RFE/RL Armenian Service – 01/26/2024


Baku Unimpressed By More Armenian Information On Minefields

        • Ruzanna Stepanian
        • Susan Badalian

Azerbaijan military sappers clear mines in a countryside outside the town of 
Fuzuli, November 26, 2020

Azerbaijan dismissed on Friday Armenia’s decision to provide it with more maps 
of Armenian minefields in and around Nagorno-Karabakh made in response to 
Azerbaijani demands for such information.

Baku renewed those demands earlier this month after reporting that another 
Azerbaijani civilian hit a landmine in the Karabakh conflict zone and was 
injured as a result. It called for international pressure on Yerevan.

Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) said late on Thursday that it has 
located eight more minefields in recent interviews with Karabakh Armenian 
military personnel who fled the region along its entire civilian population 
following Azerbaijan’s September 2023 military offensive. Their maps will be 
passed on to the Azerbaijani side “in the coming days,” the NSS said in a 

The statement came the day after Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian visited the NSS 
headquarters in Yerevan and met with the security agency’s leadership. Pashinian 
signaled last week his readiness to make more concessions to Azerbaijan. On 
January 13, he accused Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev of laying claim to 
Armenian territory.

Responding to the NSS statement, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said that 
Armenia is still not serious about helping Azerbaijan clear the territories 
recaptured by it during the 2020 war and last September of landmines.

“This step cannot be assessed as a confidence-building measure,” it said. 
“Azerbaijan expects Armenia to present concrete maps of all mined territories.”

The ministry claimed that minefield maps provided by the Armenian side earlier 
are very inaccurate.

Yerevan shared that information with Baku in 2021 in return for the release of 
dozens of Armenian prisoners of war. The NSS statement suggests that it is not 
linking the fresh data on minefields with the repatriation of at least 23 other 
Armenian captives remaining in Azerbaijan.

They include eight former political and military leaders of Karabakh detained 
following the Azerbaijani assault. Azerbaijani courts on Thursday extended their 
pre-trial detention by another four months. The country’s prosecutor-general 
said on Friday that they must stand trial for their “crimes against the 
Azerbaijani people.”

The Armenian government strongly condemned the arrests and urged the 
international community to help free the Karabakh leaders. But it does not seem 
to be raising the issue in ongoing contacts with Baku on an Armenian-Azerbaijani 
peace treaty.

Siranush Sahakian, an Armenian human rights lawyer dealing with the captives, 
suggested that their release is not a top priority for Pashinian’s 
administration now. She said Baku is using the issue to try to clinch more 
concessions from Yerevan.

“I share the view that there were going to be concession regardless of the issue 
of the captives,” Sahakian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “It’s just that the 
issue is being used for selling those concessions to the public.”

Pashinian’s political opponents say that Armenia is not gaining anything in 
exchange for those concessions and that this appeasement policy will not lead to 
a lasting peace between the two South Caucasus nations.

Armenian FM Again Invited To Moscow For Talks On Azerbaijan

RUSSIA - A view of the Russian Foreign Ministry building in Moscow.

Russia said on Friday that it has again invited Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat 
Mirzoyan to visit Moscow to discuss a potential peace treaty between Armenia and 

“Ararat Samvelovich Mirzoyan was invited to Moscow for consultations on issues 
of the peace treaty many times, starting from last September,” said Maria 
Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman. “Among other things, that 
was discussed during bilateral contacts at various levels. The last signal was 
sent to Yerevan literally a few days ago.”

In recent months, Moscow has repeatedly offered to host high-level 
Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks as it sought to sideline the West and regain 
the initiative in the negotiation process. The Russian Foreign Ministry rebuked 
the Armenian leadership last month for ignoring these offers. It warned that 
Yerevan’s current preference of Western mediation may spell more trouble for the 
Armenian people.

On January 17, a senior Russian diplomat urged Armenia to agree to resume 
Russian-mediated negotiations with Azerbaijan based on earlier understandings 
reached by the leaders of the three countries. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov 
said the following day that unlike Yerevan, Baku is ready to sign the peace 
treaty in Russia.

“I have not heard such an assurance from the Azerbaijani side either during 
closed meetings or publicly,” Mirzoyan told reporters earlier this week. “If 
Sergei Lavrov claims so, maybe he has some reason to make such a claim.”

The chief Armenian diplomat did not clarify whether his government is ready for 
peace talks hosted by Russia now that the Azerbaijani side objects to U.S. and 
European Union mediation.

Russian-Armenian relations have steadily deteriorated since the 2020 war in 
Nagorno-Karabakh, with Yerevan accusing Moscow of not honoring security 
commitments to its longtime regional ally. Azerbaijan’s recapture of Karabakh 
only added to those tensions.

Zakharova insisted on Friday that Russia remains Armenia’s ally, having made a 
“decisive contribution to preventing an even more difficult situation and, one 
can even say, the defeat of Armenia.”

Armenia, Georgia Announce ‘Strategic Partnership’

        • Shoghik Galstian

Georgia - Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili (R) and his Armenian 
counterpart Nikol Pashinian meet in Tbilisi, .

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and his Georgian counterpart Irakli Gharibashvili 
signed a joint declaration calling for “strategic partnership” between their 
countries as they held talks in Tbilisi on Friday.

They described the declaration as historic. It was not immediately made public.

“De facto, we were already strategic partners and friends,” Gharibashvili told a 
joint news briefing. “It can be said that this reality was formalized today.”

“This achievement is the result of several years of joint work and reflects our 
commonalities and intentions,” Pashinian said for his part.

The Armenian premier listed more than a dozen areas where Armenia and Georgia 
will strive for closer ties. Defense and security was not among them.

The declaration was signed at the end of a session of a Georgian-Armenian 
intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation. Both Pashinian and 
Gharibashvili spoke of growing commercial ties between the two neighboring 
states, saying their bilateral trade surpassed $1 billion last year.

Armenian government data shows, however, that Georgian-Armenian trade stood at 
just $239 million in January-November 2023, down by more than 13 percent from 
the same period a year earlier.

Pashinian said he also briefed Gharibashvili on Armenia’s peace talks with 
Azerbaijan. He said he hopes that the peace process will resume “on a full 
scale” after next month’s Azerbaijani presidential election.

“I want to express our hope that Armenia and Azerbaijan will sign a peace treaty 
soon,” Gharibashvili said in this regard.

Another Foreign Investor Gives Armenian Government Minority Stake

        • Robert Zargarian

Armenia- Viva cell MTS, undated

A Cyprus-registered company has pledged to donate a 20 percent stake in one of 
Armenia’s three mobile phone operators to the Armenian government after being 
allowed to buy it from Russia’s MTS telecom giant.

MTS first asked Armenia’s Public Services Regulatory Commission (PSRC) to 
approve the sale of its Armenian subsidiary to the little-known company, Fedilco 
Group Limited, last spring. The PSRC rejected the request at the time, saying 
that the deal could damage the country’s national security. It did not elaborate.

MTS, which runs Russia’s largest mobile phone network, filed another request in 
November and it was granted this time around. The company announced on Thursday 
that the sale of the Viva-MTS operator to Fedilco for an undisclosed amount has 
been completed.

A separate statement released by Viva-MTS said that its new parent company, 
which was reportedly registered in Cyprus in 2022, is controlled by 
“professional investors” Zhe Zhang and Konstantin Sokolov. It said they intend 
to cede 20 percent of shares in Viva-MTS to the Armenian government in view of 
the cellphone operator’s “strategic importance” to the country.

The PSRC did not clarify whether it dropped its initial opposition to the deal 
because of the lavish donation pledged by Fedilco. A senior official from the 
regulatory body, Armen Hunanian, said only that the PSRC followed the 
recommendations of the Armenian Ministry of High-Technology. The ministry 
declined to comment on Friday.

Fedilco is the third foreign company to give the government a sizable minority 
stake in its Armenian subsidiary. Russia’s GeoProMining group was the first to 
do so right after buying Armenia’s largest metallurgical enterprise in 2021.

And just last week, the government was formally granted a 12.5 percent stake in 
a multimillion-dollar gold mining project which it helped to freeze in 2018. The 
government pledged last year to help U.S. and Canadian investors revive the 
Amulsar project.

Reposted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
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