Hello, and welcome to the Armenian News Network, Groong, Week in Review. This show was recorded on Monday, March 21, 2022. This week we’re discussing the following major topics:
● Azerbaijan’s “Peace” deal
● Artsakh without Natural Gas in Winter
● Ukraine Protests in Yerevan
● Vardenis Mayoral Election Resolved
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.
In parallel to destroying the gas pipeline from Armenia that supplies Artsakh with much needed natural gas, Azerbaijan had announced that it submitted to Armenia a proposal made up of 5 principles for a future peace deal.
Earlier this week, Azerbaijani media announced the specifics of the proposal. The 5 principles are:
On Monday, the Armenian Foreign Ministry in a statement indicated that Armenia had “responded” to the proposal and had submitted it to the OSCE Minsk Group asking for it to mediate in the “peace talks” process.
● Is setting up a peace deal between Armenia and Azerbaijan part of the mandate of the OSCE Minsk Group? What are Armenia’s objectives in applying to them?
● Are there elements of Russia vs. West contention in Pashinyan’s actions?
Most of the above discussions happened after the flurry of diplomatic activity that was set off during and after the Antalya Diplomatic Forum. On the eve of the forum, Aliyev was in Ankara to meet with Erdogan. At the Forum FM Mirzoyan talked with Turkey’s Çavuşoğlu, Russia’s Lavrov met Ukraine’s Kuleba; afterwards Mirzoyan talked with Secretary Blinken, France’s Le Drian, and Pashinyan also talked with Putin, in a call that was reportedly initiated by Putin.
Is this active phase of diplomacy yielding positive results? What signals is Armenia receiving from the countries it is talking to?
On March 9, the natural gas pipeline providing gas to households in Artsakh exploded in a section of territory currently under Azerbaijan’s control, which denied access to repair crews. In fact, Azerbaijan shelled Armenian villages and nearby communities with mortar fire and tried to intimidate the population with disinformation and #FakeNews. As a power play, the Azeri government tweeted that if Stepanakert wants gas to resume, they should call Azerbaijan’s SOCAR gas company to repair the damage.
After 11 days without heat, over this past weekend, Azerbaijan repaired the pipeline.
During the crisis, the EU expressed “deep concern” about the developing humanitarian crisis, but did the Armenian government say anything consequential about it?
Benyamin in the past you’ve said that Azerbaijan will aim to make life for Armenians in Artsakh very difficult and effectively force them to leave their lands. In addition, in this crisis they have demonstrated to Artsakh that Armenia provides them no value. What do you think their primary objective was in this gas stoppage, and resumption?
How should we assess Armenia’s response? Are they truly as impotant as Azerbaijan has shown them to be?
Today is day 26 of the Russo-Ukrainian war. Armenia officially has been very reserved in commenting or expressing support for one side or another.
There are sizable Armenian diasporas in both Ukraine and Russia and naturally each of those communities supports the country in which they live. In fact, both Russia and Ukraine have bestowed medals to ethnic Armenians serving on both sides of this conflict.
Meanwhile in Yerevan this week we had two protests with competing messages. On Saturday, the Communist Party of Armenia (yes, it still exists) held a protest in support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Meanwhile, on Sunday, there was an anti-war protest. Both protests were not very big, hundreds of people max.
Ukrainian media latched on to the pro-Russia protest, however, I don’t think the anti-war protest received the same level of coverage. Anecdotally, open display and support for either side seems to be rare, based on my own observations here.
● How do we describe the public mood in Yerevan?
The Armenian government so far seems to have been able to maintain a more or less neutral stance, at least publicly. However, some say that Russia is not happy with this position. For example, there are speculations that the restriction in exports of grains and other crops to Armenia (and EAEU countries) is a tool by Russia to extract more support from its regional partners.
● Can Armenia continue this neutrality? If not, what changes do you expect?
We’d like to close by giving you an update on the aftermath of municipal government elections in December. As of last Saturday, Vardenis finally has a legitimate community leader.
As a reminder, there was a crisis in Vardenis because the Civil Contract team objected to the previous election results, which saw Aharon Khachatryan elected as the community leader. However, the newly elected “avagani” was prevented from meeting in the city hall and Khachatryan was sworn-in in the courtyard of the city hall. So after a months-long conflict, including a court challenge, a new vote was held last week.
By a vote of 14 Yes to 13 No, Aharon Khachatryan was elected as leader of the community thanks to the Aharon Khachatryan and United Vardenis alliances. Civil Contract provided the 13 No votes.
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, Artsakh, Azerbaijan, Peace Deal, Natural Gas, Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, Vardenis, Elections, Municipal Elections, Mayoral Elections,