Episode 242 | Recorded: April 3, 2023
In the past two weeks Azerbaijan has made a number of moves on the line of contact with Artsakh and Armenia and occupied additional Armenian territories.
In Artsakh, on March 25, one move aimed at controlling a dirt road that they allege was being used to supply Artsakh with weapons from Armenia - this is a lie of course. Russia blamed Azerbaijan for breaking the Ceasefire Agreement of November 2020, while the US “expressed concern” about this aggression as well. Still so far as we know, the Azerbaijani forces now have the dirt road under fire control. Azerbaijani social media circulated video evidence of what they allege is control of two heights in the Shushi region directly overlooking the road.
In Armenia, on March 30 (or before), another move aimed at controlling certain heights around Tegh, on the alternative road to the Lachin/Berdzor corridor which Armenia’s government is barely now completing, 8 months after they handed Berdzor to Azerbaijan. It’s a little hard to understand this incident, but it‘s related to the early handing over of Berdzor to Azerbaijan, and probably concession by Pashinyan behind the backs of the Armenian people. According to the Armenian National Security Service, Aliyev jumped the gun on an April 1 deadline to complete the alternative road and assume new positions, and instead advanced reportedly 200+ meters into Armenian border territory, and is digging bunkers in 5 new positions on the heights overlooking Aravus, Tegh, and Kornidzor, depriving the use of nearby fields by local farmers, who can no longer farm.
The strategic heights in Armenia, which Azerbaijan occupied without firing a single shot, have allowed the Azerbaijani troops to come extremely close to the road that the Armenian government is now building to replace the previous one and control nearby territory. Cartographer Rouben Galichian meanwhile says that the newly constructed road has been built in such a way as to cross into and out of Azerbaijan. This could give Azerbaijan the pretense to disrupt the communications even on the new road.
Rouben Galichian on Shant News
Hrant Bagratian, former prime minister of Armenia, believes that Aliyev intends to establish a checkpoint first Azerbaijani segment, thereby bypassing the zone of responsibility of Russian peacekeepers.
Earlier we said that news about the Azerbaijani movements in Armenia was hard to understand, simply because the information being supplied to Armenians by their government is apparently full of half-truths and manipulation. Initially, the Armenian NSS said that there has been no change in Armenian positions without admitting that at the same time Azerbaijan has moved forward significantly to occupy strategic heights. There are now reports that Azerbaijanis are shooting at Armenian positions, demanding that they be moved back.
While the borders of Armenia are experiencing all sorts of instability, and soldiers are dying on the line of contact almost every week, Pashinyan was busy attending the US president Joe Biden’s Democracy Summit 2023. Turkey and Azerbaijan were not invited to this summit; neither was Russia; The Kremlin’s Peskov dismissed the summit as something that “can hardly be regarded as a serious event”.
Armenia declined to fully endorse the summit declaration and join other states at the summit in condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Two weeks ago Armenia’s constitutional court approved the legality of the parliament ratifying the Rome Statute - which is the treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC). Ratifying this statute means that the country legally commits to uphold the decisions issued by the ICC. And as we know two weeks ago the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Obviously this puts Armenia, in fact all countries that have tried to steer clear of the global crisis between Russia and The West, or even pretended to stay neutral in their statements regarding the war in Ukraine, to pick sides.
The Armenian constitutional court started considering this issue back in December of 2022, when the Putin arrest mandate had not been issued. The court’s approval drew a sharp response from Russia to Armenia.
Over the past few days, Russia began hinting that Armenian dairy products do not meet Russian safety regulations, and then started banning these products. And just over the weekend, Armenia stated that it would not arrest Putin if he visited Armenia.
This past week Iran foreign minister Hussein Amir-Abdollahian was in Moscow, meeting with Russian FM Sergey Lavrov. The stated goal of the two countries is to sign a long-term strategic deal. Reportedly they discussed a wide range of topics, from the JCPOA, the Iran nuclear deal that is constantly roadblocked for some reason of another, to Syria, to the conflict in Armenia and Artsakh, as well as elevated defense cooperation and more. Incidentally, this meeting comes on the heel of an Iran-Saudi Arabia rapprochement brokered by China.
While Abdollahian was in Moscow, Azeri foreign minister Jeyhun Bayramov was in Israel, inaugurating their new embassy. Among other statements, he thanked Israel for its support against Armenia in the 44-day war and since, while Israeli FM Eli Cohen said the two countries should form a “united front” against Iran. Azerbaijan has not responded to Iranian calls to explain this “agreement”.
We’ve known that Israel’s anti-Armenian stance in the Caucasus has two primary goals: money and Iran. So Azerbaijan is taking advantage of these goals and Israel’s international prominence and clout to solve its problems with force and with impunity; because it is flush with cash, oil and western loans and attention.
Alright, let’s wrap up our topics here. I’d like to ask each of you if there’s been something on your mind this past week that you want to talk about.
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.
Suren Sargsyan is the founder and President at the Armenian Center for American Studies, a research center based in Yerevan.
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.