Hello, and welcome to the Armenian News Network, Groong, Week in Review. This show was recorded on Monday, October 25, 2021.
This week we’re going to talk about the following major topics:
● Yerevan’s “Positive Messages”?
● Opposition Going back to Street Rallies?
● Ruling Party Setbacks in Local Elections
● Vano Siradeghyan Dies
Today we have with us:
Tevan Poghosyan, who is president of the International Center for Human Development. Mr. Poghosyan was an MP in the National Assembly between 2012 and 2017 from the Heritage party. From 1997 to 1999 he served as the Nagorno-Karabakh Public Affairs Office Director in Washington, D.C.
On Wednesday Armenian Deputy PM Mher Grigoryan’s team again met with senior officials from Azerbaijan and Russia for negotiations towards restoring their rail and road links, as stipulated in Point 9 of the November Agreement that ended the hostilities of the 44-day war.
Grigoryan said progress was made, while Azerbaijan’s foreign minister Jeyhun Bayramov said that there were “positive messages” coming from Yerevan. Aliyev went further to claim that Armenia has agreed to the so-called “Zangezur corridor”. Also Azerbaijan released five more Armenian soldiers taken prisoner during or shortly after last year’s war in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Then, on Friday, Oct. 22, Tatul Hakobyan (from Aliq Media) as well as the Russian news medium Ria Novosti reported that Aliyev and Pashinyan will meet in Moscow on November 9, the one year anniversary of the capitulation in Artsakh, in order to sign two new documents under the mediation of Vladimir Putin.
According to the reports:
● The first document will cover delimitation and demarcation of the Armenia-Azerbaijan border. Hakobyan claims that the delimitation and demarcation will be done based on 1920s maps.
● The second document, which Hakobyan claims is nearly 100% agreed upon, will cover the so-called “unblocking” of roads/corridors.
Armenia’s government has been expressly quiet and has not responded to the press inquiries about these statements, with the exception of stating that a meeting with Pashinyan and Aliyev “is not being planned”. The Kremlin's Peskov also responded to the news of the possible agreement by saying: “If such an agreement is reached, we will inform in due time”.
What’s going on? Is there a consensus on documents to be signed on Nov. 9 or is there more than meets the eye here?
Another interesting twist in this puzzle was Putin’s statement at the Valdai club, indicating that Moscow holds the key to the issue of border demarcation and delimitation and resolution of the Artsakh conflict. Specifically, Putin made a reference to certain maps which are held by the Russian General Staff, that detail specifics on borders between Armenia and Azerbaijan during Soviet years.
If the rumors about 1920s maps are correct, is this good news for Armenia? How did the border between Soviet Armenia and Azerbaijan form during those years?
Just prior to this weekend, the Armenia Alliance announced that it will begin organizing street rallies to protest against Pashinyan’s government making additional concessions to Azerbaijan in the negotiations we mentioned earlier.
The main parliamentary opposition group said that they believe that PM Pashinyan is ready to concede more Armenian territory, and agree to a land corridor from Azerbaijan, through Syunik, and on to Nakhijevan. These claims are of course backed by Aliyev himself, who insists that he will open a corridor through Armenia by force if necessary, and by Iran, who says that agreements envision a potential change of the border between Iran and Armenia.
These rallies already seemed a bit too late before the news about the potential Moscow agreement on November 9. So when the Armenia Alliance clarified the date of the first protest as November 9th & 10th, there were widespread accusations that the Armenian opposition seemed intent on allowing Pashinyan to sign a potentially terrible agreement without actively trying to thwart the government. To be fair, Ishkhan Saghatelyan in a Facebook post later clarified that the alliance had sought permission for the rallies nearly 10 days ago.
Is the Armenia Alliance and the opposition acting appropriately, and are they doing everything possible to steer the government from inappropriate concessions?
Last weekend on October 17 the ruling party Civil Contract suffered election setbacks in 3 of the major towns where elections were held: Gyumri, Goris and Meghri.
Since the election and our podcast last weekend, the government has been rounding up and jailing dozens of supporters of re-elected Goris mayor Arush Arushanyan, on charges of alleged bribery and vote-buying. Mayor Arushanyan himself remains in jail since his arrest 3 months ago, yet he roundly defeated the Civil Contract party by getting over 60% of the vote.
At the risk of beating a dead horse here, because Freedom House has already deplored PM Pashinyan’s degradation of democratic norms: what can we say about the state of Armenia’s democracy, from freedom of press reporting on the government, to freedom of expression towards government officials, to terrorizing opposition officials and supporters, and more?
On October 15 Vano Siradeghyan passed away. He was one of the leaders of the movement to unite Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia in 1990 as the Soviet Union fell, and later was a member of the Armenian National Congress (ANC) and became minister of the interior during the tenure of first president Levon Ter-Petrosyan. He was regarded as a corrupt henchman, and fled the country in 1999, soon after Robert Kocharyan was elected president, and resided in exile since, as a wanted man by the Republic of Armenia.
What is SIradeghyan’s legacy?
Some say that were Sirdeghyan to have returned and faced the charges, Ter-Petrosyan would have had to flee Armenia. Why did Siradeghyan live in exile for 20 years, and never return?
Why is Pashinyan’s government arranging the funeral of a wanted fugitive today?
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.
Tevan Poghosyan, Vano Siradeghyan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Hayastan Alliance, Armenia Alliance, Ishkhan Saghatelyan, Syunik, Zangezur, Corridor, South Caucasus, Turkey, Russia, Communication channels, Corridors, Borders, Peace Negotiations, Opposition,