Episode 234 | Recorded: March 5, 2023
We’ve talked a lot about the earthquake in Turkey and Syria that happened a month ago. Over 50,000 people were killed in those two countries, among them Armenians.
This coming May, Turkish presidential elections are due to be held, and president Erdogan is of course up for reelection. We want to explore how the earthquake has shifted the political maneuvering in Turkey.
For a while after the earthquake it wasn’t clear if the presidential elections were going to be held as planned on May 14. While the announced reasons were logistical, about martial law, etc., the real reasons concerned Erdogan’s political considerations for a successful re-election. As of now, the elections are back on.
The anti-Erdogan opposition “Table of Six” has bifurcated. Out of the six opposition parties, five have agreed to nominate the more secular Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, while the nationalist IYI party has pulled out of the alliance; they want to nominate either the mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoglu, or Ankara mayor Mansur Yavas. Imamoglu has been pushed out of politics by Erdogan who has filed criminal charges against him.
As we’ve noted before, Armenia also dispatched rescuers to both Syria and Turkey, and the border with Turkey was opened twice to let through convoys of trucks carrying Armenian aid to the distressed areas. That was a first, since Armenia gained independence after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Since Ruben Vardanyan’s dismissal, both the Artsakh and Azerbaijani sides have appointed representatives and have held two discussions, in the presence of the Russian peacekeepers. While Azerbaijan has tried to paint these discussions as being about “reintegrating Karabakh back into Azerbaijan”, the Artsakh government has rejected this and gave a detailed report of the meeting. They’ve also said that these talks are not a substitute for peace negotiations, which must take place in an internationally visible process.
Since that meeting earlier in the week, there have been daily reports (6 days in a row) about Azeri violations of ceasefire, with both civilian and military being targeted. Today, a subversion group from Azerbaijan infiltrated Armenian-held territories, in contravention of the cease-fire, and attacked an Artsakh police car, killing three and injuring one police officer.
This past week Pashinyan visited Germany and met with members of the Bundestag and chancellor Olaf Scholz. In the ensuing press conference Scholtz indicated that Germany backs Artsakh’s right to self-determination, which he said was an international principle equal to that of territorial integrity.
That, together with the ICJ partially ruling in favor of Armenia on its request to take all measures in its disposal to unblock the Lachin/Berdzor corridor, and UN Secretary Antonio General Guterrez and the EU both calling the ICJ ruling “binding”, we thought maybe there’s an interesting story developing.
But Azerbaijan has yet to lift the blockade, and worse yet, the day after the press conference, Scholz’s mention of self-determination was silently edited out of the official text of the speech on the German government’s website, while leaving in “territorial integrity”.
While Olaf Scholz was talking “self-determination”, Pashinyan next to him was completely silent. Specifically, Scholz said that the conflict in Artsakh should be resolved based on the territorial integrity of Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as self-determination of people in Artsakh. Pashinyan was stone silent.
Later on, in a community meeting Pashinyan was asked about self-determination again, and he completely avoided using that term.
At the end of January Egyptian president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi was in Armenia. El-Sisi offered readiness to mediate between Armenia and Azerbaijan, if the two countries were interested in that. He also talked about a mutual trust between Egypt and Armenia, and of course we know that there’s a solid Armenian community there.
This relationship, with Egypt, but also with a lot of the Arab world, is a deeply underutilized, or under-managed vector in Armenian diplomacy.
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.
Yeghia Tashjian is a regional analyst and researcher based in Beirut, with expertise in China’s geopolitical and energy security interests in Iran and the Persian Gulf. Currently he is an instructor in International Affairs at the American University of Science and Technology and Senior Research Assistant at the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut.
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.
Asbed is founder of the Armenian News Network Groong and co-founder of the ANN/Groong podcast.