The Armenian Ministry of Defense informed a few days ago that the meeting of the head of defense policy Levon Aivazyan met with the military attache of the Iranian Islamic Republic Mahdi Vejdani at the ministry. Aside from issues relating to bilateral relations on defense, the upcoming activities, they dwelled on the statement by the Chief of Staff of the Iranian army Mohammad Baghiri in Baku, as reported by the Azerbaijani press.
According to the Azerbaijani press, Baghiri stated that the territories of Artsakh are Azerbaijani territories. This information was also reported by the Russian-language news of IRNA, the Iranian national news agency, with a reference to the Azerbaijani press and was removed after some time.
According to the statement of the Ministry of Defense, during the meeting with the head of the Department of Defense Policy the Iranian military attache in Armenia “reaffirmed” Iran’s balanced position on the Artsakh issue that has been expressed multiple times, highlighted that it has not changed, and information in press and multiple comments on it distort it. Underlining the high-level political relations between the two countries, the sides expressed confidence that there will be mutual high-level visits and there will be innumerable occasions to express official positions on different issues.
The traditional Azerbaijani distortions of the Iranian general’s statements overlapped with a careless statement by one of the members of parliament of the My Step majority in the Armenian parliament, triggering certain “distortions” in Armenia. Different circles of the former ruling system used this for an information offensive on the new government, presented the statement ascribed to the Iranian general as an answer to the mistake by the Armenian member of parliament.
It is beyond doubt that what happened was a mistake, quite careless and untimely, and such mistakes must be practically ruled out. At the same time, it will be an unserious approach, first of all towards Iran, to say that after this statement the chief of staff of the Iranian army answered.
First of all, it would be unserious in the sense that Iran with its centuries-old state, political, geopolitical traditions, style and philosophy is able to distinguish worrying tendencies from mistakes. Hence, Tehran is a quite serious actor to answer such mistakes with such statements which may, in deep, contradict to Iran’s strategic interests.
Hence only with an unserious opinion about Iran would it be possible to conclude that someone’s slip of the tongue in Armenia would instantly get answered with a statement by the chief of staff of Iran’s army in Baku. Moreover, later it became known that the statement had been ascribed to him.
At the same time, this ascription was in some sense assistance to Armenia and Iran to discuss the situation together and eliminate at least theoretical risks of misunderstanding and lack of understanding.
In this sense, official Yerevan was adequate and fast, organizing a meeting at the Ministry of Defense with the military attache to prevent continuation of both internal and external manipulative developments.
At the same time, there is an important acknowledgement of high-level political relations between the two countries and an announcement about upcoming mutual high-level visits which will be an occasion to express official positions on different issues.
In a deeper sense these must be an occasion to refresh the Armenian-Iranian agenda.
Two Armenian bloggers David Manukyan and Karina Karina Lazaryants have been arrested for 10 days for obstructing traffic while filming a video in Moscow, Russia.
They decided to shoot the video in downtown Moscow at a rush hour, blocked roads and thus disturbed the traffic, which amounts to a violation of public order, a Moscow court ruled.
A video posted earlier on Instagram show how the bloggers blocked several lanes of the New Arbat (Novy Arbat) Avenue to film the video.
The Azerbaijani armed forces violated the ceasefire along the Artsakh-Azerbaijan Line of Contact over 180 times in the past week. In the period from January 13-19, the adversary fired around 1,300 shots towards the Armenian defense positions from firearms of different calibres, the Artsakh Defense Ministry told Panorama.am.
The Defense Army’s frontline troops fully control the situation and continue implementing their combat guard, the statement added.
Armenia’s ministry of emergency situations (MES) reports that as of 13:00 January 19 there are some roads closed or difficult to pass in the territory of Armenia. According to the source, Vardenyats pass is closed with trucks with trailers and passable for passenger vehicles.
Sotk-Karvachar roadway remains difficult to pass. Clear ice is observed on certain sections of roads in Amasia and Ashotsk regions in Shirak province. Drivers are strongly recommended to use winter tires.
According to the information received from the Department of Emergency Situations of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia and the general department of the Republic of Northern Ossetia of the Ministry of Emergency Situations of the Russian Federation Stepantsminda – Lars highway is closed for all types of vehicles with 165 trucks, 120 passenger vehicles and one bus accumulated on the Russian side of the border.
The [15 January] informal meeting of Armenian and Georgian prime ministers [Nikol Pashinyan and Mamuka Bakhtadze respectively] has caused a lot of questions among experts of both countries. The sides exchanged scarce information even after the meeting.
Suspicions that the meeting between the two prime ministers – Nikol Pashinyan and Mamuka Baklhtadze – was obviously spontaneous was backed by the photos disseminated by the press services of the prime ministers late on the evening of 15 January.
One of them shows Pashinyan and Bakhtadze sitting in armchairs at a small table in a small and narrow room with an almost ascetic interior. As the press service of the Georgian government reported, the prime ministers discussed the following:
"Mamuka Bakhtadze personally congratulated Nikol Pashinyan on his approval in the post of prime minister of the Republic of Armenia. The heads of governments discussed good-neighbourly relations between the two countries and expressed hope that fruitful cooperation would be continued."
The Armenian side also issued a similar laconic report, which further increased the number of questions. What induced the Armenian prime minister to arrive in Georgia for a second time next day after his repeated election to the post of head of the government? In addition, even the cabinet of Armenia has not been shaped yet, Also, such a visit is a complete antithesis of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan's official visit to Tbilisi in May 2018.
[Georgian] political analyst Zaal Anjaparidze assumes that the heads of the government spoke about economic issues:
"There was a certain miscommunication between Georgia and Armenia last year, in particular, over the transportation of wheat. In addition, it is expected that new transport corridors will be opened in accordance with the agreement signed in Geneva between Russia and Georgia within the frames of Russia's joining the World Trade Organisation. It is very important for Armenia to increase cargo turnover."
According to Zaal Anjaparidze, they could also have discussed Russia's intention to raise the price of natural gas in Armenia and difficulties on the Verkhny Lars checkpoint [on the Georgian-Russian border].
Stepan Grigoryan, an [Armenian] political analyst and the director of the Analytical Centre for Globalisation and Regional Cooperation, believes that Pashinyan's unexpected visit to Georgia could have been linked to [Russian-led] EEU [Eurasian Economic Union] regulations that are coming into force this year. Armenia is a member of the EEU. According to the regulations, a very high tax is going to be imposed on the import of cars from Georgia into Armenia.
"This will affect not only citizens, who will have to buy cars at a higher price than earlier, but also business, because this is a very serious business in Armenia and dozens of thousands of people are involved in it. These regulations hit our relations with Georgia and Iran and in addition, they hit the interests of citizens, because everyone is aware that no one has ever seen anything good from the EEU. I think it is to this that our prime minister's meeting with [his Georgian counterpart] is linked to."
Stepan Grigoryan did not rule out that within the frames of the EEU, Armenia "will take some unconventional steps, including the suspension of some parts of the agreement. It is clear that this should be compensated by cooperation with other players, including Georgia".
Another Armenian political analyst and the director of the Caucasus Institute, Aleksandr Iskandaryan, cannot see anything extraordinary in the Armenian prime minister's snap visit to Georgia. He said that having reinforced his positions, the new prime minister is building new policy with neighbours and in this sense, Georgia plays a major role for Armenia. Thus, new Prime Minister Pashinyan will follow the "branded" policy of Armenia, Aleksandr Iskandaryan said with confidence.
"This is the wording used by Mr Pashinyan himself: Armenia will try to improve its relations with the West and Armenia will improve and expand its relations with Russia. The West thinks that Armenia is excessively pro-Russian and Russia always thinks that it is excessively pro-Western. Thus, a kind of consensus-based policy is being developed. I would say that this is the label of Armenia's foreign policy and it is called complementarism."
Aleksandr Iskandaryan noted that no one in Armenia intends to renounce it.
Words from the heart
By Ahmad Al-Sarraf
George Salama gave the following speech at the Armenian school on the occasion of the publication of the novel Abdullatif the Armenian: 'A voice that rings in my ears and a call that touches my heart and my soul, a voice that triumphs for truth, a voice that broke the chains, it is your voice dear guest Ahmad Al-Sarraf, the voice we always like to hear.
'I will not talk to you as a guest, you are one of the people of the house, and I say to you with all sincerity, you are always most welcome. I am fortunate to have read some of the articles you have written, and the novel Abdullatif the Armenian which reflects human sense and courage that does not care about the limits and barriers, and the literary courage that we desperately need.
'I said to myself: If our nation has many writers who knew the true message of literature, we would be the best nation. You have chosen the literary honesty in what you wrote, and your novel and your articles have the taste that our souls are thirsty for. What is the value of literature that does not speak the truth, or does not revolt against injustice and corruption, dishonesty and suffering? We want to live for the present and refuse to follow those who say we build as our forefathers built and do as they did.
'We wish the people who write to be as truthful as you are, to see the reality with your eyes, your heart and your mind, and allow me, Sir, to tell you about my impressions of this novel. I apologize to you first. I did not come as a critic but as a beneficiary. I read a lot about the tragedy of the Armenians based on my experience and work with them for more than thirty years, but your novel has had the greatest impact. You caught the artistic threads of the story, and brought the affecting facts with all the truth and realism, and made your readers live amidst these events and details otherwise the novel would not have this special taste.
'You have proficiently described the injustice inflicted on a peaceful people who were uprooted from their lands and homes and thrown away into the unknown. A ten-year-old girl taken from her family away to the point of loss, and described it all in a real influential realistic language, yet you did not fall in the shafts of preaching and guidance but you left the characters to carry the noble goal that you drew and expressed in a way that shows knowledge of the art of fiction, and left the events going naturally and flow like a stream. The elements of entanglement and suspense were influential enough to get the attraction of the reader to the end.
The language was simple and suitable for the characters, it was neither lofty nor slang, a language that does not tire the reader but rather to follow events. 'Sir: From the hills of Armenia I give you three apples and a bouquet of roses, and I say to the children of the Armenian community: 'Open your homes and hearts to this novel'.'
The preparation of populations to embrace any compromise solution has long been the missing ingredient in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process, Former US Minsk Group Co-Chair Carey Cavanaugh wrote on Twitter, Trend reports.
He was commenting on the recent statement issued following the meeting of Azerbaijani and Armenian foreign ministers with participation of OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs in Paris on January 16.
Thomas de Waal, a UK political analyst, senior fellow with Carnegie Europe, specializing in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus region has assessed the statement very positive.
“Suddenly the mood has changed on the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process. Very positive statement. Now time to get down to work, involve more stakeholders, start debate on difficult issues in society,” he wrote on Twitter.
The Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group (Igor Popov of the Russian Federation, Stéphane Visconti of France and Andrew Schofer of the United States of America) hosted consultations between Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Elmar Mammadyarov and Acting Foreign Minister of Armenia Zohrab Mnatsakanyan on 16 January in Paris.
The ministers discussed a wide range of issues related to the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and agreed upon the necessity of taking concrete measures to prepare the populations for peace.
The Co-Chairs plan to meet the leaders of the two countries in the near future.
The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. As a result of the ensuing war, in 1992 Armenian armed forces occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts.
The 1994 ceasefire agreement was followed by peace negotiations. Armenia has not yet implemented four UN Security Council resolutions on withdrawal of its armed forces from the Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding districts.