Hello, and welcome to the Armenian News Network, Groong, Week in Review. This show was recorded on Monday, April 25, 2022.
We took last weekend off to give everyone time to celebrate Easter, but Armenian politics never sleeps. So now we have a full slate of topics to discuss. If we have enough time, we’ll talk about:
● April 24, Never Forget
● Pashinyan, Aliyev, in Brussels
● Pashinyan in Moscow
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,
This year is the 107th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. The traditional events both in the diaspora and Armenia were held to commemorate this event.
Impressions from Yerevan, Stepanakert, and the Diaspora.
Even before the war, Pashinyan’s administration was criticized for being more conciliatory on the issue of the Armenian genocide. In 2019, the motto for the Armenian Genocide institute in Tsitsernakaberd was proposed to be changed from “I remember and demand” to just “I remember”, essentially de-emphasizing Armenian demands for reparations and restoration of justice.
After a very loud controversy at the time, especially amid the academic community, some of whom were subjected to ad-hominem attacks, the motto was restored to “I remember and demand”. However, in hindsight, can we say that this move was consistent with Pashinyan’s overall policy on the Armenian Genocide?
On April 6, Pashinyan and Aliyev met in Brussels under the auspices of EC president Charles Michel. Aliyev wouldn’t have gone there unless Pashinyan’s proposals were acceptable to him, although we continue to see differences in their views. For example, about “Corridors” through Armenia without any Armenian customs or control.
● Can you say what the results of the discussions were in Brussels?
● What is Pashinyan hearing in Brussels?
The Russian MFA has accused the EU of inserting itself in the peace process between Armenia and Azerbaijan in order to steal the credit for any potential peace deal, and has even signaled a possible parallel thread of Armenia-Azerbaijan negotiations. In Moscow a few days ago, Pashinyan reaffirmed Moscow’s “key” role in the ongoing negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Pashinyan has been in almost daily touch with Charles Michel, in April. The press just says that they talked about the implementation of agreements they discussed in Brussels, EU-Armenia relations, situation in the region, etc.
● Is there an element of big power competition going on here, to claim “peace credits” and of course skew the final arrangement to their interest? What are the diverging objectives of the big powers?
After Pashinyan returned he made some sensational, and offensive statements in parliament. He began to address longtime questions and criticism by the opposition with his own alternative narrative.
● What points stood out, of the various statements Pashinyan made in parliament?
Pashinyan was building his “Peace Agenda” thesis to recognize Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, and compromising Artsakh’s right to self-determination. Specifically he informed lawmakers in parliament that the international community urges us to “lower the bar on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh”, otherwise it will not be able to help the Armenian side.
Is Pashinyan being honest in his characterization of the international community? For example, Vaycheslav Volodin said that nothing predetermines the possible status of Nagorno Karabakh.
The response from both the Armenian opposition and civil society, the Diaspora, as well as Artsakh has been so loud that even Pashinyan, who is usually deaf to popular sentiment and feedback, heard clearly that his direction is unacceptable to Armenia and Artsakh. Edmon Marukyan, who was appointed special rep in foreign affairs by Pashinyan last month, is now walking the “we’re not lowering the bar” narrative for Pashinyan, while Edward Aghajanyan, a Civil Contract member, has been walking the “Pashinyan has been misunderstood” narrative.
● What did you think about Artsakh’s reaction to Pashinyan’s speech in parliament? Many parliamentarians and the Artsakh Foreign Ministry rejected Pashinyan’s defeatism and fake narrative, and rejected any possibility of returning to a status within the state of Azerbaijan.
In a first-ever official visit to Moscow, Pashinyan met with Russian president Putin at his Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside of Moscow. They pledged to boost the “Privileged Alliance” between Russia and Armenia.
● What is this “Privileged Alliance”?
● Is this a de-facto downgrade from the “strategic alliance” the two countries have said they’ve had in the past decade?
● Some Russian analysts have said that Aliyev in February, and now Pashinyan’s meetings have not yielded anything new on paper. Do you think that there is nothing new? If so, then why all the activity for nothing?
● What is Pashinyan hearing in Moscow?
Lots of other meetings. Besides Putin, Pashinyan also met with:
● Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, discussing economy, finance and trade issues.
● Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin, discussed Russia-Armenia inter parliamentary commission and activities.
Pashinyan and Putin signed multiple documents
● Memorandum on Cooperation in the social-labor sphere between the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs of the Republic of Armenia and the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of the Russian Federation
● Cooperation Program for 2022-2023 between the Compulsory Enforcement Service of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia and the Federal Bailiff Service of the Russian Federation
● Armenian-Russian comprehensive program of cooperation in the field of energy and non-energy projects
● Protocol on integration of information systems in the field of plant quarantine between the Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Control of the Russian Federation and the Food Safety Inspectorate of the Republic of Armenia
● Cultural cooperation program between the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture, Sports of the Republic of Armenia and the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation for 2022-2025
● Cooperation program between the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia and the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation for 2022-2023
● Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Armenia and the Government of the Russian Federation on Cooperation in the Field of Information Security
● What were the main takeaways?
■ No mention of Artsakh conflict.
■ No mention of status of Artsakh.
○ Sanctions evasion?
● The pro-Western wing of Pashinyan's supporters have criticized this as a step toward "Belarusization" meaning a step closer to the Union State, and loss of sovereignty. Would you agree with this?
● Both Aliyev and Pashinyan, in their speeches, seem to be prioritizing the urgency of signing a peace agreement soon. Why? Is Moscow interested in rushing a peace agreement as well?
● Pashinyan’s visit to Moscow, while being criticized by some of his supporters, is also being presented by others as a sign of Putin’s partnership with Pashinyan. How will this be reflected in internal politics?
○ How will the “pro-Western” camp react to Armenia’s generally pro-Moscow position?
○ Some in the opposition camp believe that Putin hates Pashinyan and would welcome a power change in Armenia. How will this visit affect the perception of the Putin-Pashinyan relations among the opposition?
● Former FM Ara Ayvazyan mentioned this week that even today there are options and possibilities for pro-Armenian outcomes in the negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan. What could these options be?
The Armenian opposition started protests in the streets of Armenia. All of last week, the Hayreniq party led by Arthur Vanetsyan conducted a sit-in at Freedom Square in Armenia. This week, other opposition parties such as the ARF, Reborn Armenia, and Republican Party of Armenia all conducted de-centralized action.
Hovik, you have been following the protests in Yerevan, what can you tell us about the protests?
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, Armenian Genocide, April 24, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Russia, Brussels, Moscow, Charles Michel, Vladimir Putin, Artsakh, Nagorno Karabakh, Stepanakert, Torchlight Procession, Armenian Opposition, Arthur Vanetsyan, ARF, AYF,