South Caucasus Geopolitical Watch – from 3 December to 9 December 2022

02-09/11/2022: International reactions to Mikheil Saakashvili’s deteriorating health.

31 former Georgian diplomats sent a letter on 3 December to the EU, NATO, the Council of Europe and the OSCE stating: “It is clear that President Saakashvili has been seriously ill-treated and subjected to torture. […] His life is immediately in danger unless he is transferred to a Western treatment centre for life-saving care […] Recent findings confirm that he now suffers from psychological, neurological, orthopedic and gastrointestinal disorders directly caused by the lockdown. Additionally, the medical team found evidence of arsenic and heavy metals including mercury in President Saakashvili’s body. […] President Saakashvili received at least 14 different drugs. […] The lethal combination produced brain dysfunction, including reduction of white matter in the prefrontal cortex that controls executive function in the brain, increased morbidity and risk of mortality, and immediate detoxification from these drugs is therefore necessary. […] As Georgia seeks EU candidate status, especially at a time when all of Europe’s security is under threat, developments like this are absolutely unacceptable”.

Moldovan President Maia Sandu said she was “deeply concerned” about the “rapidly deteriorating state of health” of imprisoned ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili, on 4 December via Twitter, following the filing of a request by one of his lawyers, Shalva Khachapuridze, to the Tbilisi City Court to release Mikheil Saakashvili or postpone his sentence in accordance with the provisions of the law, for health reasons, citing the conclusions of medical experts.

The conclusion of the group of experts formed by the Public Defender on 6 December, also suggests that the health of the former president has “severely deteriorated and is considered serious” and that it requires “to adopt urgent and fundamental measures”. The Minister of Justice denounced in a television interview on the same day attempts to manipulate and politicize the issue and said “the convict is serving his sentence in institutions on Georgian territory, and no exception not provided for by the law will not be authorized for anyone”. The next day Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili spoke about it to the media on the occasion of the funeral of 11 people repatriated to Georgia from occupied Abkhazia in the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, saying that the purpose of the arrival of Mikheil Saakashvili in Georgia was to organize a “revolution” and “bloodshed“, and about his eventual release: “That, of course, will not happen and cannot happen, because we are rule of law and we will not allow anyone to place themselves above the law”. He also said: “I heard a lot [information] that it turns out that Mr. Saakashvili is depressed and does not like the environment, which prisoner likes the prison environment?”.

The EU’s Chief Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Peter Stano, reacted via Twitter on 8 December, saying: “The Georgian authorities are responsible for his health and well-being and have the duty to take all necessary measures to ensure that he receives appropriate medical care“. While US Ambassador Kelly Degnan remarked to Kutaisi University media on 9 December that it was the responsibility of the Georgian government to “ensure that Mr. Saakashvili’s physical and mental health is protected, that his medical needs are met and his rights are protected, including a fair trial”.

03/12/2022: 5 Georgian fighters killed in Ukraine.

According to the Georgian media, five new Georgian fighters were killed on 3 December near Bakhmout in Donetsk Oblast, following an attack by the Kadyrovtsys Chechen paramilitary group, which gave rise to messages of condolences from the President Georgian Salome Zurabishvili and Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili relayed by Interpressnews. The latter also pointed out during a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers the “false politicians [who] try to obtain political dividends […and] to organize certain provocations since the beginning of the war in Ukraine” and said: “We have fought three times since we regained our independence. Enough is enough. We want to unite our country peacefully.

The number of Georgian victims on the Ukrainian front would be 26 fighters according to the media and 33 people according to the Prime Minister and the President.

03/12/2022: Azerbaijani blockade of the Lachin corridor for ecological reasons.

On 3 December, a statement from the Azerbaijani Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources announced that “Based on the request of the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Ministry of Defence [had] requested the command of the Russian peacekeeping forces to send the experts of the competent institutions of [their] country to these regions in order to investigate and monitor the illegal exploitation of minerals in the territories of Azerbaijan where they are temporarily stationed” and inform that employees of this ministry as well as the state service for real estate affairs under the Ministry of Economy and the company “AzerGold” had “approached the checkpoint of the Russian peacekeeping forces of peace between the cities of Khankendi and Choucha in order to penetrate into this territory“.

The local press (artsakhpress) thus denounced the same day the blocking of the Stepanakert-Goris road while the adviser to the “Minister of State of Nagorno-Karabakh”, Artak Beglaryan, published via Twitter the following message: “Artsakh, 120,0000 people are now under blockade by Azerbaijan. The closure of the only road to Armenia. Azerbaijan aims to cause humanitarian catastrophe and ethnic cleansing in Artsakh/NagornoKarabakh. This must be strictly punished with sanctions against Azerbaijan!!!“, while the “Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nagorno-Karabakh” stated: “In the afternoon of 3 December, the Azerbaijani side resorted to another provocation, blocking the Stepanakert-Goris highway at the Shushi-Karin Tak crossroads, thus cutting Artsakh’s connection with Armenia and communication with the villages of the Berdadzor sub-region of the Shushi region. This terrorist act proves once again that Azerbaijan’s primary objective has remained unchanged – to deport Armenians from Artsakh, to carry out ethnic cleansing and genocide there. […] Azerbaijan’s genocidal policies and actions are a serious challenge to the civilized world and a clear disrespect and disregard for international law. We call on the international community to strictly condemn the Armenianphobic state policy of Azerbaijan and to take active measures to deter the aggressor”.

A second communiqué from the Azerbaijani Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources later informed that “following the discussions held at the headquarters of the peacekeeping forces in Khojaly, the elaboration of a roadmap for the implementation of activities in these areas with the participation of the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of the Republic of Azerbaijan and other relevant institutions [had] been initiated”.

The talks continued on 7 December, with the group of experts being “escorted by Russian blue helmets between Shusha and Khojalyaccording to the Haqqin media, and discussions having focused on the “on-site inspection of mining deposits, in particular the Kizilbulag gold and Demirli copper-molybdenum deposits, [the] cessation of illegal mining, [the] monitoring and [the] inventory in various directions, [the] organization of cadastral accounting of property, [the] assessment of potential damage and risks to the environment, underground and surface water sources and the problems of eliminating the consequences of damageaccording to the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources, which underlined his “constructive spirit“.

05-07/12/2022: Visit of the “authorities of Nagorno-Karabakh” to France.

The “president of Nagorno-Karabakh” Arayik Haroutiounian travelled to France on 5 December where he met the president of the Regional Council of Île-de-France Valérie Pécresse, now banned from staying in Azerbaijan, who declared via Twitter to have “reaffirmed [her] solidarity and [his] support for the Armenians of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh“, then the next day several French senators, including Bruno Retailleau, Valérie Boyer, Gilbert-Luc Devinaz and Patrick Kanner, the latter having written on Twitter: “Faced with the ethnic cleansing carried out by the Azeri occupation forces, we have with BrunoRetailleau reaffirmed our total support for the respect of the sovereignty of this Republic“.

A press release from the “Presidency of Nagorno-Karabakh” dated 7 December, mentions the meetings that took place with “the leadership of the legislative body of France” on 6 December “with the presidents of all the political groups of the Senate and officials of all factions of the National Assembly of the French Republic” and which declares: “The resolutions adopted by the French Senate and the National Assembly concerning Artsakh constitute a good basis for a comprehensive and permanent settlement of the conflict between Artsakh and Azerbaijan. Respecting the right of the people of Artsakh to self-determination and recognizing the results of the realization of this right is the only way to settle the conflict, which guarantees the appropriate level of rights and security of the people of Artsakh” . He also denounced the fact that “Azerbaijan [wants] to cut off this only and last link with the world [the Lachin Corridor], by strangling Artsakh” and declared: “we want the Lachin Corridor to have guarantees additional international networks to ensure an uninterrupted connection of Artsakh with Armenia and the outside world”. He also gave a press conference and gave an interview on France 24 on December 7. On the same day, he also met the mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo who wrote on Twitter: “With Arayik Haroutounian who has the heavy burden of presiding over Nagorno-Karabakh and its people, both today more threatened than ever. Paris always alongside Armenia, Artsakh and its hard-hit inhabitants”.

05/12/2022: Joint Turkish-Azerbaijani military exercises on the Iranian border.

Joint military exercises between the Azerbaijani and Turkish armed forces took place on 5 December, as indicated by the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defence, in Baku, Jabrayil but also on the Iranian border in Astara and Imishli, mobilizing “Units of the forces land, air force, special forces, engineering troops, rocket and artillery troops“, part of the exercises of which bore the name of “Brotherly Fist”, and one of the objectives of which was that of “building floating bridges to open a passage over the rivers”, and in particular the Araxes which separates Azerbaijan from its Iranian neighbour. A response to the Iranian military exercises that took place several weeks ago.

On the same day, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, leading a delegation including the Chief of the General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces, Yashar Guler, the Commander of the Land Forces, Musa Avsever, the Commander of the Naval Forces Ercument Tatlioglu and Air Force Commander Atilla Gulan met in Baku with President Ilham Aliyev, with whom he stressed, according to the statement of the Azerbaijani Presidency, that “Azerbaijan and Turkey will always support each other”. He also met with Azerbaijani Defence Minister Zakir Hasanov.

Several local media (Eurasianet, Turan) mentioned that the Turkish Minister of Defence had indicated via Twitter that the exercises had started on 20 November but were not communicated until 5 December.

Deputy Commander-in-Chief of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Ali Fadavi said on 8 December via Twitter: “Azerbaijan was separated from Iran due to the incompetence of the Qajar kings. The people of Azerbaijan are made up of Shia believers who have not lost their authentic Shia beliefs despite the pressure of 70 years of communism. As a rule, there should be a government that pays special attention to this Shia majority of Azerbaijan”.

06/12/2022: 11th meeting of the Tripartite Working Group in Moscow.

On 6 December, the tripartite working group at the level of Deputy Prime Ministers of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia met in Moscow. Similar Russian and Armenian government press releases inform that “issues of railway construction, development of railway communication and organization of transport between the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Republic of Armenia, the Russian Federation and the region” were discussed.

This meeting would have been, according to several local media (, Armenpress, Telegram channel Bagramyan), commented in these terms in Parliament by Nikol Pashinyan, the Prime Minister of Armenia: “Unfortunately, I cannot say that we have a concrete result but I want to reaffirm that Armenia is ready and interested in the implementation of this project. […] Both the railway and the road must operate within the framework of Armenian legislation, which must be fixed on the document” concerning the construction of the Yeraskh-Julfa-Ordubad-Meghri-Horadiz railway.

The meeting of the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister, Djeyhoun Bayramov, and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Moscow on 5 December, gave rise to a joint press conference during which the Russian leader welcomed the decision of Prague of the protagonists “to solve all the problems on the basis of the Charter of the United Nations and the Alma-Ata declaration of December 1991” which, according to him, “greatly facilitates the problem“. The Azerbaijani leader, for his part, expressed, according to the press release from the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, his dissatisfaction with “Armenia’s attempts to slow down the process“.

On 7 December, another trilateral meeting between Prosecutor General of Russia Igor Krasnov, Prosecutor General of Azerbaijan Kamran Aliyev and Prosecutor General of Armenia Anna Vardapetian took place in Moscow.

Maria Zakharova, spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, on 8 December commented on French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna’s remarks on 6 December that “This presence [EU mission in Armenia ] must continue as long as necessary”, during an interview granted to the media, declaring: “We know of course the will of Brussels to infiltrate by all means in the process of normalization of relations between Baku and Yerevan to just secure a presence on the ground and ultimately just kick Russia out of the region. It is their dream. […] There are different and somewhat diametrically opposed views, including among the Transcaucasian countries, on the strengthening of a non-regional factor in the South Caucasus”.

New accusations of breaching the ceasefire arose this week, including on 4 and 7 December from the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry, of firing “in the direction of the settlement of Zaylik in the Kelbajar district” then “in the direction of the colony of Aghgaya» in the same district, denied by the Armenian side.

The “State Minister of Nagorno-Karabakh”, Ruben Vardanian, said via Facebook on 6 December that
the people of Artsakh do not [see] their future within the framework of Azerbaijan […and that] Azerbaijan [must] also understand and accept that the only way to achieve peace is to live side by side in the same region, but not together”.

06/12/2022: Release of 19 detainees in connection with the Terter case in Azerbaijan

According to Meydan TV, which received this information from the Office of the Prosecutor General of Azerbaijan, 19 detainees in connection with the “Terter case” were released on 6 December, acquitted of charges of treason and espionage on behalf of the Armenia of which they had been the object since 2017.

06/12/2022: Visit of the Georgian President to Poland.

Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili traveled to Warsaw on 6 December where she met Polish President Andrzej Duda with whom she gave a joint press conference during which she noted that Ukraine had shown what it means “when the society is truly united” stating: “I say this for Georgia, because Ukraine is an example of how a country can be strong and can withstand anything when it is united”. She also said: “Either Russia must stop and accept the fact that it has borders like all civilized countries and does not have the right to deploy its forces on the territories of other countries, or it will return to the expansionism and to all imperialist ambitions” while emphasizing: ‘the remnants of the old vision, which was the so-called geographical approach, and the discussions on whether Georgia was European or not are over” before to conclude: “We know that Poland will be our main friend, facilitator and support on the way to our European integration, as well as our integration into NATO tomorrow“.

For his part, the Polish leader thanked the Georgian President for her “absolutely unequivocal position in the context of Russian aggression against Ukraine” while recalling: “today we are both fully aware that is necessary to stand firm for the defence of Ukraine – the very Ukraine that President Lech Kaczyński was talking about at the time [saying] that if we [did not] prevent the Russians from attacking Georgia, the Ukraine [would be] attacked in the future”.

06/12/2022: 19th meeting of intergovernmental cooperation on socio-economic cooperation between Abkhazia and Russia in Moscow.

Moscow hosted the 19th meeting of the intergovernmental cooperation on socio-economic cooperation between Abkhazia and Russia on 6 December, which Abkhaz “Prime Minister” Alexander Ankvab and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak chaired. This discussed, according to the Russian government, “cooperation in the field of energy, financing of pensions of Russian citizens living on the territory of Abkhazia, parameters and adjustments of the state program “Development socio-economic status of the Republic of Abkhazia for 2022-2025”. Alexander Novak thus noted that “the work of his colleagues on the harmonization of the legislation of the two countries […] should contribute to the development of industrial production, the promotion of small and medium-sized enterprises and the modernization of the energy system of Abkhazia” and he declared: “we will continue to provide our Abkhazian friends with the necessary assistance to ensure the financial stability of the republic, to improve the institutions of public administration and to modernize the infrastructure“. Regarding the industrial development of the entity, he insisted on the following areas: resort sector, agriculture and industry.

The communiqué of the “Cabinet of Ministers of Abkhazia” provides the following details on the part of the Abkhaz side: “The program is based on the harmonization of the legislation of the two countries in the banking sector, energy, customs regulations , non-tariff and technical regulations, export control, monetary and investment legislation. […] According to the meeting, out of 45 activities of the harmonization program, 16 have been implemented, including 5 bilateral agreements, 3 laws of Abkhazia, Abkhaz regulations in the field of reporting on budget execution, the maintaining a cash flow plan and a number of other documents. It was decided to postpone until 2023 the implementation of 8 measures in the field of migration, health, education, mapping and taxation”.

The next meeting of the intergovernmental commission of the two countries is expected to take place in the city of Sukhumi in the first half of 2023.

07/12/2022: New Albanian-Azerbaijani meeting.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama visited Baku on 7 December where he met Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev who said in his opening speech: “Your visit is a kind of follow-up to see how it is going. All the instructions were given on both sides. Thus, our teams are working actively. The results of my official visit are really very positive. We strengthen our ties and create new opportunities. As I have already told you, we are opening an embassy in Tirana, and this is also an important sign of our cooperation. From a practical point of view, this will allow us to be more involved in the developments of your country and also to be more effective in our bilateral agenda”.

According to the Azerbaijan in Focus media, the Serbian president would have mentioned this week “a gas pipeline connection with Bulgaria on the Nis-Dimitrovgrad line to import natural gas from Azerbaijan and LNG from Greece” and “the Trans-Adriatic Gas Pipeline (TAP) [would be] Italy’s second largest source of gas supply”.

Previous Article

Eastern Europe Geopolitical Watch – From 3 December to 9 December 2022

Next Article

Central Asia Geopolitical Watch – From 3 December to 9 December 2022