Sergei Melkonian - Armenian Azerbaijani Negotiations - Russian and Iranian Perspectives | Ep 271 - August 6, 2023 [EP272]

Posted on Tuesday, Aug 8, 2023 | Category: Armenia, Politics | Series: wir



  • War of Words with Russia
  • Iran’s Diplomatic Perspective
  • Armenian Azerbaijani Negotiations
    • Russian and Iranian perspectives on the geopolitics of the Armenian-Azeri talks around Artsakh and their mutual borders.
  • Artsakh: New Parliament Speaker
  • Thoughts from the Participants

Episode 272 | Recorded: August 7, 2023

Show Notes

War of Words with Russia

Anyone who follows the politics around the South Caucasus knows that the relations between Armenia and Russia have significantly deteriorated. Earlier this week Russian MFA spox Maria Zakharova chided the Armenian government, specifically Pashinyan, for saying that Russia has scaled back its involvement, etc etc. Russia also bristled at Pashinyan’s suggestion that a “productive dialogue” between Baku and Stepanakert could lead to the withdrawal of the Russian peacekeepers. She responded to Pashnyan by asking “is this a wish”?

Just to highlight how ridiculous Pashinyan’s statement is, by the way, let’s remind that this is happening at the same time that Azerbaijan is kidnapping Armenians at border checkpoints, taking them to Baku for sham trials and holding them as war criminals on fabricated charges.


  • We know Russia is busy in Ukraine. Can you discuss Russia’s evolving foreign policy calculations in the South Caucasus? What is important for Russia in Armenia and Artsakh, and Azerbaijan?
  • Are the Russians being viewed more suspiciously now by the Artsakh government and population? Are they being accused of being more aligned with the Azeri government?
  • Is Turkey trying to negotiate with Russia to inject its own peacekeepers in Artsakh as a condition for extension of the 2025 deadline?
  • What is Armenia’s room for maneuver in this scenario?

This past week a simmering issue again came to the front of the new, that’s the row between Armenia and the CSTO. The CSTO again stated that it expected a positive response from Yerevan so that they may deploy help “to the maximum benefit” of Armenia; and Pashinyan again stated that CSTO members must first condemn Azerbaijan as an aggressor in the conflict, before a positive response. At the same time, the Pashinyan regime again declined to participate in yet another CSTO joint exercise, this time in Belarus.


  • Do you think this whole issue is a PR standoff where both sides are trying to show up the other, or is one side more justified in their point than the other?
  • How does Russia view the argument that Armenia doesn’t want to allow a military deployment along the Armenian Azeri border, when the CSTO political leadership hasn’t clarified whether they’re defending Armenia from Azerbaijan, or Azerbaijan from Armenia?

Russian-Turkish relations and plans for the peacekeepers beyond 2025

Iran’s Diplomatic Perspective

Sergey, recently you and other members of the Armenian Project visited Iran, so let’s turn our attention Southward for a bit.

Many analysts believe that the only reason why Azerbaijan has not yet attacked Armenia to take Syunik is due to Iran’s strong resistance to the so-called “Zangezur corridor”. Many also believe that because of Ukraine Russia has quietly outsourced this component of security to Iran.

However, Iran has recently called on Russia to wake up in the South Caucasus and deal with critical security matters before it is too late.


  • What is Iran alluding to, as issues in a critical red zone?
  • Is Russian adjacency to Iran, through Armenia, an important strategic vector for Russian and Iranian foreign policies? If so, what are they doing to secure it? Are they on the same page about this issue, or do they have different goals and or methodologies for their security here?

On July 28, Iran’s newly appointed ambassador to Armenia, Mehdi Sobhani, presented his credentials to Vahagn Khachaturyan. Sobhani has a rich resume with many important appointments including most recently as ambassador to Syria.


  • What does this appointment signify in Iran-Armenia relations?

If you remember, last year Iran held multiple large-scale military exercises on the border with Azerbaijan, which came at the apex of tensions between Azerbaijan and Iran. Iran has also stated at numerous times that changing existing state borders is a red line. More recently, however, Azerbaijan has praised a “balanced” approach by Iran to the Karabakh conflict.


  • If Pashinyan announces that he believes that an extra-territorial corridor through the country is acceptable to Armenia, what could Iran do?
  • What’s Iran’s strategy of appeasing Azerbaijan, while ensuring its own security concerns?
  • What are Iran’s concerns regarding Azerbaijan’s provocations in Iran’s northern provinces, which Azerbaijan calls “South Azerbaijan”? How is it dealing with this issue?
  • Are Iranians generally aware of the threats along their northern borders, and what is their public’s disposition towards Armenia and Armenians in general?

Armenia Azerbaijan Talks

As a final section of our show today, let’s talk about the current state of the talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Late last week Pashinyan warned that a reason why Azerbaijan is not signing a “peace treaty” is because it’s trying to make it possible to have future claims against sovereign Armenian territory.

To most Armenians, I dare say that the main issue is that the Artsakh blockade is at a catastrophic point, and the lack of international reaction to it is now putting their cause towards self-determination in a deep hole. But with Pashinyan, we’re a thousand steps behind the curve, defending Armenia’s own sovereignty.


  • Is Armenia doing anything for Artsakh anymore?
  • What are the Artsakh government’s prospects, given the blockade, the Russian peacekeepers, and a west that is deaf to its calls for a fair solution?

A few days ago Artsakh parliament speaker Arthur Tovmasyan resign.


  • Why did Artsakh parliament speaker Arthur Tovmasyan resign?
  • What are the options and prospects for electing a new speaker this week?

Topics from the Panelists

  • Hovik: Pashinyan at the Gyumri pan-Armenian games.
  • Sergei: Artsakh defeats pro-Turkish narrative. Also, last week’s MPG polls yield encouraging results.


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.


Sergei Melkonian

Sergei Melkonian

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

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.

Asbed Bedrossian

Asbed Bedrossian

Asbed is founder of Groong and co-founder of the ANN/Groong podcast.