Episode 181 | Recorded: December 6, 2022
We published a special podcast with Anna Karapetyan about the CSTO Summit in Yerevan.
There’ve been a few major developments in the sphere of Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations in the past two weeks, among them the CSTO summit which ended in a debacle.
The Armenian side vetoed a measure of “aid to Armenia” because it didn’t include condemnation of Azerbaijan’s invasion of Armenian territory. As a result the entire package of measures, including the final declaration was effectively vetoed.
Going back to early November, prior to the lead-up of the trilateral meeting in Sochi, Russian President Putin had thrown some hints that Russia supports a peace treaty where the status of Artsakh is postponed for future generations.
This was not an accidental statement as it was also echoed by various Russian leaders afterwards. We covered this when it happened of course. And nothing substantive was reached in Sochi and a bland statement was signed underscoring points around which there was agreement, however, leaving the most important and contentious points out, including:
After the CSTO debacle in Yerevan two weeks ago, Lavrov is now telling a different story.
When asked about the outcome of the Sochi meeting and the status of Artsakh, Lavrov said that both Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed to base their peace agreement on the 1991 Alma Ata declaration which was the founding document for the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). He said that because Armenia and Azerbaijan had agreed to this in Prague and came to Sochi with this agreement, Russia wouldn’t be able to change anything.
However, Lavrov’s interpretation of this fact drew a lot of objections from Armenian circles. Lavrov said that because the Alma Ata accords include mutual recognition of the territorial integrity of the signatories, this means that Artsakh (or Karabakh) will be part of Azerbaijan and Azerbaijan will guarantee the security of its Armenian population.
Here we need to give some background for the Alma-Alma declaration.
The Alma-Ata declaration has 4 important points that the Armenians didn’t bring up or use:
On December 3, a group of Azerbaijanis in civilian clothing claiming to be “eco-activists” were able to block the Shushi-Karintak segment of the Goris-Stepanakert highway, effectively blockading all traffic between Armenia and Artsakh. After 3 hours of negotiations with Russian peacekeepers, including commander of the peacekeeping forces Andrey Volkov, the road was reopened, and the provocateurs continued negotiations with the Russian peacekeepers at the Russian base near Ivanyan. Azerbaijani press later identified these individuals as employees of the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of the Republic of Azerbaijan as well as AzerGold. The entire “blockade” operation was accompanied by Azerbaijani media, while Armenian media were not allowed to even enter the Lachin corridor from the Armenian side.
This was preceded by weeks of Azerbaijani reports about so-called violations on the Lachin corridor, including allegations that Armenians were transporting military equipment, including mines, and gold, which Azerbaijan claims is exploited illegally.
Even the alleged presence of 14 Iranians in Artsakh was brought up. All the while, the Azerbaijani government press was blasting the Russian peacekeepers in the press for using Armenian place names in their official reports.
At the end, there were some ambiguous statements made by the head of the Russian peacekeepers about agreeing to open a “mini-customs” checkpoint to aid in the work of the peacekeepers. Details are yet to be clarified by the Russian peacekeepers.
Amidst all that took place, a meeting that was planned to take place this week in Brussels was canceled by Ilham Aliyev. In doing so, Aliyev said that Pashinyan had insisted that France should take part in this meeting, similar in format to the previous one in Prague, but that Azerbaijan no longer accepts this.
To remind our listeners, the upper house in France passed a resolution two weeks ago condemning Azerbaijan. So Aliyev’s rejection of Macron’s participation can be seen as payback.
On November 23rd, president of Artsakh Arayik Harutyunyan dismissed most of the ministers of his government. He also recalled a bill to amend the constitution of Artsakh, pending further political consultations in the country.
All this came on the heels of his appointment of Ruben Vardanyan as his state minister, replacing Artak Beglaryan earlier in November. Since then, there have been statements from Baku that they’re willing to talk with the Nagorno Karabakh leadership, but not with Vardanyan, whom they called an agent of Moscow. Ruben Vardanyan replied that he will be the one to negotiate with Baku, and only in an internationally supported format and not a bilateral format.
About three weeks ago, opposition Armenia Alliance (Hayastan Dashinq) MP Aram Vardevanyan announced that he was leaving to return to his legal profession. Vardevanyan was a prominent member of the Opposition group, and a leader of the street protests which the opposition led in the spring of 2022.
Then two weeks ago the MPs of the Reborn Armenian (Վերածնվող Հայաստան) party also put down their mandates. A couple of them decided to stay in parliament, after having left the party, but their leader Vahe Hakobyan and 2 other members exited the parliament.
It was all very cordial, and no bridges were burned. Armenia Alliance leaders said there was no “split” between member parties within the alliance since everyone who left also laid down their mandates (allowing them to be filled by the next on the list). And they argued that the reasons for leaving were tactical differences between the sides, regarding whether the boycott of the parliament should have been maintained or not.
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.
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, the Middle East, the Balkans, Africa, and Latin America.
Asbed is founder of 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.