Situation in Karabakh – Update as of 13/10/23

The files we follow: Karabakh Conflict Resolution Process, Humanitarian and Security Update in Karabakh and the Lachin Corridor, Abkhazia and South Ossetia / Georgia Conflict, Georgia – EU/ US/Russia/Ukraine Relations and Georgian Domestic Policy, South Caucasian energy, trade and transport issues, Human Rights in South Caucasus, Various foreign policies Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia.

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The Russian Defence Ministry announced on 5 and 6 October the removal of several observation posts of peacekeeping forces: in the Askeran, Merdakert and Shusha districts. Then on 7 October, the elimination of other positions in the districts of Martouni and Merdakert.$

Vladimir Putin responded, during the plenary session of the 20th meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club, to Charles Michel’s accusation that “Russia [had] betrayed the Armenian people by noting the intransigence of Armenia’s decades of compromise while occupying 20% of its neighbour’s territory, and its desire to fight in response to potential offensives by Azerbaijan. He also recalled that Armenia had not only never officially recognized the independence of Karabakh but that it had also explicitly recognized in Prague and then in Brussels recently that Karabakh belonged to Azerbaijan. Regarding the humanitarian situation, he said: “we are also ready to provide assistance, Armenia continues to be our ally.

Furthermore, the Azerbaijani president reiterated during his exchange with Charles Michel on 7 October that his absence at the Grenada summit was due to “the well-known position of France” and thatthe supply of weapons by France to Armenia was not an approach in the service of peace, but that it aimed to trigger a new conflict, and that if a new conflict arose in the region, France would be responsible for having provoked it.” He argued that it was “the so-called [self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh] regime that forced the Armenians to leave the territory.

A particularly important meeting in the context of economic and transport opening up in the region and particularly surprising in the context of Azerbaijan’s execrable relations with its Iranian neighbour, Armenia’s traditional ally, is that of Ilham Aliev and an Iranian delegation led by Minister of Roads and Urban Development Mehrdad Bazrpach. Indeed, they inaugurated construction work on a bridge and border and customs infrastructure, as well as fortification projects in the area near Aghband in the district of Zangilan”. This city bordering Armenian territory and Iranian territory is crucial for the development of transport corridors both north/south and east/west.

This meeting followed that of Mehrdad Bazrpash with Azerbaijani Deputy Prime Minister Shahin Mustafayev during which a letter of intent was signed for the construction of a new railway line and railway bridges to connect the eastern economic zone of Zanguezur in Azerbaijan and the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic via the territory of Iran. Another document was signed: the minutes of a joint working group “on the construction of a border automobile bridge and a pedestrian crossing over the Araz River at the Azerbaijani-Iranian border crossing points Aghband (Azerbaijan ) and Kalaleh (Iran)”.

During Ilham Aliyev’s visit to Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, the latter once again offered his services in mediation with Armenia, a proposal to which the Azerbaijani president reacted in these terms: “taking into account the both historical relations and geographical factor, the most correct option in this area would definitely be Georgia”.

The reconfiguration of the geopolitical balances of the South Caucasus is now accelerating to the benefit of Azerbaijan, the region’s major energy supplier and leader of the non-aligned movement. The gradual withdrawal of Russian peacekeeping forces from the Karabakh economic region and this week’s agreements with Iran reflect good understanding with regional powers and a temporary appeasement with its southern Shiite neighbour, traditional ally of Armenia. The country should be able, from January 2024, to begin to exercise sovereignty over its entire territory, definitively and for the first time since the fall of the Soviet bloc.

The sustainability of such a configuration depends on two main sensitive points to be resolved:

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