Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev probably realized that he could launch military operations and not face significant opposition; he was waiting for a suitable opportunity to solve the problem by military means, which he did. Ambassador Carey Cavanaugh, former US Co-Chair of the OSCE Minsk Group and Professor at University of Kentucky Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce, expressed such an opinion on Armenian News-NEWS.am's Strength Factor program, referring to the military operations unleashed by Azerbaijan against Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) and the Armenian ethnic cleansing carried out there under its pressure, and the resultant forced displacement of the people of Artsakh.
According to the retired diplomat, the first signal for Aliyev was that after closing the Lachin corridor, no significant steps were taken to reopen it.
"And then he saw even more in June, when that blockade was made more severe, still, no action was taken. And he certainly was aware that Moscow was very distracted with events going on in Ukraine. So I think he recognized that Russia was not going to stop any action he would take. And he looked for an opportunity to then move militarily, which he has done," Cavanaugh noted.
According to him, the Russian peacekeepers in Artsakh were not armed enough to prevent Azerbaijan's attack.
"Russia had the lead because of its proximity to the region, and also the fact that had military forces stationed in Armenia. Russia further undertook a greater responsibility to protect the citizens of Nagorno Karabakh and 2020 with the November ceasefire arrangement that they brokered. In the end, we saw Russian military forces took no action. Now I recognize 1,960 peacekeepers who were there primarily to ensure passage through back and forth along the corridors and to prevent a general military insurrection along the line of contact. They weren't equipped to repel something along the lines of what took place last week. So what they could have done, sorry to say but I think it's clear in the international community it called for this during the time the road began to be blockaded there was an expectation they would open that road. But they did not," noted the former OSCE Minsk Group co-chair.
According to Cavanaugh, what is happening now is also the failure of mediators, who, in his assessment, did not make sufficient efforts and did not take steps. On the other hand, he emphasizes that the United States and Europe cannot impose any solution on the parties.
"The parties themselves failed to find the solution. And where they came close to finding it several times, they didn't cross the line, and embrace it or have the political courage to prepare the population and take the steps needed to achieve it," Cavanaugh emphasized.
In recent months, especially the United States, the European Union (EU), as the mediators involved in the Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations, insisted that Azerbaijan should guarantee the security and rights of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh, but Azerbaijan again followed the military path, forcibly displacing the people of Artsakh and forcing these Armenians to leave their homeland. Why did the Western mediators, for example, not impose sanctions against Azerbaijan to prevent ethnic cleansing in Nagorno-Karabakh and forced displacement of Armenians? In response to this question, Cavanaugh expressed hope that the United States and the EU will now consider that option.
"But my expectation is those things are under consideration now. Being able to impose them to prevent it. If that thing was happening, If the dialogue appeared positive, I don't think you would see European states imposing sanctions when those meetings that were taking place look like they had some chances of success,” Cavanaugh remarked, adding that he doesn’t believe that the European countries would have imposed sanctions on Azerbaijan under those conditions.
According to him, it is sad that we reached such a point because he believes that there have been many opportunities to have a situation with a different outcome in the past.
"We saw in three decades of peace talks, several points where it looked like something could have been accomplished, that would have been able to bring about normal peace through diplomatic dialogue. And what we've seen here is as in 2020, Azerbaijan has moved away from diplomatic dialogue and use force to achieve its ends with the expected repercussions of that. And that is indeed the flow, almost unending flow of people escaping Nagorno-Karabakh and in fear for their safety and ability to live there," the retired US diplomat noted.