Georgia ready to work with Armenia and Azerbaijan for lasting peace in South Caucasus – PM Garibashvili


YEREVAN, OCTOBER 26, ARMENPRESS. Georgia is ready to work with Armenia and Azerbaijan to achieve lasting peace in the South Caucasus, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has said.

“We are ready to work with our neighbors and friends, with Armenia and Azerbaijan, so that lasting peace is at last established in South Caucasus,” TASS quoted the Georgian PM as saying during the 4th Tbilisi Silk Road Forum.

Garibashvili has numerously offered Georgia’s mediation in the Armenian-Azeri talks.

As the post-Soviet order collapses, Armenia feels threatened

France – Oct 25 2023
by Avedis Hadjian,

Weeks after the Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, a region formally part of Azerbaijan, was emptied of its remaining 120,000 residents, Armenia is following Azerbaijan’s military build-up along its southern border with growing concern. After the crushing defeat it suffered in the 44-day war of 2020, Armenia fears it may now face an existential struggle with its long-time enemy.

On 19 September, after a nine-month blockade during which Baku restricted food, electricity, gas and internet access to the enclave, Azerbaijan took over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh in a 24-hour operation. The capture drove out an Armenian population who had, for centuries, mostly enjoyed a high degree of autonomy, until the Soviet Union detached the region from Armenia proper in 1921 and annexed it to the newly proclaimed Socialist Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan.

With up to 3000 troops taking part in Azerbaijan’s joint military drills with Turkey at Armenia’s border, Armenians fear the same could happen to the population of the southern province of Syunik. Indeed, if Azerbaijani forces cut through that strip of land — only 18 miles wide at its narrowest stretch — Syunik would be cut off from the rest of Armenia and the capital, Yerevan. For Azerbaijan, this would create a corridor that would link up the mainland with an Azeri exclave called Nakhichevan. ‘Azerbaijan’s threats against Syunik have never been a secret,’ a retired senior officer in the Armenian army told me. ‘Their president does it openly, falsifying history, labelling Syunik too as a “historical Azerbaijani territory”, the same claim they made about Nagorno-Karabakh.’ This officer, who requested anonymity, said that the 2021 and 2022 attacks by Azerbaijan against Armenia proper were eloquent testimonies of their intentions. ‘I don’t think the Azerbaijani threat against Syunik has currently subsided.’

Without pressure from the international community — Armenians look particularly to the United States and France, as well as to Iran — and the active efforts of the Armenian diplomacy to prevent a new escalation, an Azerbaijani attack is a permanent possibility. ‘We are always expecting their aggression.’

On a visit to the southern Armenian province, Ara Zargaryan, a literature scholar and army veteran who fought in the 44-day war, showed me constructions that resemble mushroom caps, and are not always visible to the naked eye. These fortified trenches, called ‘gmbet’ (‘dome’ in Armenian), can withstand drone attacks and have multiplied by the thousand across the probable theatre of war.

If Azerbaijan’s forces succeed in creating a corridor, southern Armenia, with its population of 140,000, will find itself trapped by Azerbaijani forces to the north and flanked by Azerbaijani territory. Only a road connecting Armenia to Iran could ensure a measure of security for evacuating refugees. After that, we could see a similar scenario to the one that unfolded for nine months in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Public proclamations by Azeri officials recognising Armenia’s territorial integrity may be misleading, according to Beynamin Poghosyan, a senior fellow on foreign policy at the Applied Policy Research Institute of Armenia, an independent think tank in Yerevan. ‘While publicly recognising Armenia’s sovereignty over Syunik, and dropping demands for exterritorial corridor, Azerbaijan continues to claim that Armenia should provide special conditions to ensure the security of Azerbaijani persons and cargo, travelling via Syunik,’ he said. ‘The wording is quite vague and may provide Azerbaijan opportunities to demand restricted Armenian sovereignty over Syunik.’

Armenia’s dire strategic situation is compounded by the deteriorating relations with Russia, the Caucasian republic’s strategic ally and guarantor. Russia passively looked on as Azerbaijan kept up the pressure on Armenia even after it attained its proclaimed military goals and reconquered Nagorno-Karabakh, which used to be an autonomous region within Soviet Azerbaijan and declared its independence in a referendum in 1991, as the Soviet Union was collapsing.

Since coming to power in the so-called Velvet Revolution of 2018, Armenia’s prime minister Nikol Pashinyan has pursued a policy of democratisation, which has involved fighting the corruption of an old guard closely associated with the Kremlin and seeking closer relations with the West. Indeed, many believe that Russian passivity in the short yet brutal 44-day war may have been punishment for the Pashinyan government’s efforts to consolidate a democratic system in a region where autocracies prevail, Azerbaijan being a case in point. Remarkably, it is a hereditary dictatorship in all but name that has been run almost continuously by an Aliyev since 1969: Heydar (only briefly out of power between 1987 and 1993), and Ilham, who took over from his father upon his death in 2003, and has been in power since. Armenia took a different path in 1991 after gaining independence from a collapsing Soviet Union by installing a fully functioning democracy, a pattern that also defined the three decades of independent life in Nagorno-Karabakh, which held regular presidential and parliamentary elections.

This former officer I spoke to did not mention Russia among Armenia’s partners helping to deter a possible Azerbaijani attack. In a conversation at a military border outpost in Syunik, a lieutenant colonel and other officers also failed to list Russia among possible allies, and made clear that Armenia is relying on its own resources to repel any possible Azeri attack. When asked about Russia, they pointed to a nearby aerial surveillance base that the Russians had vacated a year or so before, moving some of its operations elsewhere along Armenia’s borders with Azerbaijan.

Armenia’s security challenges are exacerbated not only by its own worsening relations with Russia, but also by the Kremlin’s growing dependence on Azerbaijan and Turkey as alternative trade and political partners, while it suffers the crippling sanctions of the European Union and the United States. In a piece written a week after the fall of Nagorno-Karabakh, Thomas de Waal, senior fellow at Carnegie Europe, wrote: ‘Russia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey all have a shared interest in imposing their own version of what the latter two call the Zangezur Corridor with as little Armenian control of the route as possible — and perhaps by force’. According to Aura Sabadus, senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis, Russia, Azerbaijan and its military ally, Turkey, have a common interest in gas supplies. ‘Azerbaijan and Turkey could provide a convenient and covert backdoor for Russian gas, potentially bringing widespread corruption amid opaque dealings with Europe and denting the EU’s ability to confront authoritarian regimes.’

Incense burns next to the tomb of 44-day war hero at Yerablur, the military cemetery in Yerevan.
Avedis Hadjian

In view of this realignment of alliances, Poghosyan predicts further Armenian resistance to Russian involvement in any potential trade routes. ‘Armenia seeks to reject the role for the Russian border troops in the functioning of the routes, which creates tensions between Armenia and Russia,’ he said. ‘All external actors, Russia, the EU and the US, are interested in restoration of communications including establishment of routes from Azerbaijan to Nakhijevan via Armenia.’ The US and the EU do not want to see any Russian role in the functioning of these routes. ‘In the current circumstances, Armenia should take steps to avoid becoming another battlefield between Russia and the West or “democracy vs authoritarianism”, and take steps to increase defence capacities and capabilities, as well as economic development of Syunik region.’

The main geopolitical and economic goal of the so-called ‘Zangezur Corridor’, says Arpi Topchyan, a defence analyst at Berd, an NGO in Armenia, ‘is to provide a reliable land connection, an umbilical cord for the Russian-Turkish strategic alliance, which will increase the Russian-Turkish economic cooperation on several levels: to formulate far-reaching geopolitical goals,’ she said. ‘The launch of the “Zangezur Corridor” casts great doubt on the economic and geopolitical expediency of the North-South Road: it crosses the path of an alternative route from the Persian Gulf through Armenia to Europe.’

It would also compromise Iran’s geopolitical position, Topchyan believes. ‘Another goal of the “Zangezur Corridor” is to take Iran into a reliable straitjacket, which can be desirable for other foreign players,’ she said. ‘The main question currently being discussed is who will control the operation of the corridor, who will have the key: the main beneficiary and candidate is the Russian Federation, which has taken on the task of imposing the corridor on Armenia.’

According to Topchyan, the ‘Zangezur Corridor’ is vital for Russia as it ensures its continued presence in the South Caucasus. It would also lessen Armenia’s geopolitical significance. ‘Azerbaijan’s threats and possible attack are the instruments of coercion in the hands of Russia,’ she said. ‘With the opening of the “Zangezur Corridor”, Armenia practically loses control over Syunik and becomes uninteresting to everyone, and thus Russia neutralises the last fragments of Armenia’s sovereignty.’

The rising tensions in the Middle East could compromise Armenia’s security even further. The Israeli-Palestinian war raging since Hamas’ attack on 7 October could inflame the region. With Armenia lacking practically any strategic depth, any wider war that aligned Azerbaijani forces — supported by allies Turkey and Israel — against Iran would inevitably threaten Armenia, especially if Russia failed to intervene.

As the distance between Russia and Armenia grows, Armenia is turning to the West. In September, Armenian forces held a minor military exercise with US troops. Operation Eagle Partner involves 87 American soldiers who trained their Armenian peers for peacekeeping missions. Predictably, it provoked a warning by the Kremlin’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov. Armenia has also declared its intention to sign the Rome Statute, which would expose Putin to extradition should he visit the country.

The post-Soviet security architecture is collapsing in the South Caucasus, with a weakening Russia now mired in the Ukraine war. In a complex geopolitical context, where any move could upset some of the major regional powers, Armenia must juggle its interests with those of much more powerful and mostly hostile neighbours — including Turkey, which exterminated almost its entire Armenian population in 1915. Not only does Turkey vehemently deny the genocide — it is also the main ally and supporter of Azerbaijan, another Turkic country. After the 44-day war — in which the Turkish army took part and its Bayraktar drones were decisive in Azerbaijan’s victory — Turkey returned to the Caucasus for the first time in a century, since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

Today only a fraction of what it used to be before the Turkic invasions of the 11th century, Armenia finds itself flanked by a victorious, increasingly bellicose Azerbaijan, armed and supported by Turkey. Any new war in Armenia — a country barely half the size of Ireland, with negative demographic growth and a population of less than 3 million people — could be decisive.

Avedis Hadjian

Avedis Hadjian is a journalist and the author of Secret Nation: The Hidden Armenians of Turkey. His work as a correspondent has taken him to Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, China, the Caucasus, Turkey, and Latin America.

ANCA-WR to Honor Longtime Activist Michael Mahdesian with ‘Vahan Cardashian’ Award


The Armenian National Committee of America –Western Region will honor the highly esteemed, prolific work of activist and Servicon Systems Chairman, Michael Mahdesian with the Vahan Cardashian Award at the 2023 Awards event, which will be held on Sunday, November 12th at The Omni Hotel in Los Angeles.

Following nearly ten months of Azerbaijan’s illegal blockade of Artsakh and its military onslaught which resulted in the forced depopulation of Artsakh, the ANCA-WR Board seriously considered canceling this year’s Awards Gala. However, remembering the inspiring words of Artsakh Foreign Minister and last year’s Freedom Award honoree David Babayan, who is currently unlawfully imprisoned in Baku, the ANCA-WR Board decided that it must not cower in the face of Azeri aggression and that it must forge ahead in a show of unity and resilience against the injustices inflicted on our people, pledging to donate a portion of the proceeds toward humanitarian assistance for Artsakh genocide survivors.

For his unwavering dedication to promoting human rights for the Armenian community and beyond, Michael Mahdesian exemplifies the spirit of organizing collective efforts in the name of speaking truth to power, inspired by the award’s namesake, Vahan Cardashian himself. The fearless spirit of Cardashian is something all Armenians from around the world need now more than ever as the unspeakable horrors of genocide and forced displacement continue to plague the over 100,000 Armenians of Artsakh while Armenia remains under threat by Azerbaijan.

“It is with great pride that the ANCA-WR salutes Michael Mahdesian for his lifetime of brave, impassioned service to the advancement of the Armenian Cause and to humanitarianism at home and abroad. His knowledge and experience in public policy and human rights has inspired generations of activists,” says ANCA-WR Chair Nora Hovsepian, Esq.

“His fierce commitment to giving a voice to those in need is an example for all Armenians, as we stand in solidarity with people throughout the world who seek democracy and a better life. His impact on the Armenian American community continues to grow, as we embrace a new era of activism through the principles of thoughtful action Michael has lived by throughout his years of public service,” Hovsepian added.

Heralded for his tireless efforts to establish Armenian independence, Cardashian single-handedly lobbied the United States for support in creating an independent Armenian state in the aftermath of World War I and the Armenian Genocide.

As the founder of the American Committee for the Independence of Armenia (ACIA), he assembled a group of respected American scholars and diplomats with broad spheres of influence to elevate the Armenian Cause to the most powerful figures in the US government. In doing so, he created the first Armenian American lobbying group, which served as the predecessor for what would become the modern-day ANCA.

It is fitting and deeply poetic to know that the advocacy Cardashian spearheaded in the early twentieth century to fulfill his vision for a powerful Armenian nation and Diaspora was carried on by Michael Mahdesian, as he helped establish and advise the ANCA and ANCA-WR, beginning a new, prosperous era for the Armenian community in the United States.

Armenians around the world know well the haunting silence of an international community that fails to intervene in preventing injustice and crimes against humanity. It is that deafening silence that first inspired Michael Mahdesian to devote his life to taking action in the service of those without a voice and become an indefatigable advocate for peace.

Born in Los Angeles, he began his collegiate career as a film student at the University of Southern California. After a transformative trip hitchhiking across America and backpacking throughout Europe, Mahdesian turned his focus to public and foreign policy, completing his Master’s degree in Urban Planning and International Economic Development at UCLA.

After completing his education, his entry into public service began in spectacular fashion, when he worked for legendary political activist Tom Hayden’s successful campaign for California State Assembly, serving as his Policy Director and Press Secretary. Mahdesian went on to contribute to the Campaign for Economic Democracy, by winning a contract to train Vista Volunteers in community organization. The grassroots organization led by Hayden and wife Jane Fonda, which helped achieve progressive goals in California, such as protecting renters, unions, and women’s rights throughout the 1970s and 1980s, made a profound impact on the political landscape of California, inspiring generations of activists to take part in causes that initiate, promote and maintain peace and prosperity for all people.

It was also during this era that Mahdesian became a prominent leader in the Armenian American community in Los Angeles, where he helped to establish the ANCA as an effective, political advocacy group. For decades, he has served as a most gracious supporter and advisor to ANCA and ANCA-WR, applying his energy, perspective and years of advocacy to fulfill his commitment to ensuring the Armenian community has a voice within American politics in the local and national arena.

In the early 1980’s, Mahdesian was able to apply his experience with CED and the ANCA to become a top aide, strategist, and fundraiser for the DCCC in Washington DC under the leadership of Congressman Tony Coelho. Here, he not only helped the Democratic Party retain its congressional majority despite the popularity of President Reagan, but also met his future wife, Natalie.

The couple returned to Los Angeles to start a family, and Michael started a Janitorial Supply Company that eventually became the Supply Division of Servicon, his father Richard’s company.
In 1989, after the devastating earthquake in Armenia, Mahdesian took action, organizing an air lift which led the disaster relief efforts out of the United States, helping secure vital aid for the suffering people of Armenia. It is poignant to think that it was his service to the homeland of his ancestors that ultimately led to his future role in President Bill Clinton’s administration.

His extensive experience in the field led President Clinton to appoint him to serve as the Bureau Deputy of USAID in the State Department, where he was tasked with overseeing international humanitarian aid and post-conflict transitions to peace and democracy.

During his tenure in the State Department, he became a high-ranking operational diplomat on the ground during many international crises. He was helpful immediately following the Rwandan Genocide, developed programs on the ground in coordination with the Good Friday Accords in Northern Ireland, led the first US team into the heart of the Congo after the overthrow of Mobutu, as well as administering humanitarian aid to those in need during conflicts in Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia.

It is difficult to measure the impact of his humanitarian work, as countless people have been helped by his diplomatic efforts and time in the field.

In 2000 he returned to Servicon as Chairman of the Board, leading the company and custodial industry to new heights. He pioneered Green Cleaning and efforts toward sustainability, worked with lawmakers in Sacramento to root out sexual harassment in the industry as well as crack down on the underground market, which depressed wages and benefits for workers.
In 2001, he was appointed Commissioner on the Planning Commission by Los Angeles Mayor Jimmy Hahn, where he served four years in the position, building better infrastructure throughout the city.

During the pandemic, he founded ServiconCares, a philanthropic foundation that both donates to and partners with groups in Southern California to sustainably improve the communities where Servicon employees reside. He has remained active in progressive politics throughout his entire career, devoting his life to making sure the people of California, the United States, and the world have better opportunities for prosperity and peace.

He recently received one of the state’s highest honors, when in July, the State of California and the California Assembly conferred an official resolution commending him for his career of service to the country, California, humanity, and the Armenian community.

The opening of the resolution states: “Michael Mahdesian, a respected California civic, community, and humanitarian leader, has brought credit and distinction to himself through his many notable achievements and has significantly improved the quality of life for people around the world through his efforts, and it is appropriate at this time to highlight his many accomplishments and extend to him special honors and the highest commendations.”

Upon receiving this recognition, Mahdesian reflected on his father and the lessons he learned in living a life of helping people in need, stating “My father was a first generation American who came of age during the Great Depression. He knew the value of hard work. He also valued treating others with respect and helping elevate the people, community, and industry he so loved. He passed these values along to me. This recognition encourages me that I have carried on his traditions and helped in some small ways to make this world a better place.”

Empathy is one of the greatest hallmarks of the Armenian spirit. The ability to see our shared humanity and extend a hand to people across cultures represents the best of who we are as Armenian Americans. As an advocate for the Armenian community and for all who seek justice, Mahdesian continues to honor Vahan Cardashian’s legacy while building an inspiring legacy of his own as a champion of human rights. Michael Mahdesian has embodied the virtues of public service throughout his life and work, motivating generations of people to raise their voices in the name of promoting, securing and preserving justice, peace, prosperity and a better life for all people.

For more information about Michael Mahdesian’s extraordinary humanitarian efforts in Los Angeles, the US, and around the world, and to purchase tickets for the 2023 ANCA-Western Region Awards event, please click here. A portion of the proceeds from this year’s gala will be donated to support Artsakh Genocide survivors.

The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region is the largest and most influential nonpartisan Armenian American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues in pursuit of the Armenian Cause.

Katy Simonian is a member of the 2023 ANCA-WR Awards event.

Music: The Duduk, the Ancient Armenian Double Reed Instrument

World Music Central
Oct 17 2023

The duduk, a traditional Armenian woodwind instrument, has a rich history and cultural significance. Made of apricot wood and featuring a double reed mouthpiece, it produces a haunting and melancholic sound. Moreover, the duduk’s roots can be traced back to the times of the Armenian king Tigran the Great (95-55 BC), making it an integral part of Armenian culture for centuries.

In terms of playing technique, the duduk is typically performed by two musicians. One player creates a continuous drone by playing a single note, while the other player develops complex melodies and improvisations. Additionally, circular breathing is commonly used to sustain long notes and create a seamless sound. This requires skill and practice to master, given the instrument’s unique fingering system and the need for control over breath and embouchure.

Despite its long-standing cultural significance, the duduk has gained modern interest and influence. It has been featured in numerous film soundtracks, where its distinct, evocative sound adds authenticity and emotional depth to the music. This popularity has also led to the creation of duduk libraries and virtual instruments for digital music production.

Variations of the duduk exist, with different lengths ranging from 28 to 40 cm. The longer duduks are often used for love songs, while the smaller ones are more commonly used for dances. While apricot wood is the traditional material used for making duduks, variations made from other woods can also be found.

Several notable duduk musicians have contributed to its popularity, such as Jivan (or Djivan) Gasparyan, Gevorg Dabaghyan, Arsen Petrosyan, Lévon Minassian, Anna Mkhitaryan, and Armen Grigoryan.

Young women leaders from Armenia examine local government in Cambridge, Massachusetts

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—The Congressional Office for International Leadership (formerly known as the Open World Leadership Center), an agency of the U.S. Congress, will send a delegation of young women from local governments across Armenia to Cambridge, Massachusetts from October 13-21, 2023. The group consists of five delegates who currently serve on local councils and will be accompanied by a bicultural and lingual facilitator and an interpreter. While in the Cambridge area, the Open World program participants will be hosted by the Cambridge-Yerevan Sister City Association (CYSCA). The delegation will stay in the homes of local residents who serve as hospitality hosts.

Prior to their arrival in Cambridge, the participants will have completed an orientation in Washington, D.C. 

In the Cambridge area, delegates will collaborate on best practices for good governance and advancement of women’s leadership. Delegates will meet staff of U.S. Representative Katherine Clark (MA-DISTRICT #5), local leaders in Cambridge and other communities and state legislators. Additional activities will include a visit to Tufts University Tisch College of Civic Life, the Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s Women and Public Policy program, meetings with the MA Caucus of Women Legislators and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), and a social/networking event with the AGBU Young Professionals group. In addition, the delegates will participate in a panel discussion on “Advancing Women’s Leadership in Local Government in Armenia” at NAASR on Thursday, October 19 at 7:30 p.m. that is open to the public. 

More than 30,000 current and future leaders from partner countries have participated in the Open World program, which offers one of the most effective U.S. exchange programs to promote mutually beneficial options for depolarized engagement between future national leaders. It is a unique but no less powerful tool for Congress to engage legislatures in critical regions of the world.

The Cambridge-Yerevan Sister City Association, Inc. (CYSCA) is a sister city association between Cambridge, Massachusetts and Yerevan, the capital city of the Republic of Armenia. CYSCA is a 501(C)(3) non-profit organization that for over thirty-five years has been actively engaged in a wide variety of citizen exchanges, including Open World exchanges, U.S. State Department “Community Connections” programs for professionals, youth exchanges and many other educational, cultural, humanitarian and philanthropic projects with its sister city based on shared values.

Founded in 1999 by Congress, the Congressional Office for International Leadership (COIL) maintains a vast network of more than 30,000 alumni in partner countries. Its Open World program supports legislative diplomacy efforts for members of Congress by conducting exchanges that establish authentic communication and enduring relations that are maintained through its extensive alumni network. Program participants are provided with exposure to the work of Congress, American politics, accountable governance and volunteerism while being home hosted by American families.

As Azerbaijan claims final victory in Nagorno Karabakh, arms trade with Israel comes under scrutiny

Oct 4 2023

Editor’s Note: A version of this story appears in CNN’s Meanwhile in the Middle East newsletter, a three-times-a-week look inside the region’s biggest stories. Sign up here.

CNN — 

On September 19, the day Azerbaijan began its offensive in the majority Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh, Marut Vanyan heard an ominous noise in the sky over his hometown.

“I’m not a military expert,” Vanyan, a journalist, recalled. “But I heard very, very clearly… the roar above me. I’m sure it was a drone.”

Vanyan, a lifelong resident of Stepanakert, once Nagorno-Karabakh’s largest city, recognized the sound from 2020, when Azerbaijan waged a 44-day war for the territory and surrounding regions with the help of Turkish and Israeli weapons.

Vanyan took a video of the sky above Stepanakert, gray and cloudy, the whine of a propeller distinct in the background, and posted it on X.

According to Leonid Nersisyan, a defense analyst and researcher at the Applied Policy Research Institute (APRI) Armenia, an independent think tank, it was the sound of Israel Aerospace Industries’ Harop, a loitering munition known for the piercing noise it produces as it descends on a target.

Azerbaijani forces used the Harop – often referred to as a “suicide drone” – and other Israeli drones throughout the war of 2020. CNN has contacted IAI for comment.

Though their relationship is relatively discreet, Israeli equipment makes up most of Azerbaijan’s arms imports, according to arms researchers. Azerbaijani officials touted Israel’s weapons as integral to their country’s success in Nagorno-Karabakh during the 2020 war.

Now, as over 100,000 ethnic Armenians have fled Nagorno-Karabakh in the latest conflict there, Israeli-Azerbaijani ties have come under scrutiny, with an editorial in Israel’s most prominent left-wing newspaper Haaretz proclaiming that the country’s “fingerprints are all over the ethnic cleansing” in Nagorno-Karabakh.

“Drones were used constantly” in the 2020 war, as well as in this latest conflict, a former lieutenant colonel in the Artsakh Defense Army – the Armenian separatist republic’s military force in Karabakh – told CNN on the condition of anonymity. (Artsakh is the Armenian name for Nagorno-Karabakh and the self-proclaimed republic that existed there.)

Azerbaijan “used Harop kamikaze strike drones…Hermes-450 and Orbiter-1K, Orbiter-2, Orbiter-3 reconnaissance drones,” the ex-officer said. All were produced by Israeli arms companies.

Azerbaijan won the 2020 war in a little over a month, regaining much of the territory internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but populated and governed, until now, almost exclusively by ethnic Armenians, following the expulsion of ethnic Azeris in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

September’s battle barely took 24 hours, leaving the whole of Karabakh under the control of Azerbaijan after months of blockade. All of the roughly 120,000 ethnic Armenians in the territory have either fled to Armenia or are expected to flee, fearing full-fledged ethnic cleansing or mass atrocities, although Azerbaijan has insisted that it would respect their rights there.

Azerbaijan and Israel are close military partners. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), more than 60% of Azerbaijani weapons imports came from Israel between 2017 and 2020, making up 13% of Israeli exports during the same period. SIPRI research reveals that Azerbaijan purchased a wide variety of drones, missiles, and mortars from Israel between 2010 and 2020.

However, according to SIPRI senior researcher Pieter Wezeman, certain specifics are unknown about the extent of the ongoing Azerbaijani-Israeli weapons trade.

“We had quite some information before 2020 and then it stops,” Wezeman said. “And that doesn’t really make sense because in 2020 Azerbaijan used a significant amount of its equipment… Most likely they have continued their relationship with Israel, but that’s about as far as we know.”

The trade is believed to be particularly active in periods just before Azerbaijan has gone to war. A March 2023 investigative report by Haaretz found that flights by an Azerbaijani airline between Baku and Ovda air base, the only airport in Israel through which explosives can be flown, spiked in the months just before Azerbaijan attacked separatist positions in Karabakh in September 2020.

Likewise, Haaretz reported in mid-September that the same company flew between Baku and Ovda less than a week before Azerbaijan began its latest assault in Nagorno-Karabakh. CNN reached out to the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense and the airline in question, but did not receive a response. The Israeli Ministry of Defense, which oversees Ovda Airport, had no comment.

“We don’t know what was on board, but very likely it is something related to the military equipment that Israel already has supplied to Azerbaijan before,” Wezeman said.

The weapons trade between Israel and Azerbaijan mirrors their diplomatic relationship, once described in a leaked US diplomatic cable as “like an iceberg, nine-tenths of it… below the surface.” Despite decades of bilateral cooperation, Azerbaijan only opened an embassy in Israel this year.

But their ties go beyond guns and ammunition: OEC figures show that Israel bought 65% of its crude oil from Azerbaijan in 2021. The countries are also believed to share intelligence on Iran, Israel’s archenemy, with which Azerbaijan shares a border and which has a substantial ethnic Azeri population that constitutes the country’s largest minority. Azerbaijan has also reportedly allowed the Israeli spy agency Mossad to use it as a hub to spy on Iran. (The Israeli Ministry of Defense declined to comment on the matter.)

According to Efraim Inbar, an expert on Israel-Azerbaijan relations and president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, ties between the two have grown stronger since 2020.

“Oil and arms sales continue. Azerbaijan feels greater pressure from Iran whose international position is improving,” Inbar told CNN in an email. “There is no great sympathy (in Israel) for Armenia that is seen as an Iranian ally.”

In a recent interview with the Jerusalem Post, Armenia’s ambassador to Israel said Israeli weapons are being fired at “peaceful civilians” despite Israeli civil society being “very pro-Armenia in the case of Nagorno-Karabakh and recognition of the Armenian genocide.” (Israel’s government does not recognize the mass murder of Armenians by Ottoman forces during World War I as genocide, fearing damage to its relationship with Turkey, the successor state of the Ottoman Empire.)

But there is little political opposition in the country to selling arms to Azerbaijan, Inbar said.

“Arms sales do not receive much publicity,” he added. “The contribution of Israeli drones to Azerbaijan’s war is well known, however. Israelis are proud of their weaponry. Arms sales are considered good for Israel.”

Yet despite their high visibility in Karabakh, the role of drones should not overshadow that of other Israeli weapons, according to Nersisyan, the defense analyst at APRI Armenia.

“People consider them to be some kind of a super weapon,” he said. “Of course, they are very important, but there are roles of other types of weapons.”

Among those are Israel’s LORA missiles, which Azerbaijan first purchased from Israel in 2017 according to SIPRI.

In October 2020, Azerbaijan repeatedly struck the area near an electrical substation in Stepanakert using Israeli-made weapons. The former lieutenant colonel in the Artsakh Defense Army told CNN he witnessed one of these attacks personally. The diameter and depth of the crater there showed that the Azerbaijani military had used a LORA missile, he said, adding that it hit a residential building.

The question remains as to how far Israel is willing to go in supporting Azerbaijan in its conflict with Armenia. An ongoing border crisis between the two countries has resulted in Azerbaijani incursions into Armenian territory, and Azerbaijani troops currently occupy land well within Armenia’s borders in its southern Syunik province. Many in Armenia worry that an emboldened Azerbaijan will attempt to invade their country, which Azerbaijan denies. Some fears center around Nakhchivan, a landlocked exclave of Azerbaijan that borders Turkey and Armenia, and Baku’s desire for a transport corridor linking it with the rest of the country.

“Azerbaijan doesn’t have any military goals or objectives on the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia,” Hikmet Ajiyev, the foreign policy advisor to Ilham Aliyev, told Reuters on October 1.

Some in the international community are calling for action against Azerbaijan in the wake of the Armenian exodus from Karabakh. In the United States, where there is a large Armenian diaspora, nearly 100 members of Congress have called for sanctions on Baku, and lawmakers in the European Union have also called on the bloc to consider punitive measures.

Wezeman, the researcher at SIPRI, said Israel could come under pressure from its Western allies to reconsider arms sales to Azerbaijan.

“It will damage its relations with Azerbaijan, but at the same time, Israel will have to think about its relations with European states, which are more important partners.”

A spokesperson for the Israeli Ministry of Defense said they had no comment when reached by CNN.

Efraim Inbar said Israel wants to keep its reputation of being a reliable supplier to Azerbaijan.

“In any case,” he added, “Azerbaijan is much more important for Israel than Armenia. It is realpolitik that drives Israeli foreign policy.”

Japan extends USD 2 million emergency grant aid for forcibly displaced persons of Nagorno-Karabakh

 10:30, 6 October 2023

YEREVAN, OCTOBER 6, ARMENPRESS. On October 6, the Government of Japan decided to extend Emergency Grant Aid amounting to a total of USD 2 million for the forcibly displaced persons of Nagorno-Karabakh, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

The funds will be provided through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

“Based on the fact that more than 100,000 persons have been displaced due to Azerbaijan’s military activities on September 19, the Government of Japan will implement Emergency Grant Aid of USD 2 million through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in areas such as Non-Food Items, health, protection and water. In close coordination with these international organizations, the Government of Japan will continue to provide support for and stand by the displaced persons,” the Japanese foreign ministry said.

Russia begins work around opening consulate in Kapan

 16:44, 6 October 2023

YEREVAN, OCTOBER 5, ARMENPRESS. A Russian government official has met with the Mayor of Meghri in Armenia to discuss the upcoming opening of the Russian consulate-general in Kapan. 

The head of the delegation in charge of the works from the Russian side and the Meghri mayor discussed the prospects of swiftly opening the consulate ‘which will significantly simplify access to consular services for Russian citizens living in Armenia’s south,” the Russian embassy said in a readout.

“In addition, it was noted that the new consulate-general will contribute to the further strengthening of Armenian-Russian relations and stabilization of the situation in the region, and will contribute to the expansion of cultural, humanitarian, trade, economic and inter-regional cooperation,” the Russian embassy in Armenia said.

LA Times Today: Armenian Americans say another genocide is underway in Nagorno-Karabakh, rally for U.S. action

World & Nation
Salpi Ghazarian is the special initiatives director at USC’s Institute of Armenian Studies, and she joined Lisa McRee with more on the conflict and what it means to the Southland’s Armenian community.