Peace Destroyer Actor in the Caucasus: The Karabakh Clan

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From the perspective of peace and conflict studies, the two sides, which have been in conflict for a long time, start a normalization process as a result of one side adopting the will of the other side by using military force or as the conflict matures. However, there may be negative interventions by various political and military groups or third parties against the normalization process. These groups are defined in the literature as “peace-breakers” or “spoilers.” The tools most commonly used by peace-destroying actors are violence or conflicts of unknown origin and cause.

The problem of trust between the parties trying to normalize their relations due to violence and conflicts deepens. Thus, the confidence-building steps taken for the realization of normalization remain inconclusive and the reconciliation process can be abandoned. Developments in this direction are not in the interests of both sides who want normalization after a long conflict. However, peace-destroying actors take advantage of the situation in question and continue their gains. As a matter of fact, one of the main reasons for the conflicts between Azerbaijan and Armenia since the Second Karabakh War is peace-breaking actors like the Karabakh Clan.

Karabakh, which was occupied by Armenia in violation of international law for thirty years, was liberated thanks to the rightful victory of the Azerbaijan Army as a result of the Second Karabakh War. In fact, during the occupation period, various steps were taken to end the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia through peaceful means and to resolve regional problems. But these have failed. However, Nikol Pashinyan, who came to power with the Velvet Revolution in Armenia in 2018, started to adopt a different attitude.

Being aware of the economic, social and political problems of Armenia, Pashinyan started to develop a policy that opposes the hate-based Armenian nationalist rhetoric that does not solve the problems in Armenia and deepens the regional crises in order to end the isolation of his country, to save Yerevan from the influence of different states and to open up to the West. The defeat of the Armenian Army in the Second Karabakh War forced Pashinyan to look for alternative ways at this point, and showed the Armenian community that regional problems cannot be solved by military means against the strengthening Azerbaijan. Thereupon, Pashinyan signed a ceasefire agreement with Azerbaijan on November 10, 2020.

In the face of increasing pressure in Yerevan, Pashinyan held early elections on 20 June 2021 and continued his duty as prime minister with a vote of around 54%. This situation was seen as proof that the Armenian community supported Pashinyan’s policies, and the Prime Minister of Armenia continued his duty by reassuring him.

Despite various negotiations between the two countries, it is seen that the tension in Karabakh has increased in some periods. The main actors behind this are Armenian ethnic nationalists known as the Karabakh Clan and pro-Armenian separatist groups in Karabakh. Because Pashinyan’s pro-normalization stance harms the interests of these actors and their influence in Armenian politics.

When we look at the names among the ethnic nationalists that make up the Karabakh Clan, Robert Kocharyan, who first served as the Prime Minister and President of Armenia, stands out. It is known that Kocharyan was a politician who adopted harsh policies in the region while he was in office. During his time in duty, Kocharyan openly opposed against Azerbaijan by acting on hate speech.

The second important name is Serzh Sargsyan. Sargsyan, like Kocharyan, held high-level positions both as Prime Minister and President. Especially, becoming President after Kocharyan, can be read as the continuation of hate speech in Armenian politics. However, the Velvet Revolution took place in 2018 and Sargsyan lost his power.

Pashinyan, on the other hand, signed a ceasefire agreement with Azerbaijan and continued to receive the support of the people. This situation can be described as an issue that upsets all the plans of the Karabakh Clan.

For all these reasons, the Karabakh Clan is trying to sabotage the normalization process on the Baku and Yerevan line in order to put Pashinyan in a difficult position, to “demonize” Azerbaijan and to abuse the nationalist sentiments in the Armenian community. In particular, the ceasefire violations committed by Armenia in various periods and the terrorist activities of various groups against Azerbaijan are used as a tool in this sense.

As a result, the Karabakh Clan, which uses ethnic nationalist discourses based on hatred in a way that does not match the historical facts, intensifies its peace-destroying activities in region thanks to its influence in the Armenian Army. Undoubtedly, this is one of the main reasons for the conflicts in Karabakh since September 2022. Because, when we pay attention, it is seen that as the normalization of Azerbaijan-Armenia gains speed, the intensity of the attacks that try to provoke the process increases. At this point, it should be emphasized that not signing a permanent peace treaty makes the ceasefire fragile. In other words, the process of not signing a permanent peace makes it open to provocations by various groups, especially the Karabakh Clan.

Dr. Emrah KAYA
ANKASAM Dış Politika Uzmanı Dr. Emrah Kaya, Akdeniz Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezundur. Yüksek lisans derecesini 2014 yılında Süleyman Demirel Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nde hazırladığı “Latin Amerika'da Sol Liderlerin Yükselişi ve Uluslararası Politikaya Etkisi: Venezuela-Bolivya Örneği” başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Kaya, doktora derecesini de 2022 yılında aynı üniversitede hazırladığı "Terörle Mücadelede Müzakere Yöntemi: ETA-FARC-LTTE-PKK" başlıklı teziyle elde etmiştir. İyi derecede İngilizce bilen Kaya'nın başlıca çalışma alanları; Orta Asya, Latin Amerika, terörizm ve barış süreçleridir.