Hello, and welcome to the Armenian News Network, Groong, Week in Review. This episode was recorded on Monday, August 2nd, 2021. This Week we’re going to talk about the following major topics:
● Continued Instability along Armenia-Azerbaijan Borders
● National Assembly Commission on the 44-day war
● First session of the 8th sitting of the parliament
To talk about these issues, we have with us:
Asbed Kotchikian, who is an Associate Professor of political science and international relations at the American University of Armenia.
Benyamin Poghosyan, who is the Chairman of the Yerevan based Think tank Center for political and economic strategic studies, He was deputy director of the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the Ministry of Defense in 2010-2016 and the Vice President for Research, at the National Defense Research University from 2016 to 2019.
Last week there was continued instability and open fighting all around Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan. The most violent incident happened in Gegharkunik (near Verin Shorja), where the Armenian side had 3 deaths and several wounded. The week continued with news of shootings in Syunik and on the border with Nakhijevan (Yeraskh).
After the deaths in Gegharkunik, the Armenian MOD announced (triggered by fighting) that there are yet unannounced upcoming negotiations with Russia, conducted by the Minister of Defense in Moscow.
Why is it that only after this fatal incident the ministry felt the need to disclose the negotiations in Moscow? What are the negotiations about? And why is the MOD involved and not the MFA for instance?
Sensitive topic, but we have to ask. Pictures published of our position where two of our martyred soldiers served, showed very poor conditions. 9 months after the war, is the army really doing all it can, to protect the border and our soldiers?
On Monday, the day when we had 3 deaths, Pashinyan was silent. However, the following day at a sitting of the Armenian Government, Pashinyan announced that Armenia was not conducting any negotiations based on the logic of “corridors”, highlighting that Armenia and Azerbaijan should have customs control over roads that pass through each of their territories.
The issue of use of the term “corridor” thus, seems not to be only semantic and Azerbaijan by using it implies that it wants some form of sovereignty over the transport links. France, out of the 3 OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs, seems to have been the most vocal in its support of Armenia against the use of “corridor” terminology. On July 23, in an interview with Azatutyun, Jonathan Lacote, French ambassador to Armenia, also mentioned that “corridor” is not a desired terminology due to the negative history associated with this term, specifically referring to the “Polish Corridor” which was set up by Allies after victory in World War I thus separating the bulk of Germany from East Prussia.
How should we view about the term “corridor”? Azerbaijan seems to be sticking to its guns (quite literally) on this issue to the point of using its military to exert more pressure on Armenia. Is what we have in the Nov 9 statement a “corridor” or not?
Is the term “corridor” the only point of contention in signing of a “demarcation and delimitation” agreement which Pashinyan has promised to do and what Armenian opposition has decried as a very dangerous move? And do you have anything else to add to what Benyamin said?
In the same speech on Tuesday, Pashinyan also said that Armenia is interested in international monitoring forces to be stationed all over Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan to prevent future violence. Pashinyan said that Armenia would prefer CSTO troops, but if that is not possible, then Armenia would be willing to invite other international organizations, such as OSCE.
Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, declined to comment on the issue. Meanwhile, Leonid Kalashnikov, head of Duma’s Committee on CIS Affairs, characterized Pashinyan’s call as “political” indicating that such matters are normally resolved behind closed doors and Pashinyan’s public statement is indicative of the issue being politicized.
What does this say about Armenia’s ability to stay independent/sovereign? Can Armenia skip over Russia’s head to invite the OSCE to monitor its border with Azerbaijan without having an explicit approval from Russia or even Azerbaijan? Why do you think Pashinyan hurried to talk about this possibility publicly, is it political and if so to whom is the message directed and what is the message exactly anyway?
Nikol Pashinyan’s signing of the November 9 ceasefire statement was justified by the fact that we’d now at least have a period of peace. In fact, ushering in a period of peace and prosperity was one of Pashinyan’s major campaign promises in the June parliamentary elections. Yet, we are witnessing a seemingly constant instability around all bordering regions with Azerbaijan, where in some instances the Azerbaijanis have seemingly leisurely walked in and captured Armenian territory and in other cases we’ve seen deaths, wounded, and more threats from Azerbaijan.
Benyamin: In one of your many interviews to media over the past few weeks, you talked about “gray zones”, which can be defined as “the space in between peace and war in which state and non-state actors engage in competition” and you cautioned about the threat of many parts of Armenia having this category for the near and mid-term. Can you talk a little more about this?
How can Armenia, despite signing the Nov 9 statement, avoid a long-term state of instability on its borders which would affect Armenia’s chances of development.
Amidst all the continued conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan since the Nov 9 statement, there’s little news or statements from public officials in Turkey on developments. We are of course seeing a strong drive to cement its new status in the South Caucasus with the declaration in Shushi and also news of closer military cooperation with Azerbaijan and Pakistan in the Caucasus, but nothing specific about the border conflagrations between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
What is the role of Turkey in the post war developments in Armenia? What are their short and mid-term goals in the region?
This past week, likely incoming speaker of the parliament Alen Simonyan announced that Civil Contract intends to initiate a fact-finding commission.
Most likely this commission will be held under the auspices of the Parliament’s Standing Committee on Defense and Security.
Simonyan noted that they want to include both parliamentary, as well as extra-parliamentary parties that didn’t clear the threshold.
The Opposition has voiced concern that the party that lost the war cannot investigate itself, and has demanded to chair the commission.
Benyamin: You are one of the co-authors of ArmeniaCommission.org, which is essentially a call to the Armenian government to establish a fact-finding commission to investigate the causes and the results of the war in Artsakh in 2020, in order to learn from the mistakes made over the long and short term.
Only 3 days ago we also talked about this topic with the lead author of that initiative, Simon Saradzhyan and co-authors Arthur Martirosyan and Tevan Poghosyan, for a podcast we just published on our Youtube channel and wherever people get their podcasts.
What are your thoughts about Alen Simonyan’s proposals?
● What challenges does it face?
● What should we watch for as signs of success, or failure, of Simonyan’s initiative?
That concludes our program for This Week in Review episode. We hope it has helped your understanding of some of the issues from the previous week. We look forward to your feedback, and your suggestions for issues to cover in greater depth. Contact us on our website, at groong.org, or on our Facebook Page “ANN - Groong”, or in our Facebook Group “Groong - Armenian News Network”.
Special thanks to Laura Osborn for providing the music for our podcast. On behalf of everyone in this episode, we wish you a good week. Don’t forget to subscribe to our channels, Like our pages and follow us on social media. Thanks for listening and we’ll talk to you next week.
Benyamin Poghosyan, Asbed Kotchikian, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Nikol Pashinyan, Ilham Aliyev, Putin, Artsakh, Karabakh, Nagorno Karabakh, Borders, Border Instability, War, Commission on War, War Commission, Parliament, National Assembly, Border Demarcation, Border Delineation, Peace Negotiations, Turkey, Erdogan, Syunik, Gegharkunik, Nakhijevan, Nakhichevan, Corridor, Communication, Transportation, Army