallise Yerevan’s presence in the territory.
According to Ozdemir “for Turkey and Azerbaijan this conflict has been a strategic win. For the first time this conflict is being resolved in the interest of Azerbaijan. Russia has also been a winner by showing that only it can resolve the problem between the two sides.”
Armenia’s now beleaguered Prime Minister is fighting for his political position with calls for his resignation mounting. This may ultimately jeopardise the ceasefire agreement. But for now, Baku can bank on the concessions provided by Pashinyan.