Three months after Azerbaijan’s invasion of Artsakh Republic and eviction of its remaining 100,000 population, president-in-exile Samvel Shahramanyan has allegedly annulled his declaration of dissolving the republic on January 1, 2024, which he had made under duress, to save more civilians from brutal torture and murder.
There are a number of serious caveats to this story:
Pashinyan and his government have washed their hands of Artsakh ever since their defeat in the 44-day war. The man who once said “Artsakh is Armenia Եւ Վերջ” now wants you to believe that the case of Artsakh was doomed from the start.
However, news of Shahramanyan’s annulment puts a spoke in Civil Contract’s dreams of closing the “Artsakh Chapter” out of their agenda, so last weekend they lashed out and slammed Shahramanyan, calling him a “displaced person” no different than his 150,000 compatriots, and that he and his Artsakh government pose a threat to Armenia, and that none of their actions on Armenian territory can have legal force.
Pashinyan cronies have all used the same terminology, that the remnants of the state of Artsakh pose a grave danger to Armenia’s national security.
Last week Azerbaijan responded to Armenia’s negotiating positions. First they stated that they would negotiate in Washington if Biden waives Section 907, which prevents US military support for Azerbaijan. Aliyev’s advisor Hikmet Hajiyev has also made it very clear that a signed treaty is no guarantee for peace. He also proposed that border discussions should not gate a “peace treaty”.
Azerbaijan has come under pressure to come back to negotiations, so this proposal is a clear effort to deflect that pressure by pretending that they’re willing to negotiate, while removing Armenia’s legitimate concerns off the agenda. And of course, Pashinyan’s government signaled yes, they’re open to it!
Analysts say that throughout the evolution of the negotiations post 2020, the Armenian side was vying for three key points to be included in any signed document:
Aliyev cynically says that he solved the problem of Artsakh. World powers seem to be willing to accept this and are working hard to push the sides to sign. Pashinyan himself seems to have accepted this since he’s continuing negotiations.
Now, it appears that Azerbaijan wants to take out any specificity about borders.
Many analysts are not certain how Armenia is going to go against Russia by undoing its signature on the Nov 10 statement, expecting that Russia will in the end control the roads connecting Azerbaijan with Nakhijevan.
So it seems that the three points which Armenia was hoping for will either be considered as obsolete or will be postponed, leading to a signature of a vague document.
Prior to this round, even Pashinyan cronies had stated that border delimitation was a crucial goal towards security. Now they’re confusing the Armenian people by talking from both sides of their mouth. Alen Simonyan is saying it’s OK to not talk about the border, while Ararat Mirzoyan is saying that the border discussions are important for the treaty.
Meanwhile, Russia is still “peacekeeping” in Artsakh.
Pashinyan’s was in St. Petersburg last week, where he attended a summit of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) leaders. One major achievement was a sweeping free-trade agreement between the EAEU and Iran (a preliminary agreement was already in effect since 2019). Also, Armenia will assume the presidency of the EAEU in 2024.
In the past six months or more, Armenia has pretty much boycotted Russian-led post-soviet alliances: the CSTO, the CIS, the EAEU. And while Pashinyan’s government has been slamming Russian-led alliances, Armenia’s economic dependence on Russia is deep. A third of Armenia’s economy, and half of all exports, depend on Russia. So when Russia raised technical difficulties at the Lars border checkpoint, Pashinyan knew that this was an invitation he could not refuse, to go to St. Petersburg.
As this is the last show of 2023, let’s review like we did a year ago for our January 1, 2023 show; that was Episode 197.
In that show we looked back over 2022, and we each made one high, one medium, and one low probability prediction for 2023.
Make three predictions for 2024, one that you think is high probability of happening, a medium, and low probability.
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE, we hope that 2024 is a better year for Armenians around the world than 2023 was, and we look forward to continuing our podcasts and our stimulating interactions with you, our listeners around the world.
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. Benyamin Poghosyan is a senior fellow at APRI Armenia, a Yerevan based think tank,and the Chairman of the Center for Political and Economic Strategic Studies. He has served as the vice president for research and head of the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense Research University in Armenia. Dr. Poghosyan was a Distinguished Research Fellow at the US National Defense University College of International Security Affairs. He is a graduate from the US State Department Study of the US Institutes for Scholars 2012 Program on US National Security Policy Making. He holds a PhD in history and is a graduate from the 2006 Tavitian Program on International Relations at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
Asbed is founder of the Armenian News Network Groong and co-founder of the ANN/Groong podcast.
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.