Is agreement on basic principles on Karabakh or at least any progress possible during the Astana summit? If no, then why?
Unfortunately there is no basis to believe that there will be a political breakthrough in the talks on Nagorno-Karabakh in Astana. Rather the opposite. Ever since the freezing of the Armenia-Turkey process earlier this year, the Karabakh talks have been dead and the situation on the Line of Contact has worsened. Also, domestic public opinion in both Azerbaijan and on the Armenian side is pushing against compromise and peace which makes it even harder for Presidents Aliyev and Sarkisian to agree to the Basic Principles, even if they wish to. This means that the only pressure on the two leaders to make peace must come from abroad, but the basic problem remains that the international powers do not have a high enough level of interest or resources to push Armenians and Azerbaijanis to sign an agreement. Local factors are much stronger than geopolitical ones in this conflict.
There is an opinion that the negotiations will last till Azerbaijan launches a war. What do you think is war likely to break out in the Karabakh conflict zone?
I don’t believe there is a strong likelihood of a war over Karabakh, in the next two or three years at least, although the logic of Azerbaijan’s military build-up makes it a danger in the long term. My main worry is that another bad incident on the Line of Contact could escalate, result in the death of a few dozen young men and kill off the current peace process. That would make the situation much more difficult and the Line of Contact much more dangerous. That is why I believe the priority is to strengthen the ceasefire regime around Nagorno-Karabakh.
Will the negotiations bring to final solution to the conflict or they pursue another goal, for instance freezing of the conflict?
The current negotiation process looks more like “conflict management” than a substantial peace process. Of course a frozen conflict is better than war but I don’t believe that Azerbaijan will allow this conflict to be frozen in the long term without at least the return of the five territories east of Nagorno-Karabakh. So I believe it is better to begin confidence-building-measures that will restore trust between the two sides and that will reduce the likelihood of conflict.