The past couple of weeks we’ve seen developments in Armenia’s interactions with Azerbaijan, Russia, the US, Turkey or the EU.
Should we look at these from the perspective of crisis management and negotiation tactics?
Arthur, the last time you were on our show (see Episode 281) we asked you about how Armenia should negotiate with Azerbaijan when the latter is holding on to tens if not hundreds of Armenian prisoners (or hostages to be more precise). You responded that this was akin to negotiating with the devil and provided a stern warning that by accepting to negotiate while the prisoners are still in Baku and being used against us, is tantamount to accepting the “devil’s” terms. You said that Armenia should cease negotiations until the issue of the prisoners is settled by the mediators.
Armenia implemented a so-called “prisoner swap” with Azerbaijan where Armenia released two Azerbaijani criminals who infiltrated Armenia and one of whom murdered an Armenian civilian, in exchange for 32 Armenian soldiers, most of whom seem to be from the Khtsaberd incident.
The means through which the two Azerbaijani criminals were released also leaves a lot of questions to be asked, especially since Akhundov’s sentence (the one that murdered the Armenian security guard) was extended just last week to a life sentence. According to a Hraparak article, there are three 3 ways that criminals like this could be released:
While the government is silent, the Hraparak article surmises that the latter (a pardon) is the most likely scenario considering the first two would require a lot of paperwork and judicial hearings.
Meanwhile, after the news of the release, the family of the murdered security guard spoke up that the Armenian government hasn’t sought their approval for this move and criticized the exchange of criminals for legitimate prisoners as unjust.
The exchange of prisoners was presented with great fanfare in government-controlled media, and as a great success in the west. Even Turkey, Russia, Iran and others joined the US and dozens of EU countries in congratulating it. Pashinyan took it a step further and dubbed the exchange in his own words as the new “point zero” in negotiations.
Following Pashinyan’s announcement, Ararat Mirzoyan on December 13 said that Armenia and Azerbaijan were in talks to withdraw from the border in a mirrored fashion. Despite this positive announcement and for all the talk about “point zero”, Azerbaijan rejected withdrawing their forces until a final agreement.
We’ve frequently covered the tensions between the West and Russia in the Caucasus.
This week, there was a new article in The Foreign Policy In Focus titled “IN THE CAUCASUS, THE U.S. PRIORITY IS FOSSIL FUELS, NOT ARMENIANS”.
_“As we go from the medium to the longer term, there’s going to have to be some effort made to help integrate these folks into Armenian life,” AID official Alexander Sokolowski [told](https://foreignaffairs.house.gov/hearing/the-future-of-nagorno-karabakh/) Congress in November. “Many of them dream of going back to Nagorno-Karabakh, but for right now, they’re oriented towards making a life in Armenia.”_
It is easy to simplify these east vs west arguments into an absurd binary where one is good while the other is bad. But at the risk of crossing that line, we wanted to ask you:
Last time we spoke, October 1, most of the world thought that the possibility of additional conflicts was remote. Yet only a week later we saw a brazen attack by Hamas on October 7 followed by a punitive Israeli offensive into Gaza, which is still raging on.
Despite ramping worldwide backlash against Israel’s disproportionate response, Biden’s administration continues steadfast support for Israel, even though behind the scenes it has given Netanyahu warning to stop targeting civilians. Regardless, the US is providing military support to Israel as well, sending tens of thousands of missiles to help it “defend” itself against Gaza.
There is waning support in the west to keep bankrolling the war in Ukraine.
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.
Arthur G. Martirosyan, who is a Senior Consultant with CM Partners. In 1994, after graduating from Yale University, he joined Conflict Management Group and Harvard Negotiation Project, and has since worked on conflicts in the former Soviet Union, the Middle East, the Balkans, Africa, and Latin America.
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.