Hello, and welcome to the Armenian News Network, Groong, Week in Review. We’re recording this show on Monday, November 8, 2021. This week we’re going to talk about the following major topics:
● The War in Artsakh, One Year Later
● Erika Olson visits the South Caucasus
● Internal political developments
To talk about these issues, we have with us:
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 from 2010 to 2016 and the Vice President for Research, at the National Defense Research University from 2016 to 2019.
It’s been one year since the tripartite statement of November 9, 2020 signaling the cease fire in the war in Artsakh. Despite the ceasefire stopping heavy fighting and despite Nikol Pashinyan pledging an “era of peace in the region”, there are many areas of uncertainty which we’ve consistently covered over the last year.
What is the state of affairs and assessment of the post-war processes, nearly one year later?
● To date, despite promises by Nikol Pashinyan, there’s no serious and impartial committee or process to investigate the failures that led to the war and its disastrous outcome.
● Our POWs are still in Baku.
● We lost swaths of strategic land AFTER the ceasefire under murky circumstances. Populated villages were split in half.
● Nikol Pashinyan himself stated in a recent interview that despite the ceasefire, things are not entirely quiet on the border with Azerbaijan, both in Artsakh and Armenia proper. In fact, Azerbaijani attacks against Artsakh seem to have gotten more brazen:
○ On October 9, an Azerbaijani sniper shot an Armenian tractor driver working on his field with a Russian peacekeeper sitting in the passenger seat.
○ Just today, on the road from Sepanakert to Shushi, one more civilian was shot dead in broad daylight. This area is known to have a heavy peacekeeper presence.
● There’s uncertainty around the status of the roads that Armenia plans to connect from Azerbaijan proper to Nakhijevan.
● Pashinyan’s interview on Armenian Public TV
○ On Point 9 of the statement
■ He says that existing communication routes should be used and if in the course of utilization the need arises (such as when the amount of freight cargo is too voluminous), then new roads should be constructed.
■ Also mentioned that communication (from Armenia through Azerbaijan) should be established not only with Russia and Iran , but also Turkey.
● What is the significance of this statement?
○ On the 3+3 format:
■ He said: “Armenia is interested in all forms of regional cooperation. The problem is in the details. … The 3+3 format should not have on its agenda issues which are already being discussed through other formats, specifically on issues of opening regional communications and regulation of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue... ”
○ Denied Erdogan’s claim that there was a meeting between Aliyev and Pashinyan recently.
Now we know that following the November 9 ceasefire and a statement on January 11, 2021, that Armenia and Azerbaijan, with Russia’s mediation, are working on implementation of several points of the ceasefire statement, with a focus on “unblocking communication”. It’s been reported that Armenian and Azerbaijani deputy foreign ministers have already met 8 times as part of a tripartite Armenia-Azerbaijan-Russia working group.
As we’ve reported in the past, there is news that Armenia and Azerbaijan are working on a larger deal, including demarcation and delimitation of borders between the two countries. This news was most recently reported by Aliq Media’s Tatul Hakobyan and there were allegations that Pashinyan, Aliyev and Putin would meet on November 9, the one-year anniversary of the ceasefire to issue a new proclamation regarding this.
Late in October, when Hakobyan published his article, the Armenian government denied that such a meeting was being planned. Meanwhile, Putin’s spokesman Peskov issued a vague statement saying: “If such an agreement is reached, we will inform in due time”.
Well, this week Peskov himself confirmed that a (video) meeting is to be held this week between the three leaders. Amazingly, Pashinyan in his interview yesterday again seemed to deny this, saying that “at this moment” there is no meeting scheduled on Nov. 9
Why is there such a lack of transparency on the part of the Armenian government around the process? Who are the Armenian people to trust?
In September Erika Olson was appointed as the new Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs at the US State Department. Since then, she has visited Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan and has met with the US ambassadors of the three countries together with Senior Advisor for Caucasus Negotiations Andrew Schofer and USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator Alexander Sokolowski.
Benyamin: The US is clearly re-awakening from its foreign policy hibernation of the Trump years in the region. What is the strategy that they’re exploring for the South Caucasus, given the realities since the second war in Artsakh?
Why has the US clearly stated that they don’t consider the Karabakh conflict to be resolved?
What is the US, and perhaps the wider West’s view of the North-South vs East-West Corridor Nexus in Syunik?
Earlier today on November 8, the Armenia alliance held its first public rally after the June 20 parliamentary elections.
● Opposition rally on Nov. 8
○ Happening as we record. What’s the latest?
… but will keep his mandate. This may deprive the opposition from its ability to prevent the ruling party frmo having a super-majority in the parliament, meaning that the opposition may not be able to deprive the government of a constitutional majority.
Opposition media alleges “coercion”
That was our Week in Review show, and we hope it helped you catch up with some of the issues in and around Armenia from this past week. As always, we invite your feedback and your suggestions. You can find us on most social media and podcast platforms, or our website Groong.org.
Thanks to Laura Osborn for the music on our podcasts. Don’t forget to subscribe to our channel on Youtube, Like our pages and follow us on social media. On behalf of everyone in this episode, we wish you a good week, thanks for listening and we’ll talk to you next week.
Benyamin Poghosyan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Artsakh, Nagorno Karabakh, Georgia, South Caucasus, Turkey, Russia, Communication channels, Corridors, Borders, Peace Negotiations, India, United States, Iran, Turkmenistan, Pipelines, EU, European Union, North-South Corridor, East-West Corridor,