Episode 288 | Recorded: October 22, 2023
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During this past week the president of Artsakh, Samvel Shahramanyan, met with a large group of protesters in a public meeting to address the rising frustration of not only his refugee people in Armenia, but also Armenian citizens. People have a lot of questions, ranging from the social status of over 101,000 people who fled from Artsakh to Armenia, to their right of return, and concerns about the political future of the Artsakh Republic.
There are a lot of questions on why a certain group of Artsakhtsis are demanding this from the former government of Artsakh whose funds have been frozen by Yerevan, but that’s besides the point for now.
Shahramanyan did not give a lot of answers, just promised that he would answer them publicly in the near future. One key statement that he made caught our eye: he said:
_"I have a lot to tell you, but what I have to say contains great dangers for the future fate of both Armenia and Artsakh. We are all in a very difficult situation, we are in an extremely difficult situation.”_
There were questions about the legality of Sharamanyan signing the dissolution of the state of Artsakh, although he replied that the Artsakh republic IS NOT dissolved. As far as we know, the documents that he signed, we must assume under extreme duress, have not been seen publicly.
Meanwhile, Samvel Babayan, who was the head of the United Fatherland party of Artsakh, and a lot of other things, is furious at the dissolution and wants heads to roll. He’d like to know what was signed, if it was signed under duress or threat, and to convene the Artsakh parliament and court to decide the legality of the act, and take action before January 1, the reported date of the dissolution of the state.
World governments say that Artsakhtsis’ right of return must be guaranteed. Carey Cavanaugh, former US co-chair for the OSCE Minsk Group, recently said that the Artsakh conflict will not be over even if the entire population flees to Armenia. We’ve also heard both from Russia and the US saying that this conflict is not over. Not to mention every analyst whom we’ve talked with since the depopulation of Artsakh, in September.
So while Aliyev was raising the Azeri flag in Stepanakert last weekend and telling everyone that he has resolved the Artsakh conflict, we’re trying to understand how the major powers don’t see this conflict as resolved.
There is talk that Artsakh should form a government in exile. There are various aspects to this. Some argue that a full government in exile with all its institutions should be created, while others argue for a minimalist structure.
At the same time, there seems to be a struggle for control over the voice of Artsakhtsis in exile, with one camp represented by Samvel Babayan, and backed by Nikol Pashinyan allies, who claims he’s leading his own negotiations with Baku; the other camp is supported by the Armenian opposition, which congratulated Shahramanyan’s election as president.
Let’s turn our attention to the crisis in Israel and Gaza, because this has implications all the way to the South Caucasus. You wrote about this in an insightful article in the Armenian Weekly, Hairenik.
The Palestinian cause has been a pivotal issue since the second world war and a source of intractable problems both regionally in the Middle East, as well as globally. In many ways, we Armenians see a lot of parallels in their cause with ours. But in the past few years the Palestinian Cause had all but disappeared from the agenda of the Middle East, and it wasn’t until October 7 that it all spilled out in great violence and brutality. Thousands of civilians have died, and the sides are deeply entrenched in war and dehumanization rhetoric, and it just feels like we’re on the verge of a terrible ethnic cleansing in Gaza.
Fig: 1: Map of International North-South Trade Corridor (INSTC), Source: Reddit/r/MapPorn
Fig: 2: Map of the India-Middle East-Europe Corridor (IMEC), Source: The Hindu BusinessLine
Fig: 3: Map of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Source: Clingendael
All the major South Caucasus powers, Russia, Iran and Turkey have issued warnings to Netanyahu to not invade or ethnically cleanse Gaza. Meanwhile, Israel is Azerbaijan’s key military partner, providing it with sophisticated weaponry that is used against Armenia.
In the past few years various Arab countries have been negotiating and signing bilateral agreements with Israel, without even the mention of the Palestinian cause. For example, the Abraham accord agreements by the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and more importantly the current so-called “Normalization” negotiations between Saudi Arabia and-Israel.
Some observers say that Hamas has already achieved many objectives: the Palestinian cause is back on every Arab country’s agenda for the Middle East again; Saudi Arabia has paused negotiations with Israel; and the Israeli aura of invincibility has been deeply tarnished.
The Israeli-Gaza conflict has already spread to the border of Israel and Lebanon, as well as Syria. There are reported Israeli air raids on Damascus and Aleppo, and also into South Lebanon.
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.