Episode 173 | Recorded: November 1, 2022
On Sunday, in the lead-up to the October 31 meeting in Sochi, and while Artsakh president Arayik Harutyunyan was also in Moscow, there was probably the largest demonstration rally in Stepanakert since the independence movement began in 1988, an estimated 40,000 Artsakh citizens flooded the main city square to demand that Artsakh’s independence and sovereignty not be compromised through any deals that the government of Armenia signs with Azerbaijan.
Artsakh’s parliament also convened on Sunday, and adopted a declaration that affirms its independence and rejects Armenia’s ruling party, Civil Contract’s policy to de-prioritize Artsakh’s independence. Essentially this is a rejection of the “lower the bar” paradigm that Pashinyan’s been pushing since last April due to pressure from the so-called “international community”.
Coinciding with the rally in Stepanakert, the Armenian opposition announced a rally in Yerevan on Saturday, Nov 5.
Before we talk about the ongoing issues related to Azerbaijan, let’s talk explicitly about the relationship between Armenia and its strategic ally Russia as I think it’ll be an important backdrop for everything else.
On Friday, the CSTO Security Council met to consider measures to support Armenia in its conflict with Azerbaijan. The emergency meeting was initiated by Pashinyan.
Reportedly Pashinyan had two demands of the CSTO:
Neither of these demands were met, as it became clear that individual CSTO member states have valuable bilateral ties with Azerbaijan which they do not wish to harm. Uniquely outspoken was Belarus president Lukashenko, who said that Azerbaijan was headed by “absolutely our man, Ilham Aliyev” and that “huge ties” with Azerbaijan could not be ignored.
Benyamin, maybe there’s always a need to get people on the record. But the meeting clarified that the CSTO is not ready to help Armenia against Azerbaijan.
Among other things in this political sparring which we mentioned a moment ago is the banning of Russian officials from Armenia. For example, long-time Armenian supporter and first deputy chairman of a committee in the State Duma, Konstantin Zatulin; and also editor in chief of Russia Today (RT), ethnic Armenian Margarita Simonyan.
In light of the signing of a partial or interim trilateral statement in Sochi, we want to also help paint a backdrop of how Russia’s competitors in the West think the Artsakh conflict should be solved.
At the end of September Aliyev’s foreign policy advisor Hikmet Hajiyev and Armenian National Security chair Armen Grigoryan met in DC. Some details of what was discussed or agreed upon were leaked on Telegram, but it was all unconfirmed.
In his speech at the latest Valdai club meeting president Putin explicitly claimed that the US brokered deal requires that Armenia recognize the sovereignty of Azerbaijan over Nagorno Karabakh, apparently referring to this leaked document, however despite Edmon Marukyan’s statement that there is no such thing as a “Washington variant” Pashinyan himself admitted during his party’s annual congress that there are Western and Russian interpretations.
Meanwhile, Putin arranged a summit with Aliyev and Pashinyan in Sochi, which happened yesterday, October 31. Prior to the trilateral summit, Putin met with Pashinyan and Aliyev in a bilateral format. After the trilateral summit a statement was published.
The statement is heavy on territorial integrity and inviolability of borders, but there’s no word on the self-determination of people. It also put an equal sign between unresolved security and humanitarian issues (including our POWs still in Baku). Even the name “Karabakh” is avoided as a location and referred to Artsakh as the “zone where peacekeepers are stationed”.
In other news, only yesterday IRNA reported that Pashinyan will visit Iran on Tuesday, November 1, and meet with Raisi!
On the Armenian side, Pashinyan said that he told Raisi what they talked about in Sochi. Raisi on his part said that the meeting is a breakthrough for relations between the two countries and the region. Raisi also messaged that regional problems should be solved by regional players and not outsiders. Some analysts interpret this as a shot across the bow at the EU and potentially OSCE observer missions.
One objective announcement from this meeting was that Iranian companies will take part in construction of the Kajaran tunnel, part of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC).:
We hope you found our Week in Review helpful. We invite your feedback and your suggestions. You can find us on most social media and podcast platforms. Thanks to Laura Osborn for the music on our podcasts.
Dr. Benyamin Poghosyan is a senior fellow at APRI Armenia, a Yerevan based think tank,and the Chairman of the Center for Political and Economic Strategic Studies. He has served as the vice president for research and head of the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense Research University in Armenia. Dr. Poghosyan was a Distinguished Research Fellow at the US National Defense University College of International Security Affairs. He is a graduate from the US State Department Study of the US Institutes for Scholars 2012 Program on US National Security Policy Making. He holds a PhD in history and is a graduate from the 2006 Tavitian Program on International Relations at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
Asbed is founder of the Armenian News Network Groong and co-founder of the ANN/Groong podcast.
Hovik Manucharyan is an information security engineer who moved from Seattle to Armenia in 2022. He co-founded the ANN/Groong podcast in 2020 and has been a contributor to Groong News since the late 1990s.