Speaking on Voice of America Armenian Service, Carnegie's Thomas de Waal explained that February has brought added tension to the South Caucasus as both Armenia and Azerbaijan continue to politicize the anniversaries of the Sumgait 1988 pogrom and the Khojali 1992 massacre, respectively. The two states have increasingly less room to maneuver as domestic political developments have constrained the leadership in Baku and Yerevan.
In Azerbaijan, he explained, an economic slowdown after years of strong growth has left the government feeling increasingly insecure even before a series of protests unfolded in January. In Armenia, although the hotly contested presidential election between Serzh Sargsyan and Raffi Hovannisian has been deemed satisfactory by most observers, president Sargsyan will have to deal with many potentially destabilizing domestic political trends.
De Waal argued that if a planned direct air connection between Yerevan and Nagorny Karabakh goes ahead, it is likely to provoke an Azerbaijani response, with unpredictable consequences. Moreover, he added, the opposition presidential candidate, Raffi Hovannisian, continues to champion the idea of recognition of Nagorny Karabakh by Yerevan which, if it went ahead, would probably spell the end of the Minsk Peace Process.
Within this increasingly unpropitious climate, de Waal concluded, Akram Aylisli's novel which portrays Armenians in a sympathetic light, Stone Dreams, has unfortunately been the catalyst for recrimination in Azerbaijan rather than enhanced dialogue.