19-20/11/2022: Armenian leaders at the 18th Francophonie Forum in Djerba and new Franco-Azerbaijani tensions.
Within the framework of the 18th Francophonie Forum which was held in Djerba in Tunisia on 19 and 20 November, Nikol Pashinian, the Armenian Prime Minister, held several bilateral meetings, in particular with the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, the French President Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The Armenian Prime Minister’s press release report that Charles Michel underlined “the importance of implementing the agreements concluded by the Prague Declaration” and that the Armenian leader insisted on “the need to eliminate consequences of the Azerbaijani aggression, to immediately withdraw the Azerbaijani units from the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia” and that the discussions were similar with the French President. While Justin Trudeau mentioned the opening of an embassy in Armenia.
Ararat Mirzoyan, the Armenian Minister of Foreign Affairs, meanwhile delivered a speech at the 43rd session of the Ministerial Forum of Francophonie on 18 November, relayed by the website of the Armenian MFA during which he declared: “The collective security mechanisms based on respect for the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, in particular sovereign equality and the non-use of force against the territorial integrity of any State, can no longer guarantee the security of States in the face of aggressive policy of other states. One of the first victims became Armenia. […] With regard to the draft resolution on the crises of the Francophonie, we would like to express our gratitude for the paragraphs relating to Armenia. It is important that the member states and governments of Francophonie have expressed their solidarity with Armenia. […] To conclude, I would like to come back to the request of the Albanian delegation to reopen the debate on the paragraphs relating to Armenia. We do not agree with this for the following reasons: first of all, these paragraphs are very balanced and represent the result of compromises to which Armenia has devoted a lot of effort. The second reason is that we should respect the work of the Committee […] the last reason is the efficiency of the work of this Conference”.
These statements with regard to the conflict with its neighbour were the subject of a response from the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry in a statement entitled “Comments on the provocative measures taken against Azerbaijan at the ministerial meeting of the Summit of the International Organization of Francophonie held in Djerba, Tunisia”. It thus alludes to a “provocative statement full of distortions“, and was denounced the fact that “unilateral, biased and distorted provocative provisions against Azerbaijan [had] been included with the direct support of France in the texts of the final documents of the Summit, namely the Declaration of Djerba, and the draft resolution devoted to crisis situations in the French-speaking world” and arguing that “following the intervention of several Member States during the discussion of the draft documents, the said provisions against [their] country [had] been deleted from the texts, and any language directly targeting Azerbaijan [had] been prevented in the drafts”. He also denounces the fact that “there are still certain elements in the final draft of the document which do not belong to the mandate of the Organization and [which] offer a possibility of incitement of the political propaganda tools of Armenia “.
According to him “As part of the process of negotiations around the documents, additional political pressure and deterrent measures contrary to diplomatic practice were taken by France against the countries which opposed the unilateral, biased and distorted provisions against Azerbaijan” and informs that “it [had] been reported that the draft document had been approved for submission to the Summit, ignoring objections, violating decision-making procedures and not taking into account the positions of Member States“.
19/11/2022: Inauguration of the Russian Centre in Stepanakert.
On 19 November, the “president of Nagorno Karabakh”, Arayik Haroutiounian, inaugurated the Russian Centre of Stepanakert founded by the philanthropist Gagik Tsaroukian, according to a press release from the “presidency”, and whose activity “will aim at the popularization of the Russian language, Russian culture and history, the development of dialogue and cooperation”. The “president” thus declared: “The opening of the Russian centre is another outstanding proof of the age-old friendship between the Armenian and Russian peoples and a vivid example of our close cooperation. Particular attention has always been paid in Artsakh to the study of the Russian language and the opening of the centre is more than necessary in the current circumstances”.
20/11/2022: The United National Movement proposes its own law on desoligarchisation in the Georgian Parliament.
According to OC-média, the “United National Movement” party, the main Georgian opposition party, founded by Mikheïl Saakashvili, would have tabled its own anti-oligarchy law on 20 November in opposition to that validated at second reading on 16 November and in waiting for a final vote in 2023. He thus defined 6 criteria to define an oligarch: “A person who exercises political activities “directly or indirectly”; someone whose family members hold state or political office; someone who “directly or indirectly” exercises “significant influence” over the media; a person who owns a business in a sector subject to natural monopolies or who holds a dominant position in his sector, as defined by the legislation in force on competition; someone whose assets exceed 0.35% of Georgia’s GDP (about $65 million) or whose family owns more than 7% of Georgia’s land; person subject to sanctions by a NATO or EU country or institution”. This move is expressly aimed at Bidzina Ivanishvili, billionaire founder of the ruling party “Georgian Dream” and officially retired from political life.
On 18 November, the European People’s Party adopted a resolution denouncing the “blatant disregard” of the Georgian authorities for the 12 recommendations formulated by the EU, and calling on the EU and its partners to “impose personal sanctions on Ivanishvili for his role in sabotaging Georgia’s European integration and threatening the security of Georgia and the region”. On 21 November, according to Civil.ge, the EU Delegation in Georgia published a statement requesting the opinion of the Venice Commission on the recent law adopted on this subject, which corresponds to a copy of the Ukrainian law with a change of adaptation to the Georgian parliamentary system: the compilation of the list of oligarchs by the government and not by the president. According to a press release from the US Embassy in Georgia, this request was approved the following day by Kelly Degnan, who called it “very good advice”.
22-23/11/2022: Extraordinary meeting of the Collective Security Council of the CSTO in Yerevan in the context of popular demonstrations: Nikol Pashinian refuses to sign two documents relating to the assistance provided to his country.
An extraordinary meeting of the Ministerial Council of the CSTO was held in Yerevan on 23 November under the chairmanship of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and which studied, according to the statement of the CSTO, “the question of joint measures of assistance to the Republic of Armenia” for which “the working bodies of the CSTO have prepared a draft relevant decision, which, after agreement in the member states of the CSTO, will be submitted to the statutory bodies”. The Armenian Foreign Ministry’s press release reported on Ararat Mirzoyan’s announcement on 22 November, ahead of the Foreign Ministers’ meeting, announcing “two dozen documents on [their] agenda regarding coordination issues foreign policy, military-political cooperation, new threats and challenges, and of course, the situation in the South Caucasus in general“. Other meetings were held on 23 November: joint session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the CSTO, the Council of Defence Ministers and the Committee of Secretaries of the Security Councils. A meeting in an expanded format also transferred the presidency of the CSTO to Belarus.
Nikol Pashinyan said during his 23 November speech, transcribed in the Prime Minister’s website press release, “It is depressing that Armenia’s membership in the CSTO has not deterred Azerbaijan from carry out aggressive actions, especially since in fact, until today, we have not been able to make a decision on the reaction of the CSTO to Azerbaijan’s aggression against the ‘Armenia. These facts cause great damage to the image of the CSTO both in our country and abroad, and I consider this to be the main failure of Armenia’s chairmanship in the CSTO. I can say the same about the escalation on the border between our allies – Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. […] Another Azerbaijani aggression and, in particular, the fact that we have so far been unable to reach a decision on the response of the CSTO to the mentioned aggression, raises fundamental questions which are extremely important both for the CSTO and for the perception of the organization in Armenian society. […] Our position is as follows: in accordance with the Declaration of Alma-Ata of 21 December 1991, the founding countries of the CIS, as independent States, recognized the territorial integrity of each other and the inviolability of existing borders. This means that the aforementioned countries became independent with the administrative borders that existed between the republics during the Soviet Union. […] Since 11 May 2021, Azerbaijan has used the armed forces three times and occupied approximately 140 square kilometers of the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia. This happened on 11 May and 14 November 2021 and 13 September 2022. […] What do we expect from the CSTO in this regard? Statements in the form of a clearly formulated political assessment. To refrain from such an assessment, saying that there is no border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, means asserting that there is no area of responsibility of the Treaty Organization. of collective security, and if there is no area of responsibility, then there is no organization itself. It can at least be interpreted that way. […] In this context, I want to respond to comments that Armenia is trying to drag the CSTO countries into a war with Azerbaijan. This is pure manipulation, because Armenia cannot be interested in a war. […] A political assessment of the above events is necessary, first of all, from a moral point of view, because it should be a logical manifestation of Allied relations. Of course, this is also important from the point of view of restoring the territorial integrity of our country, but this will in itself does not mean military intervention. […] Therefore, Armenia also proposes, by decision of the CSTO CSC, to expedite the necessary political and diplomatic work with the Azerbaijani side, aimed at the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Azerbaijani troops from the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia to their original positions, i.e. that of 11 May 2021”.
He thus spoke out against the signing of the proposed document concerning joint assistance measures for his country in these terms: “Under these conditions, the absence of a clear political assessment of the situation and the inability to take the above decision may mean not only the CSTO’s refusal of allied obligations, but may also be interpreted by Azerbaijan as a green light from the CSTO to further aggression. against Armenia. And this contradicts not only the letter, but also the spirit and meaning of the fundamental documents of the CSTO. Therefore, on this basis, dear colleagues, at the moment I think that the draft “Declaration of the CSTO CSC and on joint measures of assistance to the Republic of Armenia” submitted for signature is not sufficiently finalized, and in this form, with all due respect, I am not ready to sign these documents”.
In addition, a meeting between the Armenian leader and Russian President Vladimir Putin also took place on the sidelines of these various meetings on 23 November, while on the same day the Russian leader met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to discuss, according to press releases from the Kremlin and the Azerbaijani Presidency “issues relating to the practical implementation of the agreements reached by the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia in Sochi on 31 October 2022 […] importance of continuing work in a trilateral format in order to ensure security at the Azerbaijani-Armenian border and to restore transport links in the South Caucasus. […] prospects for further development of cooperation in the energy sector”.
These meetings took place in the context of popular demonstrations in Yerevan relayed by several local media (OC-media, Hetq, Civil.ge) and which would have gathered several hundred demonstrators on Freedom Square demanding that the country leave the organization. The Armenian National Civil Society Platform of the Eastern Partnership also reportedly issued a statement which reads: “Recent geopolitics and regional developments have shown that the actions of the CSTO do not address the security challenges of members of this structure, but rather often serve the internal political agendas of certain countries and serve the objective of reproducing political regimes. […] our country’s western partners, the European Union, the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, the United States and France, have distinguished themselves by their active measures to protect the sovereignty and security of Armenia. […] We also highly appreciate the attitude of the progressive representatives of Azerbaijani society, who also condemned the aggression against Armenia and the outbreak of a new war, which raises hope in the prospect of coexistence peace between the two peoples. […] Russia and Belarus, members of the CSTO, are the main suppliers of offensive weapons to Azerbaijan. […] In addition, Russia, a member of the CSTO, has unleashed an unprovoked and aggressive war against Ukraine”. It thus demanded: “to carry out the necessary preparations for the withdrawal of Armenia from the CSTO, [to] prohibit the terrestrial broadcasting of the State television stations of the Russian Federation on the territory of the Republic of Armenia, mainly through the public multiplex, [to] activate negotiations with Western partners in order to deepen military and security cooperation and ensure the security of our country, [to] resume negotiations with the European Union with a view to join the Association Agreement with the EU and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area”.
23/11/2022: Visit of the President of Azerbaijan to Serbia: signing of 7 bilateral agreements and common criticism of the lack of respect for the law by international organizations.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev visited Belgrade on 23 November where he met his counterpart Aleksandar Vucic, after visiting monuments to leader Heydar Aliyev and Serbian writer Milorad Pavic in Tasmajdan Park. An extended meeting with Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic also took place.
Thus were signed, according to the press release of the Azerbaijani presidency, the “Joint declaration” between the two presidents, the “memorandum on the establishment of the Strategic Partnership Council” and its annex. In addition, the Azerbaijani Interior Minister, Vilayat Eyvazov, and his Serbian counterpart, Bratislav Gasic, signed the “Readmission Agreement” between the two governments. Minister of Digital Development and Transport of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Rashad Nabiyev, and Minister of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure of the Republic of Serbia, Goran Vesic, signed a Memorandum of Understanding between their two ministries . Minister of Labour and Social Protection of Population of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Sahil Babayev, and Minister of Labour, Veterans Affairs and Social Affairs of the Republic of Serbia, Nikola Selakovic, signed a “Administrative pact on the application of the Agreement” between the two governments. Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the Republic of Serbia Kamil Khasiyev and Director of the Development Agency of Serbia Rados Gazdic signed a “Memorandum of Understanding between the Development Agency of Small and Medium Enterprises of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Development Agency of Serbia. Finally, the Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan also signed with the Vice-President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia, Mihailo Vesovic, a “Memorandum of Understanding” between the Export Promotion Agency and Investments of the Republic of Azerbaijan, AzPromo, and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia.
At the joint press conference of the two leaders, the Serbian President said “We have a lot in common with Azerbaijan, starting with the fact that we relentlessly preserve our territorial integrity […] Today we learned a lot from President Aliyev. There is not much left of international law, only a handful of countries respect international law, and we believe that this is the only possibility and the only option for our future” before detailing the strategic partnership set up in the energy sector in these terms: “Azerbaijan is a superpower in the production and export of gas. And in seven, eight or ten years, Azerbaijan will export more than 35 billion cubic meters of gas. Today, the export is about 22 billion cubic meters of gas. More than half of this goes to European countries, and that is why we are working on establishing an interconnection between Serbia and Bulgaria so that we can receive, in advance, a substantial quantity of gas from our Baku friends. We talked about electricity transmission because there is a huge European project that will connect Georgia, Romania, Hungary and Azerbaijan. We will discuss our membership with our European partners because it is the submarine cable of a great power. It passes under the Black Sea. We want to successfully join our transmission network with that of Romania or Hungary in order to be able to buy energy in the future and guarantee the total energy security of our country. […] there are questions of protocol to sign certain things for transparency, but for us, his word is enough. We believe in his word more than in any signature. For me, that’s more than enough. When he says something, I know it will. So for us, it’s really important. […] This may sound like a joke to some, but it’s not. Ilham Aliyev is the most popular man in Europe today. It’s amazing how much change has happened in Europe. They usually didn’t have time for him. Now they have all the time in the world for him.“
For his part, the Azerbaijani President said: “Azerbaijan and Serbia always defend and support each other on the international stage. As President Vucic said, the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our countries are upheld on a reciprocal basis, and that position is unequivocal, unchanging and will remain so. […] The main international organizations of the world have adopted important and fair decisions and resolutions concerning this occupation. Among them, of course, I must mention the four UN Security Council resolutions. These resolutions demanded an immediate, unconditional and complete withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from Azerbaijani lands. The United Nations General Assembly, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Council of Europe, the European Parliament and the OSCE, i.e. all major international organizations, have adopted decisions and resolutions in support of our position, but the issue has not been resolved. What does it indicate? It shows that the decisions and resolutions of international organizations and their implementation are selective. […] This is why the international community should make suggestions regarding the future of international organizations. We in Azerbaijan are ready for this”.
24/11/2022: A Georgian citizen detained in South Ossetia.
Georgian security services denounced on 24 November the detention of a Georgian citizen by “Russian occupation forces” near the village of Artsevi in South Ossetia. The hotline would have been activated and the EU monitoring mission as well as the co-chairs of the Geneva International Discussions would have been informed.
25/11/2022: Azerbaijani President meets EU Special Representative for South Caucasus amid tense security situation in Karabakh.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev met on 25 November with the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus, Toivo Klaar, with whom he discussed, according to the Presidency statement, “the normalization of relations between Armenia and the Azerbaijan, the negotiation process concerning the peace agreement between the two countries and the results of the meeting on the delimitation of the borders held in Brussels”.
Mutual accusations of a broken ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan continued throughout the week. On November 21, the Armenian Ministry of Defence denounced firing dated 20 November in the direction of “Armenian combat positions located in the eastern part of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border zone“, which was denied by the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry, which reported shooting by “members of an illegal Armenian armed detachment” in the direction of the Fizuli and Khojavend regions, which was denied by the “Nagorno Karabakh Defence Army”. The Russian peacekeeping contingent also relayed on 19 November Azerbaijani fire on a civilian from the village of Avdur denounced by the “Nagorno-Karabakh police”. Armenian denunciations from the Ministry of Defence were renewed on 22 November while the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defence also mentioned shooting towards the settlements of Astaf in Dashkasan district and Kokhanabi in Tovuz district, towards from Yukhari Ayrim settlement in Kelbajar district. As well as shots from “members of illegal Armenian detachments” in the direction of the Khojavend and Fizuli regions and later in the direction of the Fizuli, Choucha, Khojavend, Terter and Khojaly regions, which was denied by the Armenian side. The “Nagorno-Karabakh Defence Army” reported firing on 22 November also towards their positions as well as towards a civilian in the village of Mashkalashen, which was denied by the Azerbaijani side. Similarly, the “Nagorno-Karabakh police” on the same day denounced shootings at civilians in the village of Sarushen and in the administrative area of the village of Machkalashen. On 24 November, the Armenian Defence Ministry again denounced Azerbaijani fire. The Azerbaijani Ministry of Defence on 23 November denounced the installation of “Armenian-made” crumb fields in the “northern direction of the Saribaba heights“, which was called a “total lie” by Edmon Maroukian, the Armenian ambassador at large, via Twitter, then shootings on 25 November of “members of illegal armed detachments” in the direction of Aghdam and Khodjavend. Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Djeyhoun Bayramov told reporters on 24 November that Armenia was using the Lachin corridor to send weapons to Karabakh and that “necessary measures” would be taken.