Episode 260 | Recorded: June 5, 2023
May was a very busy month in the continuing Armenian-Azerbaijani so-called “peace” negotiations, and the saga continues so far in June. This past week started with a meeting on June 1st with a 5-way summit between Pashinyan, Aliyev, and Chancellor Olaf Scholtz of Germany, and presidents Macron and Michel of France and the EU.
The main topics on the table were:
Pres. Michel said afterwards that the meeting was a good prep for another upcoming meeting on July 21.
A few days before this meeting, Armenia’s security council chair, Armen Grigoryan, and Aliyev’s foreign policy advisor Hikmet Hajiyev met in Bratislava during a conference, and held a panel together. The only thing we heard from that meeting was Grigoryan saying that Azerbaijan should refrain from maximalist positions.
Upon returning from Chisinau, the Pashinyan government has started talking about a number of issues. One point is about using the 1975 maps for border delimitation. Another point is about handing over Armenian territories which Azerbaijan is claiming as their “enclaves” in Armenia.
Pashinyan is presenting these issues as if they present no problems for Armenia, and trying to normalize them in order to prepare the minds of his listeners.
According to Ruben Galichian, this 1926 map should be used for border delimitation. The map shows Artsakh directly connected with Armenia and there are no “so-called” enclaves.
There is an interesting tidbit that came out of Chisinau. Ukraine president Zelensky met with Aliyev, and thanked him for all the economic aid for reconstruction. Meanwhile, news broke out at the same time that Russia was taking note of a comment that Pashinyan had made a month ago in Prague, when he had said that “in the war in Ukraine, Armenia is not Russia’s ally”. That comment on its own is a little out of context, _so check the full article in our show notes, _but the timing is striking in that it highlights positive achievements by Azerbaijan, and negative ones for Armenia.
After some delays, the Deputy PMs of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia met on June 2. According to Russia’s Overchuk, sides have achieved further “common understanding” on how to restore the Yeraskh-Julfa-Meghri-Horadiz railroad. This falls in the first item mentioned above, “unblocking of regional transport and economic infrastructures”, and linking Azerbaijan and Nakhijevan is probably the only thing pressing on Aliyev’s mind anyway.
One of the main sticking points has been Armenia’s control and sovereignty over any transit through Armenian territory. In fact Alen Simonyan, uncharacteristically for a government rep, declared that there would be no corridor, which we assume was about Aliyev’s so-called “Zangezur corridor”, and that Armenia will not sign any agreement that gives it less than 29,800 sq.km. of territory.
On the other hand, he said that dialogue between Baku and Stepanakert is also “highly important”.
The Baku-Stepanakert dialogue did not make it into Armenia’s “red lines”, it was just “also highly important”. It’s very, very unlikely that Aliyev will ever agree to an equal or horizontal dialog with Stepanakert, specially when just last week he threatened them to dissolve their government and all state symbols, and surrender, or risk military aggression. Let’s also note that the US praised Aliyev’s offer for so-called “amnesty” for Artsakh Republic leaders.
Israeli president Isaac Herzog visited Azerbaijan this past week. Earlier this year Azerbaijan opened an embassy in Tel Aviv, and although there is a lot of pretense around economic and energy ties, the big deal is about defense and Iran.
Herzog again reiterated Israel’s long-standing claims that Iran is the biggest threat in the region, while Azerbaijan has warned its citizens not to travel to Iran, because of the attacks on its consulate in Tabriz earlier this year.
So both countries seem to be committed to keeping Iran as their regional bogeyman, and are overtly or covertly working to internationally isolate it.
Over the past weekend Erdogan was inaugurated for a third term as president of Turkey. On May 28, he was elected with 52% of the vote, tipped in his favor by ultranationalist party leader Sinan Ogan.
Pashinyan attended, and was treated as a second class leader, sitting behind Azerbaijan’s president Aliyev on the first row. The first row was reserved for country leaders, and Erdogan shook all of their hands.
For reference, Georgia sent PM Garibashvili, Russia sent Duma speaker Volodin, and the US attended at the level of its Ambassador to Turkey.
Sergei, one of your areas of focus is Armenia-Russia relations. You visit Russia frequently for academic conferences and have even hosted Russian analysts and academics here in Armenia.
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.
Dr. Sergei Melkonian is an Academic Director at the Armenian Research Foundation. He served as assistant to President of Armenia, Armen Sarkissian, on Russia and Middle East politics. Sergei is currently a Research Fellow at APRI Armenia and the Institute of Oriental Studies, and also Assistant Professor at Yerevan State University and the Russian-Armenian University. He is a co-founder of the Armenian Project NGO.
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.