Pashinyan: Armenia has ‘frozen’ its participation in the CSTO

Feb 23 2024
 

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has said that Armenia’s participation in the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) was ‘basically frozen’ because of its failure to come to Armenia’s defence.

In an interview with France 24 on Thursday, Pashinyan criticised the CSTO for not fulfilling its security obligations towards Armenia in 2021 and 2022, saying that the CSTO’s refusal to come to its aid in the face of Azerbaijani attacks ‘could not have gone without consequences’.

‘The consequence is that in practice, we have basically frozen our participation in the CSTO’, said Pashinyan.

Article 4 of the CSTO charter stipulates that members of the security bloc are obliged to mutually defend each other against external threats or attacks.

The interviewer also asked Pashinyan if Armenia intended to close Russia’s military base in Armenia, to which he replied that Russia’s military presence in Armenia was based on a separate ‘legal-contractual framework’. 

‘We haven’t had the occasion to address that framework’, said Pashinyan.

Pashinyan went on to accuse Russia of inciting Armenians to overthrow the government In September and October 2023.

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‘Russia’s highest-ranking representatives directly called on the citizens of Armenia to take to the streets and overthrow the elected, legitimate government of Armenia’, said Pashinyan, adding that Russian media had produced ‘systematic, consistent, and purposeful’ propaganda against the government, the elected authorities, and him personally for six years.

[Read more: Kremlin propaganda turns up the heat on Armenia]

Pashinyan also addressed the alleged abduction of Dmitriy Setrakov, a Russian fleeing the draft, from Armenia.

Setrakov was reportedly abducted by Russian soldiers impersonating Armenian military police and held in the Russian military base in Gyumri, before being transferred to Rostov-on-Don in Russia.

The Prime Minister stated that the Armenian authorities were investigating Setrakov’s reported abduction.

‘If everything turns out to be as you say, it will, of course, lead to certain consequences because we cannot tolerate illegal actions on the territory of our country’, said Pashinyan, adding that the specific consequences would depend on Armenia’s legal assessment of the incident. 

On the same day as the interview, Armenian independent media outlet Factor cited ‘high-ranking Armenian’ sources as saying that Russian border guards stationed in Yerevan’s Zvartnots International Airport would be removed ‘in the near future’.

Factor’s source refused to specify why the Russian border guards would be removed but stated that it was a ‘political decision’. The report came a day after Armenian and EU officials announced that Russian border guards had obstructed the EU mission in Armenia. Armenia’s National Security Service told Factor that they were not aware of the reported decision.

On Friday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning Pashinyan’s criticism of the CSTO.

‘We expect comprehensive explanations through bilateral channels about what really stands behind Pashinyan’s statements regarding Armenia freezing its membership in the Collective Security Treaty and in the Organisation itself’, stated the ministry. 

The CSTO on the same day told Ria Novosti that they had not received any requests from Yerevan to terminate its membership in the security bloc, and suggested that Pashinyan could instead have been referring to Armenia’s absence from CSTO drills and meetings.

During the interview, Pashinyan warned that Azerbaijan could be preparing for a new war, echoing statements he made on 15 February. 

‘In the peace agreement, we have a problem expressing the three principles declared and published in the framework of agreements reached on international platforms’, Pashinyan told France 24.

‘Analysing these problems and the statements coming from official Baku, we come to the conclusion that yes, an attack on Armenia is very likely’.

[Listen to the Caucasus Digest: Are Armenia and Azerbaijan heading towards war?]

Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry dismissed Pashinyan’s latest warning as allegations ‘aimed at clearly distorting the existing fact and confusing the international community’.

The ministry also accused France of having a ‘negative’ impact on the peace process.

France has grown increasingly supportive of Armenia since the 2020 war, even more so after the 2022 September fighting in Armenia.

On Friday, France’s Armed Forces Minister Sébastien Lecornu visited Armenia to sign several agreements.

Le Figaro reported that Paris will deliver three GM 200 radars and night vision devices to Armenia, and that France would also provide Armenia with three-phase mountain combat training courses.


Jerusalem: Jewish Settler Movement makes bid for Large Expanse of Christian Armenian Quarter

Informed Comment
Feb 14 2024

By Svante Lundgren, Lund University | –

The Armenian quarter in Jerusalem’s Old City is facing its biggest crisis in a long time. A Jewish businessman with connections to the radical settler movement is poised to develop a quarter of the neighbourhood’s territory, with plans to build a luxury hotel. If this goes ahead, it will significantly change part of Jerusalem’s Old City and hasten the demographic shift towards the city’s Jewish population which has been happening for some years.

The Armenian quarter actually makes up one-sixth of the Old City (the other quarters being the Muslim, the Christian, and the Jewish) and the Armenian presence in Jerusalem dates back to the 4th century. Together with the neighbouring Christian quarter, it is a stronghold for the city’s small Christian minority. The threat of a takeover of parts of the quarter by Jewish settlers is widely seen as altering the demographic status quo to favour Israel’s interests.

Jerusalem: Armenian Christians fight controversial land deal | BBC News Video

In 2021, the Armenian patriarch of Jerusalem, Nourhan Manougian, agreed a 98-year lease over part of the Armenian quarter with the developers. The agreement covers a significant area that today includes a parking lot, buildings belonging to the office of the Armenian church leader – known as the patriarchate – and the homes of five Armenian families.

News of the deal prompted strong protests among the neighbourhood’s Armenians last year. Such was the depth of feeling that in October, the patriarch and the other church leaders felt compelled to cancel the agreement. This led to violent confrontations between settlers and local Armenians.

Contested: Jerusalem’s Armenian quarter.
Ermeniniane kwartiri i Jarsa, CC BY-ND

After a few quiet weeks, fighting broke out again at the end of December when more than 30 men armed with stones and clubs reportedly attacked the Armenians who had been guarding the area for several weeks.

The dispute has now gone to court. The question is whether the lease agreement is valid or whether the unilateral termination makes the agreement void. The patriarchate has engaged lawyers – local and from Armenia and the US – who will present its case that the agreement was not entered into properly because of irregularities in the contract.

This is not a single incident. Since the 1967 six-day War, when the whole of Jerusalem came under Israeli control, there has been a concerted effort to change the demography in the traditionally Arab East Jerusalem.

In many places the authorities are evicting the Arab families who have lived there for decades with the explanation that they lack documents that they own the house. Then a Jewish family moves in.

This change of the demography of East Jerusalem happens through evictions, demolitions and buildings restrictions. This is also happening in Jerusalem’s iconic and touristic Old City.

Almost 20 years ago, there was a minor scandal when it emerged that the Greek Orthodox patriarchate, a large property owner, had entered into a long lease agreement with a Jewish settler organisation regarding two historic hotels.

Contested territory: In most plans for a two-state solution East Jerusalem would be the capital of a Palestinian state.
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), CC BY-ND

Now we have a similar incident concerning the Armenian patriarchate. Selling or renting out property to Jewish settlers for a long time is viewed extremely negatively by the Palestinians, who have long fought against illegal Jewish settlements in Palestinian areas.

East Jerusalem is of vital importance to the Palestinians. In proposed plans for a two-state solution, it is the intended capital of a future Palestinian state. Decisively changing the demography there is therefore a priority goal for some in Israel – including the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who doesn’t want a two-state solution.

This conflict also underlines an old problem with the Jerusalem’s Christian churches – namely the gap between the leadership and the people. Old churches are by nature hierarchical and the leaders at the top rule supremely. In Jerusalem there is an additional problem in that the church leaders are not always drawn from the local population.

The largest Christian denomination in the Holy Land is the Greek Orthodox Church. Its members are largely Arabs, but the patriarch and the other leading prelates are Greeks.

Nourhan Manougian, the current and 97th Armenian patriarch of Jerusalem, was born in Syria to an Armenian family. The Armenian patriarchate has been accused of corruption and illegitimate sale of property in the past, long before the current crisis.

If the Armenians lose this battle and the settler movement is able to gain control of such a key site, it will harm a vulnerable small minority. And the settler campaign to colonise East Jerusalem under Jewish control will have achieved yet another victory.

Svante Lundgren, Researcher, Lund University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Sports: New Zealand winger Logan Rogerson joins Armenian Premier League club

feb 17 2024
 posted in: All Whites, Kiwis abroad, News 

New Zealand international winger Logan Rogerson has signed with Armenian Premier League club FC Noah after leaving Finnish club FC Haka.

Hamilton-born Rogerson (25) joins a squad drawn from many countries, including Portugal, Brazil, Netherlands, Uruguay, Slovakia, Nigeria, DR Congo, Serbia, Mozambique, France, Italy, Senegal and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Main photo: Logan Rogerson … has joined FC Noah to play in the Armenian Premier League. Photo credit: FC Noah.

Rogerson, who has represented New Zealand at U-17, U-20, U-23 and full international level, started his career as a youth player with Hamilton’s Wanderers SC.

After making his All Whites debut in 2015, he has made nine appearances for New Zealand, scoring once.

He spent three seasons with Wellington Phoenix before moving to German third-tier club Carl Jeiss Jena.

He returned to New Zealand for two seasons with Auckland City and then left for Finland where he played for Klubi O4, HJK Helsinki and FC Haka who he joined in 2022.

US Strategic Interests in the South Caucasus and its Post-2020 War Policy towards Armenia

By Yeghia Tashjian, M.A., Benyamin Poghosyan, Ph.D., Michael Rubin, Ph.D.

In the wake of President Joe Biden’s affirmation of America’s renewed engagement on the global stage post-2020 elections, U.S. foreign policy faces a complex landscape in the post-Soviet space, underscored by the tension between democratic ideals and authoritarian forces. Historically, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the United States fostered warm relations with Russia and the nascent independent states, actively supporting nuclear disarmament and democratic transitions, albeit with varying degrees of involvement across regions. U.S. policy has traditionally been cautious in the South Caucasus, balancing support for democratization with strategic interests, as evidenced by its tempered stance on the Armenia-Azerbaijan dispute. However, the limited response to the second Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) war and the subsequent Russian-dominated ceasefire have highlighted the constraints of U.S. influence and spurred a reevaluation of its role in regional dynamics.

Recent regional turmoil, from Russia’s aggression in Ukraine to the fraught tensions in Artsakh, has catalyzed a strategic pivot in U.S. policy towards the South Caucasus. The Biden administration’s approach signals a readiness to engage more assertively, advocating for humanitarian support, acknowledging indigenous rights and reinforcing self-determination for the people of Artsakh. The U.S. rejects external territorial ambitions over Armenia, emphasizing the inviolability of established borders and promoting a recalibration of regional power dynamics to curb Russian influence. This potential renaissance in American diplomacy, underscored by a commitment to Armenia’s security and regional stability, challenges the narrative of U.S. ineffectiveness and seeks to shape a future grounded in democratic values and peaceable state relations.

Introduction

After his November 2020 victory in the U.S. presidential elections, Joe Biden declared, “America is back.” The United States would once again take its involvement seriously in the world. President Biden’s vision of 21st-century geopolitics as a battle between democracy and authoritarianism implied more U.S. involvement in the post-Soviet space to deter and counter Russia and its like-minded allies. 

Upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the United States sought to establish warm relations with Russia and the newly independent Soviet states. President George H.W. Bush was solicitous of Russian concerns and coerced Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus to forfeit their legacy Soviet nuclear arsenals. At the same time, the United States supported democratization and eventually European Union membership and NATO accession for the three Baltic States. 

Washington’s approach to the Caucasus was more restrained. It supported a diplomatic process to address the Azerbaijan-Armenia dispute and generally stated its support for democratization, albeit tempered by the desire to treat Azerbaijan as an energy resource, regardless of its governance. Successive U.S. administrations also sought to minimize Russia’s influence when opportunities presented themselves, such as with the November 2003 Rose Revolution in Georgia or the 2018 “Velvet Revolution” in Armenia.

U.S. inaction against the backdrop of the Second Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) War highlighted the limits of U.S. influence. The ceasefire agreement imposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin sidelined the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group as an institution, as well as France and the United States that, alongside Russia, acted as its co-chairs.

Recent crises ranging from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to Azerbaijan’s conquest of Artsakh and Azerbaijan’s military build-up along its borders with Armenia have refocused Washington’s attention on the region. The Biden administration has sought to facilitate a peace process between Baku and Yerevan as Russian influence declines due to Moscow’s inability or unwillingness to enforce the November 9, 2020 agreement.

 The United States believes that the normalization and economic cooperation between regional states will de-escalate tensions and decrease Russian influence in Armenia. Analysts are right to recognize that Armenia has less reason to tie itself to Russia militarily if it no longer faces existential threats from its neighbors. For the first time since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, there is an opportunity for a fundamentally new and more proactive American strategy to preserve and develop its interests in the South Caucasus.

Is the U.S. interested in regional stability and peace?

Ask any American diplomat if the U.S. is interested in regional stability and peace, and the answer would be, of course. There is little evidence, however, to suggest any serious commitment. The National Security Council has yet to publish any official strategy on the South Caucasus in the way it has with Africa or the Indo-Pacific region. The 2022 U.S. National Security Strategy mentioned the South Caucasus only once to report the U.S. would back diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Similarly, there were no mentions of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia or the South Caucasus in the 2022 National Defense Strategy. The Director of National Intelligence’s Annual Threat Assessments argued that relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan were likely to remain tense and occasionally volatile in the absence of a peace treaty. Against the backdrop of renewed fighting, the intelligence community’s assessment reflected the continued downplaying and misanalysis of Azerbaijan and its anti-Armenia agenda. Anatol Lieven, director of the Eurasia program at the Quincy Institute, concurred that the United States had no clear and formal strategy for the South Caucasus. *

Since the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, the United States has sought to contain and isolate Russia. Weakening Russian influence in the South Caucasus would conform to this strategy. Indeed, the United States continued to oppose the deployment of Russian peacekeepers in Artsakh, in the wake of Azerbaijan’s September 2023 invasion of Artsakh, or anywhere else in the region. While the United States does not call openly for the withdrawal of Russia’s approximately 3,000 troops stationed at a military base in Gyumri, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Yuri Kim stated on September 14, 2023, that Washington had a strategic opportunity to reduce the malign influence in the region from actors like Russia, China and Iran. She argued for a durable peace that would expand U.S. bilateral economic and security cooperation and provide greater energy security for European partners and allies.

The State Department hopes Armenia and Azerbaijan recognize each other’s territorial integrity. While the United States supports Armenia’s decision to recognize Artsakh as Azerbaijan’s sovereign territory, it also has long called for assuring the rights of Artsakh’s indigenous Armenian community. However, the September 19, 2023, Azerbaijani offensive and the forced displacement of Armenians from Artsakh did not elicit any tangible American response, except for the Armenian Protection Act of 2023, unanimously passed in the U.S. Senate. There were neither sanctions nor symbolic gestures to express U.S. frustration with Azerbaijan. U.S. Agency for International Development administrator Samantha Power and Kim visited Armenia after Artsakh’s collapse but offered humanitarian assistance equivalent to less than $100 per displaced person.

Does fear of Iran shape U.S. policy in the South Caucasus?

From Iran’s perspective, the countries’ shared Shiite faith and close cultural ties reinforce mutual bonds with Azerbaijan. The region became more important to Iran after the Second Artsakh War upset Iran’s decades-long cautious embrace of the status quo in which it could leverage influence over Armenia to preserve its northward trade routes. Additionally, Tehran had leverage over Baku, as it was the only way Azerbaijan could access its Nakhichevan exclave by land without passing through Armenia.

The war’s outcome upended the geopolitical landscape by allowing Turkish military and political penetration of the region. Baku, backed by Ankara, embraced a narrative of establishing an extraterritorial “Zangezur” corridor across southern Armenia from Azerbaijan proper to Nakhichevan, effectively cutting Armenia off from Iran. Aliyev even proposed populating southern Armenia with “Azerbaijani refugees who left Armenia in 1988.” 

While some American officials may believe isolating Iran and increasing Turkish influence in the region might serve U.S. interests in the short-term, Turkey’s tilt toward Russia and China and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s efforts to minimize Western influence suggest such a benefit to be illusionary. Nor does such an assessment accurately reflect the Turkish and Azerbaijani contradictions in the region. Azerbaijan’s trade with Iran is equivalent to Armenia’s, and Turkey’s trade with Iran is an order of magnitude higher. Furthermore, the growing economic relations between Moscow and Ankara jeopardize the U.S. interests in the Caspian region.

It is naïve to believe that, should Baku feel no threat from Yerevan, Azerbaijan would focus on countering Iran. Growing energy and trade relations between the two countries suggest that, rhetoric aside, both Aliyev and the Islamic Republic respect each other’s red lines. While Azerbaijan has cooperated with both Israel and the United States with regard to monitoring Iran, Azerbaijan lobbyists often exaggerate its role. Most Israeli operatives infiltrate Iran not through Azerbaijan but rather from Iraqi Kurdistan. Additionally, as Turkey turns on Israel and because Turkey looks at Azerbaijan as a subordinate partner, it is doubtful Erdogan would tolerate continued tight Azerbaijan-Israel ties.  

Does energy shape American strategy?

On September 20, 1994, then-Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev and oil executives from several international companies gathered in Baku for the ceremonial signing of what the Azerbaijani president called the “deal of the century.” A consortium of 11 foreign oil companies signed a contract with the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) to develop three major oil fields in the Caspian Sea. As a result, American companies – Amoco, Exxon, Unocal and Pennzoil – collectively took a 40 percent share, followed by BP (formerly British Petroleum) with 17 percent in developing Azerbaijan’s huge Caspian oil. 

To minimize Europe’s energy dependence on Russia, the Americans and the British initiated and financed the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, completed in 2005. The 1,768-kilometer [1,100 mile] pipeline traverses Azerbaijan and Georgia before ending at the port of Ceyhan in Turkey. Today, it can transport 1.2 million barrels per day, and in total it has transported more than 3.6 billion barrels of crude oil from the Caspian to the Mediterranean, bypassing Russia and Iran to decrease Europe’s energy dependence on either. In May 2006, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey launched a further Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline to bring Azerbaijani gas to northern Turkey. Beginning in December 2020, the Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline and Trans Adriatic Pipeline supplemented these to provide up to 10 billion cubic meters of Azeri gas annually to Greece, Italy and other European countries. 

The Ukraine war pushed the Europeans to reduce gas imports from Russia further. On July 18, 2022, the European Commission, backed by the Americans, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Azerbaijan to double imports of Azerbaijani natural gas to at least 20 billion cubic meters a year by 2027. “The EU and Azerbaijan are opening a new chapter in energy cooperation. Azerbaijan is a key partner in the EU’s efforts to move away from Russian fossil fuels,” said European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev stressed that “issues of energy security today are more important than ever.” Azerbaijan started increasing natural gas deliveries to the EU from 8.1 billion cubic meters in 2021 to around 12 billion cubic meters in 2022 via the Southern Gas Corridor. The Azerbaijani option is less than meets the eye, however. To meet Europe’s gas demands, Baku imports gas from Russia.

Does the U.S. support the “Zangezur” corridor?

The OSCE Minsk Group supported reopening trade links between Armenia and Azerbaijan during the two decades it led negotiations to resolve the Artsakh conflict. The subsequent November 2020 trilateral statement also called for the opening of economic and transport links to enable safe passage between Azerbaijan proper and its non-contiguous Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic. Russia’s Federal Security Service was to secure the corridor. The Kremlin would not support any revision that would eliminate its role in the region.

Almost immediately, Azerbaijan sought to redefine the “Zangezur” corridor. Baku argued it was not meant simply to be a transport route but insisted Armenia had agreed to provide an extraterritorial corridor via Syunik, the Armenian province that falls between Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan. Azerbaijan took further steps to include the “Zangezur” corridor into the “Middle Corridor” which envisages the establishment of the new land route between China and Europe via Kazakhstan, the Caspian Sea, South Caucasus, the Black Sea and Turkey. While the “Middle Corridor” can operate without passing through Armenia, Azerbaijan’s characterization of “Zangezur” distorts reality.  Nor does the establishment of railway and highway connections between Azerbaijan, Nakhichevan and Turkey via Armenia have any direct linkage with the “Middle Corridor.” 

The United States has always supported the idea of restoration of economic ties, including transport communications between Armenia and Azerbaijan, to encourage post-conflict stability and security. In the context of the establishment of railways and highways connecting Azerbaijan with Nakhichevan and Turkey via Armenia, the United States believes that these routes should not be under Russian control. This would require Armenia to change the modalities of Article 9 of the trilateral statement and reject Russian control over any transport communication. Armenia has grounds to reject Russian involvement given Moscow’s failure to uphold its commitments under the trilateral statement. Encouraging Turkey’s trade across Armenia absent Russian involvement could advance U.S. interests by denying space to Russia. Such an outcome, however, would require a fundamental change in Turkey’s attitude toward Armenia. Rather than demand Armenia accept an irredentist Turkey as is, the United States might better achieve its goals if it sought diplomatically to demand Turkey’s acceptance of Armenia’s rights and legitimacy. 

Is Armenia-Turkey normalization possible?

Turkey blockades Armenia in contravention of the 1921 Treaty of Kars and rejects diplomatic relations with Armenia in solidarity with Azerbaijan. The State Department has pushed for Armenia-Turkey normalization since the early 1990s. The idea behind this approach is simple: If Armenia established normal relations with Turkey, it would no longer need to rely on Russia as a guarantor for its sovereignty nor Iran as an economic lifeline. The United States supported the “Football Diplomacy” of 2008-2009 and expressed readiness to contribute to the normalization of Armenia-Turkey relations after the end of the 2020 Artsakh war.  

Recommendations 

Azerbaijan mocks the United States as ineffective and a paper tiger, unwanted and unneeded as a diplomatic intermediary. In this, Baku’s rhetoric is similar to Tehran’s and Moscow’s. Washington does have a role, though. Proactive engagement in diplomacy toward Armenia and the broader South Caucasus can have a tremendous impact on outcomes. As such, the United States should undertake the following actions:

  • First, the United States must address the immediate crisis. The State Department should increase humanitarian aid to Armenian refugees from Artsakh. 
  • Second, the United States immediately and openly should endorse the right of return for Armenian refugees from Artsakh. The State Department must acknowledge these refugees as the indigenous population of Artsakh. 
  • Third, the State Department should recognize that the indigenous population of Artsakh maintains its right of self-determination. This was the case legally under the Soviet Constitution – no action or statement by Armenian authorities in Yerevan strips Artsakh Armenians of their fundamental rights.  
  • Fourth, Artsakh was a democratic republic with regular one-person, one-vote elections to determine its representatives. In contrast, Azerbaijan is a dictatorship. The exercise of self-determination mandates Artsakh Armenians establish a government-in-exile to represent the interests of Artsakh Armenians in future negotiations.
  • Fifth, the United States should reject Azerbaijan’s conception of the “Zangezur” corridor outright. Rationalizing Baku’s position would only legitimize it and encourage Azerbaijan to take even more extreme positions. The United States, like France, should recognize the sanctity of Armenia’s 1991 borders and reject any Azerbaijani attempts to revise or redraw them.
  • Sixth, the United States is right to reduce Russian influence, but this requires ending the security threats Armenia faces from its neighbors. There are no shortcuts. The United States must first demand an end to Turkey’s illegal blockade of Armenia and demand that Azerbaijan recognize Armenia’s borders and allow unrestricted Armenian trade. 
  • Seventh, the United States should recognize Armenia’s legitimate security needs. Israel’s military exports to Azerbaijan shifted the balance of power and convinced Azerbaijan it could impose through military force what it could never achieve at the negotiating table. Security in the South Caucasus has suffered since. As such, the United States should seek to restore a regional balance of power to stabilize the region. The United States should enhance arms trade and military training with Armenia. The United States should also encourage like-minded countries like France and India to provide arms to Armenia while opposing sales of weaponry to Azerbaijan. 

*Interview was conducted by Benyamin Poghosyan on September 13, 2023.

***

About the Authors

Yeghia Tashjian, M.A., is a regional analyst and researcher. He graduated from the American University of Beirut with a public policy and international affairs degree. He pursued his B.A. in political science at Haigazian University in 2013. In 2010, he founded the New Eastern Politics forum/blog. He was a research assistant at the Armenian Diaspora Research Center at Haigazian University. He has participated in international conferences and has presented various topics, from minority rights to regional security issues. His thesis topic was China’s geopolitical and energy security interests in Iran and the Persian Gulf. He is a contributor to various local and regional newspapers and a columnist for the Armenian Weekly. He is the International Affairs Cluster Coordinator at the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut and a part-time instructor in International Affairs at the American University of Science and Technology (Beirut Campus). 

Benyamin Poghosyan, Ph.D., is the chairman of the Center for Political and Economic Strategic Studies. He was head of the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense Research University in Armenia from August 2016 to February 2019. He joined the Institute for National Strategic Studies in March 2009 as a Research Fellow and was appointed INSS Deputy Director for research in November 2010. During his tenure at the only Armenian state think tank dealing with Armenian foreign policy and regional and international security, Dr. Poghosyan prepared and supervised the elaboration of more than 100 policy papers that were presented to the political-military leadership of Armenia. Since 2009, Dr. Poghosyan has participated in more than 150 international conferences and workshops as a regional and global security dynamics speaker. 

Michael Rubin, Ph.D., is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, specializing in Iran, Turkey and the broader Middle East. A former Pentagon official, Dr. Rubin has lived in post-revolution Iran, Yemen and pre- and post-war Iraq. He also spent time with the Taliban before 9/11. For over a decade, he taught classes at sea about the Horn of Africa and Middle East conflicts, culture and terrorism to deployed U.S. Navy and Marine units. Dr. Rubin is the author, coauthor and coeditor of several books exploring diplomacy, Iranian history, Arab culture, Kurdish studies and Shi’ite politics, including Seven Pillars: What Really Causes Instability in the Middle East? (AEI Press, 2019); Kurdistan Rising (AEI Press, 2016); Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes (Encounter Books, 2014); and Eternal Iran: Continuity and Chaos (Palgrave, 2005). Dr. Rubin has a Ph.D. and an MA in history from Yale University and obtained a BS in biology.

***

About the Institute

The Aram Manoukian Institute for Strategic Planning has been formed to work with experts in various fields to develop plans for the future of the Armenian nation in Armenia, Artsakh and the Diaspora. The overarching vision of the Institute is to work towards the creation of a prosperous and just society in Armenia, Artsakh and the Armenian diaspora, where the rights and dignity of all individuals are respected and where peace, democracy and sustainable development are achieved.

The Institute will identify appropriate target audiences, including government officials, civil society organizations, academia, businesses and the public, to ensure its work reaches various stakeholders. It will also build a diverse team with expertise from various fields, including academics, practitioners, individuals from the Armenian diaspora and youth, to provide a holistic perspective in addressing the nation’s challenges. Additionally, it underscores the significance of developing partnerships and collaborations with government agencies, NGOs, research institutions, businesses, international organizations and diaspora organizations to leverage resources and knowledge effectively. The Institute’s agenda will focus on pressing issues such as national security, economic development, education, good governance, health care, diaspora engagement and environmental sustainability. By addressing these challenges through research-based insights and policy recommendations, the Institute will contribute toward the betterment of the Armenian nation.

About the Institute’s Namesake

Aram Manoukian, born in 1879 in Karakilisa, was a prominent Armenian revolutionary who played a pivotal role in the formation of the First Armenian Republic in 1918. His educational journey began in local Armenian schools, followed by studies at the St. Petersburg Polytechnic Institute in Russia.

While still a student in St. Petersburg, Manoukian became deeply involved in the Armenian national liberation movement. In 1902, he formally joined the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) and actively participated in various ARF activities, including armed struggles against oppressive regimes in the Caucasus and the Middle East, notably the Ottoman Empire. He successfully led the self-defense of Van, saving the lives of tens of thousands of Armenian civilians from deportation massacre by the Turkish government.

In 1917, after the Russian Revolution, Manoukian returned to Armenia and assumed a central role in establishing the First Armenian Republic in 1918. He served as the commander-in-chief of Armenian forces during intense battles against Ottoman forces in the Caucasus, ultimately securing Armenia’s independence.

Beyond his military leadership, Manoukian’s contributions extended to politics and economics in the nascent republic. As the prime minister, he championed social justice, equality and progressive policies, focusing on land reform, education and other measures to improve the lives of ordinary Armenians.

Today, Aram Manoukian’s legacy endures, serving as a timeless source of inspiration for Armenians, commemorating his unwavering dedication to his nation and his role as a patriotic statesman.

The Aram Manoukian Institute for Strategic Planning has been formed to work with experts in various fields to develop plans for the future of the Armenian nation in Armenia, Artsakh and the Diaspora. The overarching vision of the Institute is to work towards the creation of a prosperous and just society in Armenia, Artsakh and the Armenian diaspora, where the rights and dignity of all individuals are respected and where peace, democracy and sustainable development are achieved.


Czechia expresses support to Armenia on its ‘path towards Europe’

 13:40,

YEREVAN, JANUARY 31, ARMENPRESS. Czechia supports Armenia on its ‘path towards Europe’, the visiting President of the Chamber of Deputies of Czechia Markéta Pekarová Adamová said in Yerevan on Wednesday.

“It’s a great honor to be here today, thank you for the reception,” Adamová said at a joint press conference with Speaker of Parliament Alen Simonyan. “We had a productive bilateral meeting with President of the National Assembly Alen Simonyan. Czechia has been cooperating with Armenia for a very long time and we definitely support your path towards Europe, we have supported Armenia in this direction, including as part of the Eastern Partnership program. We cooperate bilaterally, the parliaments can cooperate in various areas. I have already invited Mr. Simonyan to visit Prague. I will be very happy to host him and his delegation there,” Adamová said.

The President of the Chamber of Deputies said that Armenia and Czechia are working to develop economic relations. “On this occasion, a part of my delegation are entrepreneurs, especially IT representatives, and one of the members of the delegation is from the Czech ministry of trade, which means that we still have the opportunity to improve our bilateral economic relations, and we are working in that direction,” she said, adding that cooperation includes culture and education. “On this occasion I am happy that I will be opening an exhibition in the Armenian History Museum which will present our cultural heritage. I hope it will be a good opportunity to invite Armenian tourists to our beautiful country,” the President of the Chamber of Deputies of Czechia Markéta Pekarová Adamová said.

A Breakthrough Year for the South Caucasus

Jan 25 2024

Three decades of conflict, ethnic cleansing, and border disputes are over for Armenia and Azerbaijan in the South Caucasus. 2024 will be a breakthrough year for Armenia’s relations with both its Turkish and Azerbaijani neighbors.

But it took a long time coming.

In 1988-1992, Armenia and Azerbaijan were embroiled in the bloodiest conflict among the fifteen Soviet republics. Armenia, with Soviet and Russian military assistance, defeated Azerbaijan and occupied a fifth of its territory. Armenian nationalists declared this territory to be ‘reunited’ in perpetuity in their dream of a greater Armenia (miatsum).

Three decades of UN resolutions, mediation by the OSCE Minsk Group and involvement of the US, France and Russia failed to achieve any change in this situation and breakthrough to peace. This frozen conflict was only unfrozen in 2020 when Azerbaijan won a 44-day war and re-took most of its occupied territory. Last year, Azerbaijan completed the process of re-taking its territory when it removed Armenian control over Karabakh in a one-day war.

These two short wars returned Armenia and Azerbaijan to the common boundary that had existed within the Soviet Union from 1922-1988; that is up to the launch of the First Karabakh War. With the signing of a peace treaty this former Soviet boundary will become the international border between two independent states. Armenia and Azerbaijan would then open full diplomatic relations.

Unfortunately, the conflict in Georgia remains frozen. After Russia invaded Georgia in the summer of 2008, the Kremlin recognized the so-called ‘independence’ of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Russia’s invasion and blatant violation of Georgian sovereignty was undertaken by President Dmitri Medvedev whom Western governments wrongly dubbed a ‘liberal.’ Medvedev, reputedly an alcoholic, never was a liberal. As Deputy head of Russia’s Security Council he is one of the most hawkish of Russian leaders in his vitriolic demands for aggressive military action in the Kremlin’s war against Ukraine and use of nuclear weapons against Western countries and NATO.

Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1992 at the end of the First Karabakh War. Negotiations towards what has been called the ‘normalization’ of relations between Turkey and Armenia have been taking place for the past decade. But these could only hope to have a breakthrough after a peace treaty will be signed between Azerbaijan and Armenia. The opening of the border between Turkey and Armenia would be followed by the establishment of full diplomatic relations.

As the Washington think tank Brookings Institution wrote: ‘For Turkey and Armenia, normalization and reconciliation can be seen as two sides of the same coin.’ Reconciliation primarily refers to the Armenian genocide committed in 1915 by the Ottoman Empire, eight years before the founding of the modern Turkish nation-state. The coming to power of Nikol Pashinyan in the 2018 popular Armenian revolution removed the pro-Russian ‘Karabakh clan’ and made normalization and reconciliation with Turkey more likely.

2025 will be the last year of Russia’s so-called ‘peacekeeping’ presence in the Karabakh region. Since the disintegration of the USSR in 1991, Russia has used its ‘peacekeeping’ forces to maintain a permanent sphere of influence over Eurasia. The Kremlin manufactured frozen conflicts in Moldova, Georgia and Azerbaijan and never had an interest in resolving them because Russian ‘peacekeepers’ would then be longer required.

Russia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan signed a ceasefire agreement at the end of the Second Karabakh War in November 2020 which introduced Russian ‘peacekeepers’ for a five-year period. Russia’s so-called ‘peacekeepers’ were criticized by both Yerevan and Baku for their passivity and they became redundant after Azerbaijan’s liberation of Karabakh. In November of next year, Azerbaijan and Armenia will not renew the five-year mandate and Russian ‘peacekeepers’ will be forced to withdraw, the first example of a Russian pull-out in Eurasia.

A new era of peaceful relations with Armenia’s bigger neighbors, Azerbaijan, and Turkey, will bring important benefits. Peace will provide Armenia with the ability to maneuver from a pro-Russian to a more balanced, multi-vector foreign and security policy. Increased trade and energy ties with its neighbors will vastly improve Armenia’s economic prospects and encourage many of the over two million migrants in Russia to return home.

A breakthrough in peace in the South Caucasus, coupled with a potential Russian military defeat in Ukraine, would provide pro-Western Pashinyan with the ability to re-orientate Armenia away from Russia and Eurasia to Europe.  Armenia could begin the process of ‘Armexit’ of its membership from the Eurasian Economic Union and re-join the path, dropped a decade ago, of signing an Association Agreement with the EU. Further down the road, Armenia could join Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova in receiving candidate EU candidate status.

Peaceful relations between Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey are good for Western strategic interests, the EU, and US, and bad for Russia and Iran who have promoted instability. Peace in the South Caucasus stands in sharp contrast to the growing conflagration in the Middle East.

 

The views expressed in this article belong to the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect those of Geopoliticalmonitor.com.

https://www.geopoliticalmonitor.com/a-breakthrough-year-for-the-south-caucasus/

Armenpress: World Bank releases summary of Armenia’s economic development in November 2023

 21:20,

YEREVAN, JANUARY 25, ARMENPRESS. Growth in economic activity accelerated to 11.2 percent (yoy, in real terms) in November 2023, compared to 6.2 percent (yoy) in October 2023 (Figure 1).

The data is presented in the World Bank's monthly summary of Armenia's economic development.

Growth in industry increased from 0.6 percent in October to 24 percent in November, driven by 33 percent real growth in manufacturing output. This in turn was driven mostly by 13.7 times higher jewelry production (yoy) in November, which, by value, exceeded food production, traditionally the largest manufacturing group. High manufacturing growth in November was partly offset by challenges in mining sector production, affected by the temporary closure of the Sotk mine located on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border. Trade growth also rose, from 26 percent (yoy) in October to 32 percent (yoy) in November, fueled by cash transfers provided by the Government to displaced people from Nagorno Karabakh (NK). Construction growth slowed but remained in double digits at 11.4 percent (yoy) in November. At 2.4 percent (yoy), services (excluding trade) had the least growth; however, this was due to a high base growth of 31 percent in November. Economic activity index growth remained at 9.4 percent (yoy) over January-November 2023 and continued to exceed expectations.

Unemployment rose slightly in Q3 2023 (yoy) and labor force participation also increased. Unemployment was at 12 percent in Q3 2023, up from 11.6 percent in Q3 2022, due to a 2 percent increase in the labor force (net employed and unemployed). Labor force participation increased to 61.7 percent in Q3 2023 from 60.9 percent in Q3 2022.

Net money transfers in November 2023 were down 82 percent from November 2022 and 68 percent compared to October 2023. Money transfer inflows contracted 21 percent (yoy) and outflows increased 26 percent (yoy). The contraction in inflows was mainly due to 29 percent fewer inflows from Russia (Figure 2). The main destinations for increased outflows were Monaco and the USA.

Prices registered 0.6 percent deflation in December 2023 (yoy). This brought average inflation down to 2 percent in 2023, a sharp fall from 8.6 percent in 2022. In response, in its December 12, 2023, meeting, the CBA Board cut the policy rate 25 basis points, to 9.25 percent. A 5 percent (yoy) fall in food prices was the main factor in deflation in December. However, prices of other commodity groups rose, with the highest increase recorded for alcohol and cigarettes, up 

8.4 percent (yoy), reflecting increased excise tax on these products (Figure 3).

Export growth was exceptionally high, driven by a significant increase in gold and jewelry exports. Export of goods grew 86 percent (yoy) in November 2023, driven by a 7-fold increase in exports of precious and semi-precious stones. This increased the share of this group in total exports, up from 18 percent in November 2022 to 66 percent in November 2023. Within the group, exports of unwrought or semi- manufactured gold grew 12-fold (yoy), and jewelry and parts 17-fold (yoy). Textiles and footwear also grew 36 percent and 29 percent, respectively, while exports of other commodity groups mostly contracted. Imports of goods grew 25 percent (yoy), also driven by semi-manufactured gold imports. Cumulatively over January-November 2023, exports and imports grew 45 percent and 41 percent, respectively.

The AMD continued to depreciate gradually against the USD. As of January 9, 2024, the AMD/USD exchange rate stood at AMD 405.6, or 0.6 percent weaker compared to December 2023, and 2.7 percent weaker year-on-year (Figure 4). At year-end 2023, international reserves stood at USD 3.6 billion, equal to 3 months of import cover and USD 510 million lower compared to year-end 2022 reserves (Figure 5). This is partly due to the early buy-back of USD 188 million out of a USD 500 million Eurobond due March 2025, as well as to some delays in project-linked loans.

The budget recorded an AMD 44 billion deficit in November 2023. This brought the cumulative budget deficit through November to AMD 63 billion, or 0.7 percent of annual projected GDP.  Tax revenue growth was modest at 5 percent (yoy) in November, driven by growth in income and excise taxes (up 15 percent and 16 percent, respectively), while VAT and profit tax collection declined 5.5 percent and 22 percent, respectively. Expenditure contracted 11 percent, driven by flat current expenditure and 29 percent lower capital expenditure, related to reduced spending on defense. However, social transfers and subsidies grew 4 percent (yoy) and 51 percent (yoy), respectively, reflecting cash transfers and other assistance to displaced NK people.

The financial system continued to grow in November 2023 and financial stability indicators remained sound. Loans and deposits grew 2.3 percent and 1.5 percent (mom), respectively. The capital adequacy ratio remained unchanged at 20.1 percent, and the ratio of non-performing loans to total loans remained below 3 percent. The return on assets, an indicator of the banking system’s profitability, stood at 3.3 percent.

The NY Hyortiks: Celebrating a 100 year legacy!

The Hyortiks are 100 years old!

This youth group under the banner of Hyortik had five chapters at its inception throughout the myriad regions of New York, preceding the founding of the Armenian Youth Federation 10 years later, serving the evolving dynamic community of immigrants and new generations of Armenians post-Genocide. The chapters consolidated in 1933 in the halls of St. Illuminator’s Armenian Apostolic Cathedral, and the rest is AYF history.

When the name Hyortik is mentioned, we automatically know it is New York’s AYF chapter. Located in the center of American diplomacy, the U.S. media capital and the Big Apple, the Hyortiks have become the gathering point for the eastern regional AYF chapters to converge as we engage in carrying forth the five pillars of our organization.  

As we embark on this milestone, “Celebrating Our Legacy,” we invite you to attend our gala this spring at The Inn at New Hyde Park, 214 Jericho Turnpike, New Hyde Park, NY 11040.

The Hyortiks have planned an evening you won’t want to miss, beginning with a cocktail reception at 7:30 p.m., seated dinner at 8:30 p.m. and including an open bar until 12:30 a.m. 

Entertainment will be provided by Elie Berberian and his band and DJ Chris Kidbibz. 

Please join us with your memories, your family and your Hyortik friends in what we anticipate will be a homecoming of shared experiences. The entry price will increase after March 15. Purchase tickets with the QR code and link provided here!

We look forward to seeing you on May 4!

The AYF-YOARF New York “Hyortik” Chapter existed even before the AYF was founded in 1933 and works to unite Armenian youth and organize activities in Queens and Long Island. The chapter has a Senior and Junior chapter. The New York “Hyortik” Chapter sets out to achieve its goals and objectives throughout the year with events such as commemorating the Armenian Genocide every April 24th in NYC; fundraising for our homeland; hosting a fall festival and Christmas dinner with juniors; annual Super Bowl parties; and ski trips. The AYF-YOARF’s five pillars (athletic, cultural, educational, political, social) guide this chapter and help to keep its membership active and at the forefront of the Armenian cause at all times.


Untying the Karabakh Knot

Czech Rep. – Jan 16 2024

With the South Caucasus sore spot now largely off the table, Armenia and Azerbaijan could ironically finally be on the brink of a historic peace deal.

On 7 December 2023, Armenia and Azerbaijan surprised the international community by publishing a joint statement, which some commentators immediately hailed as a landmark deal. The two countries – at war over Nagorno-Karabakh multiple times in the past three decades – announced the mutual release of captured Armenian and Azerbaijani servicemen, raising hopes for a long-lasting peace agreement.

After the bloody second Nagorno-Karabakh war in 2020, which saw Azerbaijan victorious and thousands dead, Baku repeatedly declared the Karabakh dispute over. Consensus, however, remained elusive as neither the Armenian side nor Russian and Western stakeholders endorsed that approach.

Azerbaijan’s mid-September 2023 military campaign against the self-declared breakaway state of Nagorno-Karabakh, which led to the surrender of the separatists and mass exodus of the region’s ethnic Armenians, changed everything. The international community – whether it liked it or not – came to accept that the Karabakh conflict had indeed reached its conclusion.

Paradoxically, then, the outcome of the military offensive has laid the groundwork for a normalization process between Armenia and Azerbaijan: as the Karabakh issue had historically stood as a major stumbling block between the belligerent parties, its resolution opened an avenue for less fraught relations.

The Sticking Points

The negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan have in recent months been based on the basic principles that Baku proposed in 2022:

  • mutual, formal recognition of respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, inviolability of internationally recognized borders, and political independence of each state;
  • delimitation and demarcation of the state border (apparently according to the 1991 Almaty declaration establishing the Commonwealth of Independent States), and establishment of diplomatic relations;
  • unblocking of transportation and other communications, building other communications as appropriate, and establishing cooperation in other fields of mutual interest;
  • mutual confirmation of the absence of territorial claims against each other and acceptance of legally binding obligations not to raise such a claim in the future; and
  • obligation to refrain in their inter-state relations from undermining the other’s security, from threat or use of force both against political independence and territorial integrity, and in any other manner inconsistent with the UN Charter.

Repeated statements have asserted that the parties have reached an agreement on the first three of the five points.

An agreement encompassing these basic principles could serve as a foundational framework rather than an all-encompassing resolution, setting the stage for subsequent negotiations. In Baku, the urgency that dominated the pre-September atmosphere has waned as Azerbaijan perceives the 30-year conflict as resolved on its end. The prevailing viewpoint in Baku suggests that Armenia, in seeking peace and normalization, must take a proactive role. According to this logic, Yerevan currently needs a deal more than Baku does and needs to address the issues that may still serve as a source of concern and irritation for the latter.

These issues include the fate of the Azerbaijani exclaves outside Karabakh currently under Armenian occupation. (Despite being collectively known as the exclave villages, only four of eight Azerbaijani villages are technically exclaves, since the remaining four have a land connection with mainland Azerbaijan.) While recognizing these 86.6 square kilometers as Azerbaijani territory, Armenia has yet to formulate a clear position and avoid ambiguity on these exclaves. A territorial swap could be an option, but the return of the exclave villages to Azerbaijan may not be realistic as Baku would need a land connection to control them. Moreover, a strategic roadway connecting Tbilisi and Yerevan passes through one of these settlements, presenting a potential stumbling block, as Armenia may be reluctant to relinquish control over the road.

Complicating matters further, even though Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has declared several times that Karabakh is part of Azerbaijan, Armenia’s legislation still harbors territorial claims: the Armenian Declaration of State Sovereignty of 21 September 1990 references a joint decision in 1989 on the unification of Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia. This legal backdrop has raised concerns in Azerbaijan, foreseeing scenarios in which the Armenian Constitutional Court could reject a peace agreement or a subsequent power shift in Yerevan might resurrect territorial claims. Azerbaijan finds the presence of such documents worrying, given the potential risks they pose, underscoring the fragility of the ongoing normalization process.

In Baku it is widely felt that Armenia’s repeated attempts to insert a clause about the status of Karabakh or the rights or possibly return to Azerbaijan of the Karabakh Armenians have been a brake on the progress of the peace agreement. The Azerbaijani side has either rejected this formulation completely or demanded a mirror clause on the return of ethnic Azerbaijanis expelled from Armenia in the late 1980s, when the conflict first broke out.

Another issue is simply the format of the ongoing talks along two major “tracks.” While the Western track had for some time achieved significant progress – and the EU may be considered to be the most honest broker in the 30-year history of Armenian-Azerbaijani talks – the engagement of France has, in the Azerbaijani perspective, yielded more harm than good. This negative perception stems from France’s supply of military equipment to Armenia, introducing a complicating factor that undermines the impartiality of the negotiation process. Furthermore, European and U.S. officials have made various statements that sounded or were perceived as anti-Azerbaijani in Baku, eroding Azerbaijani trust in this particular diplomatic avenue. With the stalemate in the Western track and given the reluctance of both Baku and Yerevan to achieve something substantial within the parallel Moscow framework, the Azerbaijani side has championed Georgia as an alternative facilitator – to save the process, it says. The idea is either direct Armenian-Azerbaijani talks with Georgia as a mediator or within an Armenian-Azerbaijani-Georgian regional cooperation framework.

Armenian Fears

Worth mentioning is the Zangezur Corridor, a main talking point in the international media after the surrender of the Karabakh separatists in September. Armenia, Western countries, and the international press warned about an “anticipated” Azerbaijani attack on southern Armenia to carve out this corridor between mainland Azerbaijan and the landlocked Nakhchivan exclave (with a further extension to Turkey). Those reports generated much surprise and confusion within Azerbaijani political circles. While such a military assault had never been seriously discussed in the Azerbaijani capital, Baku had floated the idea of an extraterritorial Zangezur Corridor as a reciprocal equivalent to the extraterritorial Lachin Corridor (preceding last year’s military campaign, Azerbaijan had installed a checkpoint along this road, which connected Armenia and Armenian-inhabited Karabakh, having secured effective control over the route).

However, given that the military campaign removed the relevance of the Lachin Corridor, Azerbaijan has adjusted its position on Zangezur and is no longer insisting on its extraterritorial nature. Notably, Azerbaijan has now displayed a keen interest in any viable route bridging mainland Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan – even if it involves Armenian checkpoints. Despite Baku’s flexibility, Armenia has exhibited reluctance, compounded by opposition from Iran toward such a route. (Moreover, Azerbaijan, if intent on securing Zangezur by force, would not have engaged in discussions with Iran to explore an alternative route, dubbed the Araz Corridor.)

In any case, it would be in the best interest of Azerbaijan to have both Armenian and Iranian routes to Nakhchivan to afford flexibility and reduce dependence on either side. In its turn, Armenia should be interested in revitalizing the Zangezur Corridor, which might fit into Yerevan’s much-advertised “Crossroads of Peace” initiative and could also provide Armenian leadership with strong leverage on Azerbaijan as the provider of a connection with Nakhchivan.

Normalization with Azerbaijan might also be beneficial for Armenia in its pivot to the West. Armenia definitely needs Turkey not only for boosting bilateral political and economic relations, but also as a window to the West, but Yerevan must secure normalization with Baku first. As an Armenian expert recently complained to this author, “Yerevan is not surrounded by Baku and Ankara, but rather by two Bakus.” In other words, the road to an Armenian-Turkish rapprochement also goes via Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan could even directly support Armenia’s changing foreign policy orientation given the former’s history of extending a hand to those whom Russia has squeezed in the past. Baku has accumulated enormous experience in providing support, for instance, to Georgia during its 2008 war with Russia (electricity, gas, and cash); to Belarus during the 2009 “milk war” between Minsk and Moscow (cash to Belarus for repaying Russian loans); to Moldova (gas amid Gazprom’s recent pressure on Chisinau); and most recently to Ukraine (free fuel, humanitarian aid, demining equipment, and allegedly even weapons).

How to Speed Up the Peace Process

While Azerbaijan is apparently not in the rush it was prior to September 2023, a sense of urgency could reawaken to speed up the seemingly stalemated talks.

The first factor that can accelerate the process is a possible Russian comeback to the region. With the theater of war in Ukraine at a relative standstill, this year could bring at least some sort of truce between Russia and Ukraine. In turn, the Kremlin might be able to switch its attention back to regions neglected over the past two years, especially in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Given the historical record of Russia’s leverage on Armenia and Azerbaijan via the Karabakh issue, it would be in the interests of both countries to end hostilities and simultaneously Russia’s Karabakh-based manipulation.

An additional factor that may inject a sense of urgency is the conceivable spillover of the Middle Eastern conflict into the South Caucasus. The ongoing Israel-Hamas war – coupled with Iran’s active participation, in both the South Caucasus and the Middle East – introduces a variable that could significantly influence the regional landscape. As tensions in the Middle East have a historical tendency to reverberate in adjacent regions, the potential ramifications for the South Caucasus underscore the need for a proactive approach to addressing evolving dynamics and mitigating the risk of instability.

Lastly, in November, Azerbaijan will host the COP29 UN climate change summit, one of the most prestigious and well-attended events globally. As the Azerbaijani leadership is investing both energy and finances into this massive event, the regime might see a peace deal and normalization with Armenia as a way to signal stability in the region and the country’s positive intentions.

As noted, the Azerbaijani side may not be in a hurry to sign a peace agreement with Armenia both because it has the upper hand and has raised several concerns (or sources of irritation) that Armenia should, it believes, address first. At the same time, there should be no surprise if a peace deal happens seemingly out of the blue in the coming weeks. The authorities in Baku may even be considering a normalization process without any formal agreement by referring to other cases such as Japanese-Russian relations, which progressed after the Second World War without a formal peace treaty.

Even the phrase “out of the blue” may not be quite correct – joint statements from Baku and Yerevan show they are continuing their communication through back channels and progress could come quickly. Indeed, despite the general tension, distrust, and unresolved issues between the two belligerent parties, 2024 could see the signing of a momentous peace deal with the prospect of reshaping the region for many years to come.

Rusif Huseynov is a foreign affairs expert specializing in post-Soviet ethnic conflicts. He is the director of the Baku-based Topchubashov Center, an adjunct faculty member at ADA University, and a 2021 ReThink.CEE Fellow at the German Marshall Fund. He tweets at @RusifHuseynov2.



Armenpress: French Senate resolution demanding sanctions against Azerbaijan supports Armenia’s territorial integrity

 21:51,

YEREVAN, JANUARY 17, ARMENPRESS. The resolution demanding sanctions against Azerbaijan, adopted by the French Senate, supports the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Armenia. It condemns the military attack carried out by Azerbaijan, with the support of its allies, on September 19 and 20, 2023, in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenian Embassy in France said.

The resolution further calls on Azerbaijan to guarantee the right of the Armenian population to return to Nagorno-Karabakh, ensuring conditions that will ensure their safety and well-being.

The resolution calls for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the troops of Azerbaijan and its allies from the sovereign territory of Armenia.

It states that Armenia has the right to protect its territorial integrity and possesses the means to ensure its security, including through military measures.

The resolution also condemns the arbitrary arrests of political leaders in Nagorno-Karabakh, calls for the exclusion of Azerbaijan from the intergovernmental committee for the protection of cultural property in armed conflict.

It highlights the establishment of an international group of experts at UNESCO and its mission to Nagorno-Karabakh to prepare an informative report on the state of cultural and religious heritage.

The resolution also calls for the strictest measures, including the seizure of the assets of Azerbaijani leaders and an embargo on the import of gas and oil from Azerbaijan as a sanction against military aggression by Azerbaijan.