Suren Sargsyan: Artsakh Under Blockade - Day 72 [EP228]

Posted on Tuesday, Feb 21, 2023 | Category: Artsakh, Politics, 168am | Series: cog


  • Suren Sargsyan, founder and a President at the Armenian Center for American Studies, a research center based in Yerevan.

“Pashinyan’s participation in Munich Security Conference didn’t give anything to Armenia” - Suren Sargsyan


Today is day 72 of the total blockade of Artsakh. For 72 days, the 120K citizens of Artsakh have not had the ability to enter or exit their country. They are deprived of the ability to visit Armenia or to receive guests from Armenia. With very limited supplies, they are forced to ration food with the help of food stamps in order to survive. Children are deprived of the right of education, since the schools can’t be properly heated due to Azerbaijan also disrupting gas supplies from Armenia.

Today, we’ll talk about the blockade in Artsakh and related issues, including the Munich Security Conference that took place over the weekend as well as talking about the past and the future of the OSCE Minsk Group.

This interview is a continuation of the collaboration between Groong and 168 Hours aiming to bring you more English-language coverage on the developments of this very serious humanitarian crisis in progress.


Episode 228 | Recorded: February 21, 2023

Show Notes


Munich Security Conference

Over this past weekend the annual Munich Security Conference took place and both Pashinyan and Aliyev attended. Each of them met with EU co-president Charles Michel, and they also had a trilateral meeting with US secretary of state Anthony Blinken.

For Armenians, the conference was highlighted by the fact that there was a trilateral meeting held between US Secretary of State Blinken, Pashinyan and Aliyev.

Following the meeting, a panel discussion was held on security in the South Caucasus. In the initial agenda (as of Feb 16) Pashinyan’s name was missing from this session, but the agenda was modified last minute to include Pashinyan. Note, this was the first time since the 44-day war that the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan, who fought a war with each other 3 years ago, had a discussion in public.

It seems that the US and the EU (or the Collective West) are now fully in control of the agenda of negotiations between Aliyev and Pashinyan. Armenia is now firmly sending pro-western signals, including snubbing the CSTO, alienating Russia by declaring that the EU observers are here to keep tabs on Russia so that they don’t attack Azerbaijan. Even Aliyev said that he’s OK with whoever can help him get Armenia to sign his so-called “peace treaty”.


  • How would you assess this development in the negotiations process?
  • Let’s talk about the debate or the panel discussion that was held between Aliyev and Pashinyan:
    • How did you find the back and forth between them?
    • Note: Aliyev said that Armenia capitulated and even afterwards elected Nikol. NP was silent.

Russia was not invited to the Munich Security Conference. Understandable because of the Ukraine war, but incomprehensible from the standpoint of world security.


  • With Russia left out of the process how will this affect Armenia-Russia relations?

Russia has given very dire warnings to the EU and to Armenia, almost warning Armenia with the possible loss of its statehood, that it considers the EU mission in Armenia a destabilizing factor. Meanwhile, the EU has indicated many times, most recently through the Croatian foreign minister, that its mission can not guarantee that further aggressions will not happen against Armenia, and Armenia has not shown any discernible activity to rearm its military.


  • What’s your assessment of this development?
  • Do you think it’s a mistake for Armenia to damage its relations with Russia, and trust its security to … well, what are we entrusting our security to? 100 civilians with binoculars?
  • Is Armenia putting its eggs in the wrong basket, trusting our security to far away powers who can not project power past either Russia or Turkey?

Ruben Vardanyan factor

Aliyev continues to rant about Ruben Vardanyan, calling him a “Russian citizen, a criminal, and oligarch”. Quite interesting words coming from someone who is at the center of a new scandal every year that gets published by anti-corruption watchdogs. Anyway, Aliyev said that Azerbaijan will negotiate with Armenians in Karabakh if and only if Ruben Vardanyan leaves.


  • What is the reason for Aliyev’s anger with Ruben Vardanyan?
  • Many Pashinyan supporters say that direct negotiations between Baku and Stepanakert is a victory, but realistically speaking are these going to be equal negotiations? For instance, do you think that anything around the status of Artsakh could be under negotiations?

OSCE Minsk Group

Much has been said about a recent Azatutyun report which, based on a new set of declassified documents from the OSCE Minsk Group, attempts to paint the picture that the international mediators behind closed doors were against the self-determination of Artsakh. The documents specifically mention meetings between Madeleine Albright and Jack Chirac who met in early 1997 and agreed to present a unified position and put an end to the conflict. Secret communications apparently show US and French co-chairs despairing about the unwillingness of Artsakh authorities to compromise and the need to support Levon Ter-Petrosyan who is more compromising.

These are pre-1998 documents, when Kocharyan had not yet taken over the presidency of Armenia and Arkady Ghukasyan was president in Artsakh. Pro-Pashinyan forces immediately began using this as evidence that the chances of independence of Artsakh were never so great.


  • Did this report contain any surprises for you, what did you learn?

Armen Ashotyan found some interesting details in those documents that were not mentioned by Azatutyun.

For instance, in February 1997, Alexander Arzumanyan (Armenia’s FM) and advisor to the president Libaridian had each met with US Secretary of State where the former explained to his US colleague that the full agreement should not be shared with Artsakh leadership since they will reject it, and it is important to expose the agreemeents to Artsakhtsis slowly, in piecemeal.

One of the biggest weapons used by Armenia’s opposition against Kocharyan at the time and ever since was that Kocharyan, who became president in 1998, left Artsakh out of negotiations. But here we see LTP’s administration doing just that and even conspiring to hide important negotiation details from the Karabakh authorities


  • Does it seem like Kocharyan coming to Yerevan was actually an attempt by Artsakh to come back to the negotiations table and assert its own self-determination? The rest just seems like Yerevan political intrigue.

The recent US appointment of “Caucasus Negotiator” doesn’t mention “OSCE Minsk Group co-chair” as a position or function, unlike Reeker or his predecessors had. Plus, at present, the US has been involved hands-on at the Secretary of State level. This is a very high level of focus on Armenai and Artsakh. Russia, on its part, recently said that the US and France have sent the OSCE MG to the dustbin of history.

  • What do you think: Is the OSCE MG dead?

Alright, we’ll leave it there for today! Thank you Suren!


All right, that’s our show, we hope you found it useful. Please find us on Social Media and follow us everywhere you get your Armenian news, the links are in the show notes. Thanks to Laura Osborn for the music on our podcasts. We’ll talk to you soon!


Suren Sargsyan

Suren Sargsyan

Suren Sargsyan is the founder and President at the Armenian Center for American Studies, a research center based in Yerevan.


Hovik Manucharyan

Hovik Manucharyan

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.

Disclaimer: The views expressed by Hovik Manucharyan on the ANN/Groong podcast are his own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of his employer or any other organization.

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