Hello, and welcome to the Armenian News Network, Groong, Week in Review. I’m Asbed Bedrossian, and we’re recording this show on Tuesday, November 16, 2021.
This week Hovik Manucharyan and I will talk about the following major topics:
● Armenia under wide scale attacks by Azerbaijan
● Border Politics
● Azerbaijan Returns to the OSCE MG
● Municipal elections Over the Past Weekend
To talk about these issues, we have with us:
Arthur G. Martirosyan, who is a Senior Consultant with CM Partners. In 1994, after graduating from Yale University, he joined Conflict Management Group and Harvard Negotiation Project, and has since worked on conflicts in the former Soviet Union, Middle East, the Balkans, Africa and Latin America.
However, our deep-dive into the war and its after-effects needs to be paused since today we received news of a renewed wide-scale attack by Azerbaijan on Armenia’s Eastern border with Azerbaijan. When you listen to this podcast the situation might be drastically different, but as of 5pm on Tuesday Yerevan time, there are reports of 12 Armenian POWs and reports of a significant number of dead and wounded, which are still being confirmed. Earlier in the day there were reports that two Armenian positions were lost, however the Armenian side has not confirmed any of this. According to Nikol Pashinyan, as of late evening, the situation is tense but stable.
For the past few months, Azerbaijan has been putting up roadblocks, checkpoints, customs collections, and other indications of ownership of segments of the Goris-Kapan highway. Armenia has allowed it, initially confusing both Armenians as well as neighbors like Iran, but more recently Pashinyan and his government have been stating that they believe that the segments of the road being blocked do not belong within the old Soviet Armenian borders.
● To our knowledge, while there has been a lot of talk about defining the borders between Armenia and Azerbaijan, an official process and culmination has not yet happened. On what basis then is the Armenian government ceding territory to Azerbaijan?
● Does the Armenian government have the right to do so legally?
● What happened to the Nov ceasefire agreement which stipulated that both countries would stand down from hostilities and all forces would remain where they were on Nov. 9? (or 10).
Despite all its rhetoric and victory parades, Azerbaijan last week essentially came back to the negotiations mediated by the OSCE MG. While Azerbaijan claims that there’s no more Nagorno-Karabakh, let alone a “Karabakh problem”, only Turkey and Azerbaijan have subscribed to that view. The US and France and the EU have all made it clear that like Armenia, they also believe that the Karabakh status issue is unresolved, and everyone agrees that this resolution can only be achieved through the OSCE MG’s mediation framework.
Let us also note Russia’s very half-hearted, ambivalent stance on this: they’re going along with it, trying to keep France in the lead, and trying to maximally freeze the current situation on the ground.
● Can you talk to us about the various parties’ strategies in managing what are obviously some very complicated straits?
○ Why is Azerbaijan back at the OSCE MG negotiating table? How do they plan to control the negotiations?
■ Several issues have surfaced between the Russians and Azerbaijan, leading to irreconcilable blockages in the tripartite platform.
○ Outside of a major flare-up the South Caucasus, Karabakh or Syunik, are not a high priority for Russia. It has bigger issues in Syria, Donbas, Crimea, or even in Afghanistan. What is its strategy in managing the crisis in the South Caucasus?
○ How can The West help resolve the status issue for Artsakh?
■ There must be clear reasons why The West has taken such a well-stated position that the status issue is not resolved. Why, and what’s at stake for The West in the South Caucasus?
■ The West can’t get boots in the South Caucasus. Are they ultimately powerless? What are their options?
● What are we watching for in the OSCE MG process, as far as signs of progress, in either success or failure?
Some background information:
● Azerbaijan set up official customs checkpoints
○ Armenian citizens wanting to travel on that road must go through Azerbaijani customs
○ Government representatives, including Nikol Pashinyan firmly claimed that the highway passes through Azerbaijani territory.
○ Alternative road through Tatev claimed to be functional and better, but:
■ It is narrower and Iranian trucks with trailers can’t use it
■ Already source of traffic jams
■ Villages such as Vorotan, Shurnukh, and Chakaten must use dirt roads to connect. Google Maps shows Kapan to Chakaten to be a 3 hour ride circling all around the south of Armenia, whereas it would be a 10min trip via the highway itself.
■ Uncertain how ready the road is for winter
● Let’s refresh our memory, how did this highway come under Azerbaijani occupation?
● Government claims this as a “win” since we are avoiding the “logic of corridors” (which we discussed last week), but....
● Opposition held a protest where dozens of protesters were arrested the next day.
● Opposition held a hearing in NA, which was boycotted by Civil Contract.
● Opposition criticizes that the government was aware that this was coming and actively working to finish the bypass route but didn’t warn its citizens until the very last moment.
● If demarcation/delimitation has not commenced yet, WHY is the government maintaining that this road bypasses Azerbaijani territory?
Over the weekend the ruling party, Civil Contract, lost municipal elections in Syunik’s Kapan city, but it won in Ijevan and Stepanavan. In Kapan turnout was unusually high at 63% and 70% of the ballots cast went to the Shant Alliance’s Gevork Parsian. In Ijevan and Stepanavan, Civil Contract scored landslide wins with a turnout of about 37-38%.
● Ijevan in Tavush is home turf for Pashinyan. But he has now lost 3 major towns in local elections over the past month. Meghri, Kapan, Gyumri. What do you read in these results?
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.
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Arthur G Martirosyan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Artsakh, Nagorno Karabakh, South Caucasus, Turkey, Russia, Communication channels, Corridors, Borders, Peace Negotiations, Border Demarcation, United States, France, EU, European Union,