Why Armenia and Azerbaijan Still Can’t Reach a Peace Deal

Jan 9 2024

… and what Washington should do to help the two countries reach one.


In December, three months after the devastating September 2023 Azerbaijani offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh displaced more than 100,000 Armenians, Yerevan and Baku engaged in bilateral talks that “reconfirmed their intention to normalize relations and to reach a peace treaty on the basis of respect for the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.” 

While it is important that both sides remain engaged in negotiations, a sustainable peace settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan remains elusive. The question in Washington remains: Can the United States do anything to help the situation?

Throughout the high-tension episodes between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, each side has further entrenched its own nationalist rhetoric. Yerevan has primarily been concerned with the security and status of Karabakh Armenians who, since the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War, were increasingly faced with the threat of ethnic cleansing (a development that has, in fact, occurred, according to the European Parliament). Meanwhile, Baku has focused on restoring its territorial integrity as the de facto Nagorno-Karabakh statelet was always internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan.  

Azerbaijan’s latest offensive resulted in the forceful integration of Nagorno-Karabakh, resembling Russia’s 1999-2000 reabsorption of Chechnya after the Soviet Union’s collapse gave way to a separatist war. However, myriad problems remain unresolved and may once again provoke conflict in the South Caucasus. 

The more than 100,000 Armenians who fled the region face uncertainty in the Republic of Armenia. After enduring a nine-month Azerbaijani blockade of vital supplies from Armenia and the outside world, Karabakh Armenians are facing harsh conditions in Armenia proper — the state is unable to allocate sufficient resources for many families, and many working-age people are unable to find jobs. According to official Armenian figures, 38% of the refugees now live in Yerevan, but the cost of living in and around the capital is far more expensive than anywhere else in the country. 

Despite support from Europe and the United States, which have been minimal thus far, absorbing more than 30,000 Karabakh Armenian refugees after the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and 100,000 after September 2023 is no easy task for a country of three million people, especially since they have cultural and linguistic differences from their ethnic kin raised in the Republic of Armenia. The difficulties imposed by the inflow of migrants have led more than 10,000 Karabakh refugees to settle elsewhere, with a majority choosing Russia, motivated primarily by family bonds and other connections there. 

Given that economically challenged Armenia is finding it difficult to reintegrate Karabakh Armenians into society, it remains an open question whether there is an opportunity for these migrants to return to their homes in Karabakh. 

After Baku established control over Nagorno-Karabakh, hundreds of Armenian monasteries, churches, cemeteries, and shrines are now at risk of erasure, as evidenced by Azerbaijan’s previous cultural erasure that occurred after the war in 2020. One of the authors of a 2019 report documenting previous instances of cultural cleansing referred to Azerbaijan’s actions in the region as “the greatest cultural genocide of the 21st century.” 

Despite Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s announcement that the “Armenian population living in Karabakh will soon see a change for the better,” Armenians are skeptical of returning to their original homes without international oversight. At present, it is estimated that only a few dozen Karabakh Armenians remain in the region and most who have fled express little interest in returning without international guarantees following decades of ethnic hostility.

The possibility of renewed escalation still hangs over the region. President Aliyev’s insistence on establishing what Azerbaijanis call the “Zangezur corridor,” which would connect its mainland territory with its exclave Nakhchivan, negatively impacts the progress of peace talks, with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan calling such demands “totally unacceptable.”

President Aliyev had previously made remarks with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, that such a corridor could be established by force, irrespective of Yerevan’s wishes. Such rhetoric has alarmed Yerevan and gravely concerned Iran, one of Armenia’s largest trade partners. In October, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said his country  is “strongly opposed” to such a corridor that would disrupt the land border between the two countries. Tehran has proposed an alternative route through Iranian territory.

Prospects for the United States to make an impact in peace negotiations are dim. 

Yet, Azerbaijan has remained adamant about establishing a corridor through Armenia, as President Aliyev said in the January 2024 interview. Aliyev mentioned that if the Zangezur corridor is not opened, Azerbaijan will not “open [its] border with Armenia anywhere else.”

Lastly, the status of the remaining Armenian prisoners of war hangs in the air. A swap of 32 Armenian prisoners and two Azerbaijani captives that took place between the countries in December 2023 was widely welcomed by the international community. Armenian human rights activists said there were still at least 23 Armenians in Azerbaijani captivity, including former de facto politicians from Nagorno-Karabakh. The Armenian prisoners should have been released in accordance with the November 2020 ceasefire agreement. To achieve long-lasting peace, respecting previous agreements is necessary. 

Considering these factors, what could Washington’s impact on the Armenia-Azerbaijan negotiations look like? Currently, it is difficult for the United States to act as a direct broker of peace. Azerbaijan no longer supports Western-backed platforms for negotiations and instead champions bilateral talks or Moscow’s brokerage, as Russia has pivoted from providing meaningful support to Armenia. In effect, Baku, which previously welcomed Western mediation, ended its support for Western-mediated platforms after achieving its aims of dissolving the breakaway statelet. 

American-Azerbaijani relations rapidly soured in the final months of 2023, especially following US Assistant Secretary of State James O’Brien’s Congressional statement that the US had canceled high-level bilateral meetings and engagements with Azerbaijan while expressing sympathy for Armenia. Although diplomatic meetings resumed after O’Brien’s announcement, prospects for the United States to make an impact in peace negotiations are dim. 

Europe’s opportunities to play a role are also almost nonexistent as France, which hosts a sizable Armenian community, sent weapons to Armenia following the September 2023 Azerbaijani offensive. This has resulted in an escalation in tensions between Baku and Paris, as Azerbaijan arrested a Frenchman in December 2023 on espionage charges, to which France responded by expelling two Azerbaijani diplomats. At the same time, Baku has cracked down on independent journalists in Azerbaijan in a hunt for “US spies.”

Rather than attempting to steer peace negotiations directly, several principles should guide Washington’s policy toward the two countries as they seek to stabilize their relations.

These include continued encouragement for prioritizing diplomatic solutions to mitigate future conflict, supporting future conversations regarding the return of Karabakh Armenians to their homes in Azerbaijan and political prisoners and POWs to Armenia, and following through on current humanitarian assistance to Karabakh Armenians in Armenia. While Azerbaijan has invited Karabakh Armenians back to the region (granted that they apply for Azerbaijani citizenship and would have no special rights or guarantees), it is clear that they will need international oversight to feel safe returning to Azerbaijan.

Still, as things stand now, the likelihood of the integrating Karabakh Armenians into Azerbaijan, even with international involvement, appears slim. This process will likely only come in the event of genuine reconciliation between Armenians and Azeris. Washington should continue encouraging the two countries to advance toward such an agreement.

The United States is currently unwilling to do much more diplomatic work in the South Caucasus. But it can pursue a limited set of initiatives to make peace in the region more likely and long-lasting.


Narine Grigoryan, emerging from loss to create through the theater

In the scope of my initiative of spotlighting the great Armenians of today for the Weekly, I recently had a heartfelt conversation with the young Armenian actress Narine Grigoryan. Grigoryan is known for her role in Yeva (2017), the Armenian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 90th Academy Awards. She has also impressed audiences across Armenia and the world through her powerful performances in Amerikatsi (2022), Half Moon Bay (2014), Bravo Virtuoso (2016), The Line 2: 25 Years Later (2017) and Long Return (2017). In 2018, Grigoryan was appointed the Art Director of the Hamazkayin Theater named after Sos Sargsyan. Since then, the young director and actress has won major awards in international theater festivals and presented Armenian culture to foreign audiences with special delicacy, beauty and depth. In our conversation, we covered a wide range of subjects, including Grigoryan’s personal journey, the current state of Armenian theater and the broader significance of art.

Milena Baghdasaryan (M.B.): What brought you to the world of theater?

Narine Grigoryan (N.G.): The interesting thing is that I spent my childhood in places where I didn’t even see a theater, but since childhood I have been telling myself and everyone else that I would become an actress. Later, I changed my path, went to the PhysMath school, took part in math olympiads, but eventually I returned to where I knew I belonged. At 17 years old, I arrived where seven-year-old Narine knew she should be. But the things I learned and picked up while being away from the world of theater then helped me in my career as an actress. Learning math impacted my way of thinking, and my family’s move to Artsakh enabled me to better understand my roots as well as to learn a dialect, which is a great way to enrich one’s vocabulary and perception of language. Back then, it seemed I was moving away from theater, but everything that happened throughout that journey has shaped me into the artist I am today, and I am grateful for that. 

M.B.: Perhaps every person encounters some sort of a turning point throughout their life. What has been the decisive event, role or person, after which things took a completely different turn?

N.G.: I would say the different meetings with the people who have shaped me in my profession are what I consider turning points. One example of such meetings is that with Ruben Babayan (renowned director and Honored Art Worker of Armenia) during my studies at the Yerevan State Institute of Theatre and Cinematography. He taught me a lot about my profession and even helped me learn things like how to give interviews or how to accurately formulate my thoughts. Despite all my success as an actress, he never allowed me to forget that I was first of all a director. In general, he made a very significant impact on my career, and I will always remember and appreciate his role in my life. Another key person is Sos Sargsyan – someone whose ‘breath’ is always present in our theater. I would also like to mention the name of Serj Melik-Hovsepyan, who came to Armenia from France and introduced me to a completely different theater style. Before him, our theater still often followed the Russian approach, whereas his appearance brought something revolutionary for us. Even though I am not a risk-taker in my personal life, I like taking very big risks in theater. I am not afraid of unlearning everything I know and starting everything from scratch. In theater, I like taking the scary road and exploring things I have never seen or experienced before. 

M.B.: How do you get inspired? Does the transformation from Narine Grigoryan to any other character or persona need a special time, location or circumstance to take place, or can it happen at any moment?

N.G.: When acting, I put aside my profession as a director and immerse myself into the world of acting. For me, the first impulse of inspiration is the director on whom I choose to rely fully and who I let inspire me. I like understanding and imagining what kind of a fairy tale they have in mind, what they expect from me in creating that tale, and I embody that. The other impulses are the author, my partner on stage and the audience. There are many impulses, but the first one for me is always the director. The ‘grain of wheat’ is in the director’s hands. But it is important to continue creating in that fairy tale, not merely comply with the requirements of it, and to be able to create in someone else’s creation, you first need to understand it. 

When directing, it is interesting for me to notice, now, as an adult, that all my impulses come from my childhood. This year was very difficult for me; many losses, and the loss of Artsakh in particular, disarmed me to the point that I could no longer create new performances. I had no inspiration or willingness to do anything. Then, recently, Paruyr Sevak’s grandchild came to me and introduced me to the project dedicated to the 100th birth anniversary of the great Armenian poet on which he wanted us to collaborate. I remembered that, when I was a child, my father, who knew Sevak’s poems very well, used to come up with games revolving around that poetry. For example, he would say out loud a line from a poem by Sevak, and expect me to quickly remember the next line and continue the game. It was our favorite pastime, my favorite memory from childhood, and now that my father is no longer, I had a strong urge to revive those moments. So when Sevak’s grandchild came to me with the project idea, it was that childhood memory that inspired and encouraged me to get involved, despite all the losses and traumas of 2023. 

Narine Grigoryan

M.B.: When creating something new, do you have the audience’s potential reaction in mind, or do you give to the paper or the stage whatever your heart dictates? 

N.G.: Milena, I am my own audience. Jerzy Grotowski once said that director is the professional audience․ When you are creating something as a director, the professional audience inside you watches. At different points this audience might say, “It’s no longer interesting,” “It’s becoming boring,” “Change the tone,” and, as Sevak used to say, the more you mix your “I” with the great “We,” you start feeling what the “We” feels, and you start seeing things from the perspective of the “We.” Of course, you need to create from your own sincerity, from what has hurt you, from what has given you joy. I create from what has emotionally moved me and that I know would move others too. You just need to be clean, pure, genuine and authentic to feel what your audience feels. You need to be like a clean white page. In general, it’s difficult to be a director; while the actor is responsible for exploring and revealing his or her color palette only, the director is responsible for a whole big creation process. 

M.B.: Narine, your characters always differ from other characters, and, in addition to being different, they are also loved by the audiences. What is your secret formula? 

N.G.: Perhaps my secret formula is my sincerity and genuineness itself. I never recite a poem if I do not find it relevant, if I do not feel connected to it. Even though, based on my contract, I am responsible for playing any given role, I do not play it if it is not ‘mine.’ When I was younger, people would say they would complain to Sos Sargsyan when I would not take this or that role. Then, Sos Sargsyan would say: “Who is that? Narincho? Oh yeah, leave her alone. She will not play if she does not want to.” 

M.B.: To what extent is it important for the artist to be accepted and loved by the audience? Or is the artist’s personal satisfaction enough?

N.G.: You know, my field is such that there is a very strong connection between the artist and the audience, and that connection is here and now. It is not like music or painting, which can be understood years after the artist’s death; acting is live art, it takes place here and now, and it needs to be understood here and now. They will not see me acting on stage after I die. Moreover, styles change. Today, I would not act or speak like Vahram Papazyan would in the times of the Romanticism movement. As an actress, you need to be interesting in your own time, and, more than that, you need to prove that you were interesting yesterday and are still interesting today and will be tomorrow. It is difficult, as sometimes even after one unsuccessful performance you or the audience might think that you are no longer a good artist today; you were one yesterday, but no longer. When you are an actress, being interesting is a continuous process. In fact, I take everyone’s comments very close to my heart. When I am asked, who is the theater expert on whom I rely and whose word I take seriously, I respond “Everyone.” I listen to everyone’s opinion as I would listen to the most professional expert’s opinion. 

M.B.: In your opinion, is talent born with the person or as a result of hard work? Or maybe both?

N.G.: I would say both. I teach at the Yerevan State Institute of Theatre and Cinematography, and all my students are talented, but not all of them go to the end of the road. Each and every one of them is a flower bud, but not everyone blooms. There are students who are so incredibly talented, I look at them and think they would ‘move mountains’ in theater, but time passes and they take another road; I find out they are now police officers, IT specialists…they have left theater and not come back. At such moments, I realize that being an actor is not just about talent; it’s about character, patience, willpower, love and authenticity. In theater, it’s easy to give up, to be discouraged by a word…“Your voice isn’t that strong for an actor,” “You don’t look nice on the stage,” and so many other negative comments can make someone quit. But those who stay choose to stay not because they want to be liked but because they have something to say, and theater is for them the way and the place to express themselves. They stay and they act because they cannot not act. I come across many actors who want to be liked to the extent that they are no longer authentic. They act in a way to fit in, to please, to be liked. They act not for something greater, not for the divine, but for simply stroking their own egos by being liked by the audience. They don’t succeed, they are not liked, because they are not themselves. They are not authentic. 

M.B.: What does the theater field in Armenia currently lack? If you were given a magic wand that could make any necessary changes in the field, what would your first steps be?

N.G.: In my role as an art director, I realized that theater does not like sudden, abrupt changes. That is because in theater you deal with people, and you cannot simply say, “You are not a good actor. From now on you should not act in theater.” If you work in theater, one of the most important things for you is the other person’s inner world, the other person’s feelings, and therefore you cannot make an abrupt and careless change. To be honest, recently there have been very positive changes in our theater. The creators of soap operas did not understand that they needed to provide the audience with a quality product, and people started going to theaters in search of something of higher quality. Over time, soap operas have undergone a regression in Armenia, while theater has made huge progress, and a proof of that progress is the many awards that we have received in international festivals and competitions. Another positive dynamic is that the individual theaters in Armenia no longer perceive each other as competitors that need to pull each other down but rather as collaborators that can help each other succeed, and the outcome is clearly visible. 

Theater helps us love each other a little bit more. You come and watch another person’s story, and you start to empathize with the other. You start to see beyond yourself, you start to become a part of a “we.”

M.B.: What is the role of art and of theater in particular? How can theater as an artform be used today to change the socio-political situation of the country and the emotional state of the individuals?

N.G.: In general, theater helps us love each other a little bit more. You come and watch another person’s story, and you start to empathize with the other. You start to see beyond yourself, you start to become a part of a “we,” and after that, you start to ache for the people under blockade in Artsakh despite being in Yerevan; you start to ache for the villager whose crops were damaged from the frost, even though you are not from that village and are sitting comfortably in your cozy apartment in the city. Theater helps you understand the other, look at things from someone else’s perspective. Theater helps humans stay human. By being able to do so, theater can have a very important role in people’s lives. 

One of the main issues of our society today is the divide that exists between us. The interesting thing is that we are all fighting for the same goal, for our homeland, but we refuse to see that we can do so in different ways. When one looks and sees “nine,” he or she gets disturbed when someone else points out that it’s not a “nine” but “six.” Both of the sides are right, but they are wrong in refusing to look at the issue from a different angle. Our problem is that we fail to see the other’s perspective, and the role of art is to show that perspective. 

M.B.: There exists an interesting paradox. In wartime, people die, but very powerful works of art are born. It seems that there needs to be some sort of pain that can push people to create, as if there needs to be a gap for art to step in and fill in. Do we need pain to create, or happiness too can inspire us?

N.G.: It was the opposite for me. The losses dulled my willingness to create. I started to think that all I am doing is just drawing butterflies against the backdrop of large-scale happenings. But then you also realize that you might drown in reality without art, and you start looking for an escape, for a source of light, for a place where you can still fly freely. To be honest, after the pandemic and the war, I thought that people would no longer come to the theater, but then I saw more and more people come to our plays. As they were coming, we also felt the responsibility to get ourselves together and continue creating, but it was difficult. For a whole year I couldn’t get myself together, since my entire life was about victories. It was about knowing that Artsakh was mine. It’s my homeland. I knew that to the level of my cells…and suddenly it all collapsed. But on the other hand, when you start looking at it from the lighthearted point of view of an artist, you realize that the loss was just a page. You can turn it and start from a clean, blank page. You just need to not repeat the same mistakes; our history is like a wheel, turning and coming to the same point, as if we are doing something the wrong way, as if we are not learning from our mistakes. 

M.B.: What are some pieces of art that you would recommend to watch today to rediscover the light?

N.G.: I would not give specific names, but in my own artistic work I try to conclude everything with a sense of hope. In one of the plays, at the end the buffalo gives birth to a calf; in another, a suitcase saves the family. In another instance, the loss of the war is followed by the birth of Harutyun (an Armenian name that also means resurrection). There will always be Harutyun. No matter what, our Sasuntsi Davit will be born, and he will help his people stand up again. It’s the epic poem of our nation. It’s in us. It’s us, the Mets Mher in the epic who goes and builds the other’s town. It’s us who have gone and built Baku and Tbilisi while not giving proper attention to our own Yerevan. The continuous mourning is also in our epic poem; when Davit is born and his parents are dead, the grandmother enters her rooms and starts mourning instead of taking care of the newborn child. It’s all us, a bit ‘crooked,’ a bit naive, but also very kind, loving, humorous…These are important characteristics that we need to hold onto and, like in that cartoon, pull from our own hair to get ourselves out of the bog.

M.B.: What has been the best advice that you have received, and what would be your own best advice to young Armenian artists?

N.G.: Do not lose your humor, because humor is that lighthearted gaze that helps you look at the problem from a different perspective, find a solution and get on your feet. Another piece of advice is to never lose your love and keep loving the other. Keep trying to understand and empathize with the people around you. With love, you also manage to keep your patience, your strength, your power. With love, you win. 

Milena Baghdasaryan is a graduate from UWC Changshu China. Since the age of 11, she has been writing articles for a local newspaper named Kanch ('Call'). At the age of 18, she published her first novel on Granish.org and created her own blog, Taghandi Hetqerov ('In the Pursuit of Talent')—a portal devoted to interviewing young and talented Armenians all around the world. Baghdasaryan considers storytelling, traveling and learning new languages to be critical in helping one explore the world, connect with others, and discover oneself. Milena currently studies Film and New Media at New York University in Abu Dhabi.

Georgian PM announces signing of strategic partnership with Armenia

Agenda, Georgia
Jan 26 2024

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili on Friday announced the signing of a memorandum on strategic partnership between Georgia and Armenia, following his meeting with his counterpart Nikol Pashinyan.

In his remarks, Garibashvili noted the two states had “always been strategic friends and partners”, adding “this reality has officially been signed today”.

“We discussed important matters concerning the existing relations, partnership, and cooperation between the two countries in all directions”, he said.

We have a very good partnership, relationship, cooperation in all directions and de facto, it can be said that we were already strategic friends and strategic partners. Today, it can be said, this reality has been formalised, and we officially signed a cooperation agreement on strategic partnership”, the PM continued.

Garibashvili also called Georgia and Armenia “traditionally [and] historically very strong allies” and “friends, not just neighbours”.

Jailed in Limbo: The Armenian Prisoners in Azerbaijan

Inter Press Service
Jan 25 2024

YEREVAN, Armenia, Jan 25 2024 (IPS) – On July 29, 2023, Vagif Khachatryan, a 68-year-old Armenian retiree, woke up early in Nagorno Karabakh —a self-proclaimed republic in the Caucasus region—to travel to Armenia. He needed to undergo delicate heart surgery.

Despite the pressing medical emergency, it was not an easy decision. The only road that connected Nagorno Karabakh with Armenia and the rest of the world had been cut off for seven months by the Azerbaijani army. Even if he was travelling in an International Committee of the Red Cross car, Khachatryan knew he could face trouble.

He was arrested that day by the Azerbaijani border guard service. Four months later, a military court in Baku handed him a 15-year sentence for crimes allegedly committed during a war fought more than 30 years ago.

Vagif Khachatryan is yet another victim of a conflict that has its roots in the Soviet Union. After the collapse of the USSR in 1991, Armenians remained the majority in Nagorno-Karabakh, but the enclave was officially on the territory of the newborn Republic of Azerbaijan.

A war was already unravelling in Karabakh. The Armenian victory also led to the forcible displacement of hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis. In September 2020, the latter launched an offensive through which they took over two-thirds of the territory under Armenian control.

But there were still more than 100,000 Armenians left.

In December 2022, Baku blocked the only road connecting Artsakh with Armenia and the rest of the world, depriving its inhabitants of the most basic supplies including food and medicines. It was that lack of medical assistance that pushed Vagif Khachatryan to his fate seven months later.

With Khachatryan already in prison, the blockade on Nagorno Karabakh was lifted in September 2023 in the wake of a new Azeri attack. The road was opened so that the Armenians remaining in the enclave fled en masse to Armenia.

Senior international bodies like the European Union Parliament accused Azerbaijan of carrying out “ethnic cleansing” against the Armenian residents of Nagorno-Karabakh. Today, Karabakhis are restarting from scratch in Armenia, the Khachatryans among those.

“The fact that my father has a heart disease gives me hope that he will not be tortured in Azerbaijani custody,” Vera Khachatryan told IPS by telephone from Jermuk, 170 kilometres southeast of Yerevan.

Her father’s arrest, she said, has also had an impact on her mother. “She suffers from new health and psychological problems which only add to those derived from forced displacement,” explained the displaced woman.

On September 28, Karabaj authorities issued a decree dissolving the self-proclaimed Nagorno Karabakh Republic as of January 1, 2024.


On December 13, 2023, a prisoner exchange took place: Azerbaijan released 32 Armenian soldiers in exchange for the last two Azerbaijani soldiers under Armenian custody. Armenia’s support for Azerbaijan to host the United Nations Climate Summit in Baku was also part of the deal.

Both sides described it as “a sign of goodwill.”

“Azerbaijan uses the prisoners´ issue as a political tool to put pressure on Armenia or to obtain something in return,” Siranush Sahakyan, representative of the Armenian prisoners’ interests at the European Court of Human Rights told IPS by phone.

“No repatriation conducted by Baku other than the prisoner swap was held under an amnesty or any other legal procedure,” stressed Sahakyan.

Armenia claims that more than 100 prisoners of war and civilians remain in Azerbaijan, including three former presidents of Nagorno-Karabakh, the speaker of parliament and members of the cabinet. Baku says the total number of Armenian prisoners in its custody is 23.

Other than the contradicting figures, their state also poses a major source of concern. In a March 2021 report, Human Rights Watch denounced that the Armenian prisoners of war suffered abuse in Azerbaijani custody and called on Baku to release “all remaining prisoners of war and civilians.”

Faced with Baku’s inaction, Yerevan appealed to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

“Azerbaijan is obliged to submit a report on arbitrarily detained senior officials to the ECHR before the end of January 2024,” Hasmik Samvelyan, spokesperson for the Armenian Representation for International Legal Affairs, reminded IPS in a telephone conversation.

For the time being, the International Committee of the Red Cross is the only independent body that has access to Armenian prisoners.

“Our representatives have visited all the captives detained in Baku and checked the conditions in which they are held,” Zara Amatuni, ICRC communications officer in Armenia, told IPS by telephone.

Several of the prisoners’ relatives confirmed to IPS that they had the opportunity to speak with them. The ICRC mediates to facilitate communication by telephone every 30 to 40 days. The organisation avoided giving more details after appealing to the importance of confidentiality.

“We present our observations only to the competent authorities,” the ICRC press officer stressed to IPS.

Repatriated prisoners have also consistently refused to talk to journalists about the conditions of their imprisonment, and that´s also the Armenian state´s policy. Many see it as a way to avoid triggering a reaction from Azerbaijan that could worsen the imprisonment conditions.

Waiting for justice

During an international forum on the future of Nagorno Karabakh held on December 6 in Baku, Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev declared that the Armenian prisoners “are waiting for Azerbaijani justice to rule.”

The recent wave of repression against the media and any voice critical of the Government does not invite hope. Last December, Amnesty International denounced the arrests of at least six independent Azerbaijani journalists in just one month on “fabricated” charges.

In its latest world freedom report, the Freedom House claimed Azerbaijan is one of the 57 countries classified as “not free” out of the 159 studied. The Washington-based NGO denounced “numerous arbitrary arrests and detentions”. It also described Azerbaijan’s judiciary as “corrupt and subordinate to the executive.”

Another of those waiting for Azerbaijani justice to rule is Vicken Euljeckjian. This Lebanese who also has Armenian nationality was captured along with Maral Najarian —another Lebanese Armenian— by Azerbaijani soldiers while driving from Yerevan to Nagorno-Karabakh on November 10, 2020, a day after the Russian-brokered ceasefire was announced.

Four months after their arrest, Beirut secured Najarian´s release, but not Euljeckjian´s. The latter was sentenced to 20 years in prison in June 2021. His name, however, appeared on the list of prisoners to be swapped on December 13, 2023, but a last-minute surprise prevented it.

“After three years of separation, pain and despair, we were very excited to hear that he would finally be released. Suddenly, his name was replaced with that of another prisoner three hours before the exchange,” Vicken´s wife Linda Euljeckjian recalled to IPS by phone from Beirut.

Hoping to ease the process, Linda and her daughter travelled to Yerevan to meet with Armenian officials. But the latter could do little, so the family also approached senior Lebanese officials.

“After pressure from the local media, the Lebanese government appears to be interested in discussing the issue of my husband’s repatriation with Azerbaijani officials,” said Linda.

While she waits for the release of her husband, the issue of Armenian prisoners of war and civilians in Azerbaijan remains among those to be settled in a conflict inherited from the 20th century.


Russia, Finland terminate cross-border cooperation agreement


YEREVAN, JANUARY 24, ARMENPRESS. Russia and Finland terminated an agreement on facilitating cross-border cooperation on Wednesday, RIA Novosti reported.

It quoted the Russian embassy in Finland as saying this was “due to the targeted actions taken by the Finnish side in 2022-2023 to sever multifaceted ties with Russia.”

In October, the Russian Foreign Ministry handed a note to the Finnish Ambassador to Russia, Antti Helantera, notifying their neighbor they were terminating the agreement between Moscow and Helsinki on promoting cross-border cooperation. The agreement had been signed in Helsinki on April 13th, 2012. The termination was agreed to by both sides.

The Finnish government closed all its eastern border crossings with Russia to passenger traffic in mid‑December, 2023. The border closure, originally valid until January 14, 2024, has been extended until Feb 11th.

Russia opposed Finland’s decision, saying that this action violated the rights and interests of both Finns and Russians.

Finland shares a 1,340 kilometer border with Russia. After being admitted to NATO last April, its border became a common border with a member of NATO.

Armenia hasn’t received offer on direct talks with Azerbaijan – MP


YEREVAN, JANUARY 10, ARMENPRESS. Armenia hasn’t been offered to engage in direct, bilateral talks with Azerbaijan, a senior lawmaker has said.

“I assume that no offer has been to Armenia to take part in bilateral negotiations with Azerbaijan at any given time and place,” Sargis Khandanyan, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, told reporters when asked to comment on statements made from Baku on bilateral talks.

“We attach importance to the formats that have already been developed to be continuous, because they convey international reputation to the negotiations, further legitimize the negotiations and make the risks more manageable. Particularly, foreign ministerial talks were held in Washington, and summits were held in the EU platforms,” the MP said.

Bilateral discussions continue in the delimitation commission talks.

Direct bilateral talks took place in December 2023 on the release of POWs. Khandanyan said Armenia is ready to continue talks.

“Our priority is the content and stipulation of the principles of the talks, regardless where they will go on, or if the talks will be bilateral. If the principles aren’t recorded, then the agreements won’t have the value we expect,” he said.

NAASR Announces 2023 Dr. Sona Aronian Armenian Studies Book Prize Winners

Dr. Vartan Matiossian’s “The Politics of Naming the Armenian Genocide: Language, History and ‘Medz Yeghern’” book cover

The National Association for Armenian Studies and Research announced the winners of the 2023 Dr. Sona Aronian Book Prizes for Excellence in Armenian Studies. The recipients of the award are Dr. Vartan Matiossian for “The Politics of Naming the Armenian Genocide: Language, History and ‘Medz Yeghern’” (I. B. Tauris, 2022); Dr. Henry Shapiro for “The Rise of the Western Armenian Diaspora in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire” (Edinburgh University Press, 2022); and to Dr. Gohar Muradyan for the English-language translation “Ancient Greek Myths in Medieval Armenian Literature” (Brill, 2022), a translation of Հին հունական առասպելների արձագանքները հայ միջնադարյան մատենագրության մեջ (2014). The 2023 awards are for books with a 2022 publication date.

NAASR’s Aronian Book Prizes were established in 2014 by the late Dr. Aronian and Dr. Geoffrey Gibbs, to be awarded annually to outstanding scholarly works in the English language in the field of Armenian Studies and translations from Armenian into English.

“In a year with numerous ground-breaking scholarly works, it is a pleasure to recognize these three that cover such a wide range of topics with admirable scholarly rigor,” said NAASR’s Director of Academic Affairs Marc Mamigonian.

Vartan Matiossian’s “The Politics of Naming the Armenian Genocide” explores the genealogy of the concept of ‘Medz Yeghern’ (‘Great Crime’), an Armenian term for the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1923.  The work draws upon extensive research based on Armenian sources, neglected in much of the current historiography, as well as other European languages in order to trace the development of the concepts pertaining to mass killing and genocide of Armenians from the ancient to the modern periods.  In so doing, it makes important original contributions to our knowledge of the language used to refer to the Armenian Genocide—and the uses and abuses of language.

Dr. Henry Shapiro’s “The Rise of the Western Armenian Diaspora in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire” book cover

Dr. Matiossian, a scholar of Armenian history, literature, and language, is the Executive Director of the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church and book review editor for Armenian Review.

“I am deeply grateful to NAASR for bestowing this truly humbling honor upon a book that was not born from my main lines of research, but from an intrinsic wish to show how knowledge of the Armenian language and Armenian sources truly matters when it comes to the ‘Medz Yeghern,’ the Great Crime of genocide against the Armenians, and the everlasting attempts at its denial.  I hope that my incursion into genocide scholarship and the adjacent territories of language, history, and politics may serve as a corrective and a reminder in these sad times when words are being twisted and perverted to the point of being unrecognizable,” said Matiossian.

Dr. Henry Shapiro is an Ottoman historian at the Ibn Haldun University in Istanbul, Turkey.  “The Rise of the Western Armenian Diaspora in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire,” based on his 2018 Princeton doctoral thesis, traces how Armenian migrants changed the demographic and cultural landscape of Istanbul and Western Anatolia in the course of the 17th century and adds a great deal to our knowledge of a hitherto understudied but crucial chapter in Armenian (and not only in Armenian) history.

Dr. Gohar Muradyan English-language translation of “Ancient Greek Myths in Medieval Armenian Literature” book cover

Reached by email, Shapiro said, “I am truly honored to have won the Dr. Sona Aronian Book Prize for Excellence in Armenian Studies.  It takes many years to write a book, and appreciation of this kind is very valuable and motivating.  Moreover, I am grateful to NAASR for having supported research for my monograph.  Now I feel all the more motivated to work on the next one!”

Dr. Gohar Muradyan is a philologist and translator. She is a senior researcher and head of the Department for the Study of Translated Literature at the Institute of Ancient Manuscripts / Matenadaran in Yerevan.  “Ancient Greek Myths in Medieval Armenian Literature” brings together all the known references to ancient Greek myths in medieval Armenian literature.  Alongside the original Armenian passages and, when extant, their Greek originals, Muradyan provides annotated English translations.

When informed of winning the prize, Dr. Muradyan said that he was “delighted to be awarded this prize and I thank you heartily.”

Authors or publishers wishing to submit books for consideration for future Aronian prizes may contact NAASR Director of Academic Affairs Marc A. Mamigonian at [email protected].

Armenia’s Media Landscape Stirred: Union of Journalists Reacts to Sputnik’s Suspension

HongKong – Dec 27 2023

By: Momen Zellmi

In a significant development within Armenia’s media landscape, the Union of Journalists of Armenia (UJA) has spoken out against the suspension of broadcasting by Sputnik, a Russian news agency. This move by the professional association has stirred conversations about the evolving dynamics of media integrity and political pressure in the region.

Reacting to the violations of journalistic ethics and the dissemination of false information by Sputnik, the UJA has suspended the news agency’s membership. The decision is seen as a response to Sputnik’s biased reporting and failure to adhere to the principles of professional journalism. The UJA’s action underscores the need for journalistic integrity and the importance of unbiased reporting in the media landscape.

Adding to Sputnik’s woes, the Tospa radio station, which carries programs of Russian broadcaster Sputnik, has seen its license suspended for one month by the Armenian authorities. The suspension came in the wake of ‘ironic and offensive’ comments made about Armenia by Tigran Keosayan, a Russian propagandist of Armenian origin. The move is perceived as a reaction to the derogatory remarks and an assertion of national dignity.

The developments surrounding Sputnik have raised concerns about press freedom and the principle of freedom of _expression_ in Armenia. The UJA’s stand and the suspension of Tospa’s broadcasting license could have implications for the broader media environment in the country. These actions serve as a reminder of the challenges faced by media outlets in maintaining a balance between journalistic integrity and political pressures. They also reinforce the necessity for diverse voices and perspectives to continue to have a platform in Armenia’s public discourse.


Gaza receives over 4.7 thousand vehicles of humanitarian aid in two months


YEREVAN, 26 DECEMBER, ARMENPRESS. The Palestinian Red Crescent (PRCS) has received 4,760 trucks of humanitarian aid from Egypt through the Rafah crossing in the last two months, reports Al-Jazeera.

The aid trucks were received between October 21, 2023, and December 22, the PRCS said.

The trucks contain “food, water, relief aid, medical supplies, and medicines”, it said.

Pashinyan warns against politicizing Eurasian integration

Belarus – Dec 25 2023

ST PETERSBURG, 25 December (BelTA) – Given its basic economic principles he Eurasian Economic Union should not correlate with political ambitions, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said at a meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council in St. Petersburg on 25 December, BelTA has learned.

It is symbolic that Armenia will hold chairmanship in the EAEU in 2024 Nikol Pashinyan noted. Next year marks the 10th anniversary of the EAEU Treaty, which is based on the fundamental postulate that the EAEU is an economic association that should not have a political or even geopolitical agenda. This is how Armenia continues to perceive it and is developing economic cooperation "seeking to suppress all attempts to politicize the Eurasian integration."

"The EAEU and its economic principles should not correlate with political ambitions. Basic freedoms of trade and integration cannot and should not be restricted for political reasons. This will definitely corrode the fundamental principles of the union," Nikol Pashinyan stressed. In this regard, the Armenian prime minister welcomed the EAEU-Iran free trade agreement.

At the same time, he drew attention to the unresolved fundamental issues that have accumulated in the EAEU. According to him, there is a need to achieve fundamental decisions on the approaches, principles and mechanisms of the functioning of common energy markets in the EAEU. "In this context, we are ready to show a flexible approach to ensuring a balance of interests of the EAEU member states on the unresolved issues in order to harness the advantages and potential of the common energy markets in the EAEU," Nikol Pashinyan said. He also proposed to expand areas of cooperation in energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Another fundamentally important issue, according to the prime minister, is the use of digital technologies and artificial intelligence. This area is of particular relevance and opens up new opportunities for more rapid collection and effective analysis of economic data. Responsible use of artificial intelligence capabilities can serve as an impetus for the development of economic cooperation in the EAEU.

"If we manage to ensure transport, transit and administrative seamlessness through modern technologies, we will get a unique opportunity for the development of relations between the EAEU and interested third countries," Nikol Pashinyan said.