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South-Caucasus Geopolitical Watch – from April 16 to April 22, 2022

04/16/2022: Visit of the Georgian parliamentary delegation to Ukraine

The cross-party Georgian delegation that visited Bucha and Irpin on April 16 was led by Speaker of Parliament Shalva Papuashvili who said on the occasion “No words can describe the suffering and misery in Bucha and Irpin – a tragedy indescribable and shocking in the heart of Europe in the 21st century […] Russia must put an end to these atrocities. There is no alternative to peace.” He also said, “We’ve been through that too. Our cities and our hopes have also been bombed and shattered. So, we Georgians understand your grief very well,” to which Ruslan Stefanchuk, Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, replied, “Georgia will not help [Russia] in any way. So said [Shalva Papouashvili] when he saw Bucha and Irpin with his own eyes”. On April 18, the Speaker of Parliament said that the visit had “solved many problems” and that he had told his counterpart that Georgia had “no bilateral sanctions instrument that could realistically have an effect on the decisions of Russia“. This visit was also considered a turning point in the relations between the two countries by all the participants, namely: the Deputy Speakers of Parliament Archile Talakvadze and David Sergeenko, the Chairman of the Committee for Diaspora and Caucasus Issues, Beka Odisharia, Deputy Chairman of the “Citizens’ Party”, Levan Ioseliani as well as Ana Natsvlishvili from the “Lelo” Party, Giorgi Khojevanishvili from the “For Georgia” Party, Vakhtang Megrelishvili from the “New Political Center – Girchi” Party and Khatuna Samnidze of the “Republican Party”.

Leaders of the United National Movement party meanwhile opted for a separate visit from April 15, with its chairman Nika Melia saying: “The purpose of coming to Bucha is not just to say that what Russia is doing is genocide, but also to strengthen that faith, that sense of unity and emotion that Ukraine will definitely win.” Former Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili, who was part of the delegation, said the trip was motivated by “the common spirit, the common emotion that unites Georgian society, which stands alongside Ukraine ” in a political context of “genocide“.

04/17-22/2022: Anti-government demonstrations in Yerevan

On April 17, member of the “I Have Honor” opposition coalition and leader of the “Motherland” party, Arthur Vanetsian, started a sit-in demonstration in Yerevan’s Freedom Square in which two former soldiers of the “44 Days War” joined for a hunger strike. The other major opposition coalition “Hayastan” did not join this initiative, its leader and Deputy Speaker of Parliament stating: “We have an action plan from start to finish, we will make an announcement in the near future and begin to act. The Armenian people must fight for Armenia and Artsakh, and I assure you that this government will be short-lived” and another member stating, meanwhile “active measures are already taken, all possible tools will be used “. On April 20, “Movement 5165” joined the movement and demonstrated in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Demonstrations demanding the resignation of Nikol Pashinyan continued throughout the week in Freedom Square.

On April 22, Nikol Pashinian attempted to ease tensions during the government session by pointing out that “assessments on the dissolution of the Minsk group [were] unfounded“, that “no draft or settlement plan of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict [was] on the table or [had] been put into circulation” and that Armenia’s task was to provide such a solution to the Artsakh settlement that “the people of Artsakh [lives] in Artsakh and [lives] in such a way that he feels and sees himself as Artsakh Armenians”.

04/18-20/2022: Arrests of human rights activists in Azerbaijan

On April 18, Elkhan Aliyev, a member of the “Popular Front” party, was arrested the same day he was released from a month of administrative detention since March 19, charged in an unspecified civil case. On April 20, Samir Achourov, a human rights activist, expelled from Germany with his wife, following the rejection of their asylum request, was arrested by Azerbaijani police accused of having stabbed a man. He was detained for a period of 4 months and he faces a sentence of 6 to 11 years in prison. He is said to have already been tortured and started a hunger strike. He had been arrested several times before he left for Germany in 2018 for taking part in anti-government protests.

On April 21, Azerbaijani political émigrés demonstrated outside the German Foreign Ministry as well as the offices of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to draw attention to several crackdowns on human rights activists expelled from Germany. like Mutallim Orudzhev, Malik Rzayev, Jafar Mirzoyev and Pyunkhan Karimli whom they ask to be recognized as political prisoners.

04/19/2022: 30-point joint statement by the Prime Minister of Armenia and the President of Russia

On April 19-20, Nikol Pashinyan, Prime Minister of Armenia, visited Russia at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin, during which a 30-point joint statement was issued. This recalls the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries from April 3, 1992 and affirms the desire to deepen relations between the two countries in accordance with the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance between the Federation of Russia and the Republic of Armenia of August 29, 1997 and the Declaration on Allied Cooperation between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Armenia of September 26, 2000.

The high level of military cooperation and was stressed, as well as “the need for a further gradual increase in the volume and diversification of the range of exchanges, the development of cooperation in various productive sectors and the participation activates the mechanisms of the Eurasian Economic Union“. The statement also notes the concern of the two leaders regarding: “the resort to unilateral restrictive measures by a number of countries” and expresses their intention to “together address the challenges posed by these measures, particularly in the field of security. food and energy of the two countries, logistics, etc”.

The declaration thus advocates “the gradual promotion of integration processes within the Eurasian Economic Union, the implementation of strategic directions for the development of integration, including the creation of an internal market without restrictions, barriers and exemptions, and an increase in the share of settlements in national currencies”.

Cooperation between the two countries should also extend to the fields of international information security and biosecurity. Emphasis was also placed on the “fight against the revision of the results of the Second World War and the falsification of history” and the statement plans to “intensify efforts to combat any manifestation of racism, xenophobia, neo-Nazism, as well as discrimination based on nationality, language or religion, including those affecting the rights and legitimate interests of citizens and compatriots living in Russia and Armenia“.

Expressing the two leaders’ concern over “the worsening situation in the field of international security“, the statement posits the principle that “no state, union or coalition can or should secure its security at the expense of security. of other states” and notes “the inadmissibility of actions aimed at destroying the architecture of arms control and obtaining unilateral military advantages at the expense of the security of others, which undermines the fundamental principle of equal security and indivisible, leads to contradictions and clashes“.

Regarding the situation in the South Caucasus, the parties underlined “the decisive contribution of the Russian peacekeeping contingent to ensuring security, creating favourable and secure conditions for the life of the population of Nagorno-Karabakh“, the “need rapid solution of urgent humanitarian tasks” and “the importance of intensifying the activities of the trilateral working group to unblock all economic ties and transport communications in the South Caucasus, co-chaired by the Deputy Prime Ministers of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia“. They thus planned to “accelerate the establishment of a bilateral commission on delimitation and security issues in the Armenian-Azerbaijani border area“. They also welcomed “the process of normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations launched with the help of Russia“. and the successful launch of the 3+3 Regional Consultative Platform.

On April 22, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, who declared in Kyiv on April 20 that the EU would do “everything possible” to ensure that Ukraine “won the war” against Russia and that Vladimir Putin would not succeed “neither to destroy the sovereignty of Ukraine, nor to divide the European Union” and who moved to Borodianka near Kyiv where he denounced “war crimes“, spoke on the telephone with the latter regarding both the situation in Ukraine and the Karabakh peace process. Vladimir Putin thus informed the European leader of “steps taken to restore economic and transport ties, as well as the launch of the demarcation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and negotiations on a peace agreement between the two countries“. Charles Michel had spoken by telephone on this subject on April 18 with Nikol Pashinian who had met the American co-president of the Minsk group, Andrew Schofer, the day before, after his meeting with the French co-president, Brice Rocquefeuil on April 14.

04/19-21/2022: Visit of an EU External Service Delegation for the South Caucasus to Azerbaijan and Armenia

Toivo Klaar, EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus, headed a delegation to Baku on 19 April to meet Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, who described the meeting of 6 last April in Brussels as an “official starting point” regarding the “launch of the process of normalization” of relations with Armenia and which also insisted on the construction of transport routes between Azerbaijan and its exclave of Nakhchivan. He also met Foreign Minister Djeyhun Bayramov. On April 21, Toivo Klaar met with Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan and Secretary of the Security Council together with the Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Andrea Victorin.

04/20/2022: South Ossetian leader visits Moscow

Anatoli Bibilov, the South Ossetian president in the running for the second round of presidential elections scheduled for April 28 and who has just appointed his new Defense Minister, Vladimir Poukhaev, on April 18, was visiting Moscow on April 20 to meet the Head of the Presidential Administration, Dimitri Kozak to discuss the “socio-economic development program of the Republic of South Ossetia until 2025“. The preparation of bilateral agreements on “the salary increase for public sector employees and law enforcement officers of South Ossetia” was discussed, the signing of which is scheduled for the end of May.

Following the 106th meeting of the Mechanism for Prevention and Response to Incidents (MPRI) in Ergneti last week, crossing points have been opened with Georgia in the context of the Easter holidays from April 21, which are expected to extend until April 25. These are those of Odzisi, Karzmani and Sinaguri. Those of Ergneti and Zardiantkari should remain closed.

04/20/2022: Signature of the Declaration on the Strategic Partnership by the leaders of Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan

The Azerbaijani and Kyrgyz presidents, Ilham Aliev and Sadir Japarov, met on April 20 in Baku, a visit extended to the delegations of the two countries in front of which the Kyrgyz president insisted on recalling the “foundation of relations between the two countries” under Heydar Aliev, the father of the current Azerbaijani president, and their cooperation in various international bodies: UN, OSCE, Organization of Turkic States, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, CIS and Non-Aligned Movement. He said, “The profound changes taking place in the world today present us with a historic chance to build a new kind of relationship. The basis of these relations are ancient Turkish values ​​such as dignity and honor”. He also called on the Azerbaijani business community to “actively study investment opportunities in [their] country and pay more attention to the study of free trade zones, preferential tax and customs regimes“.

Following these meetings, a Declaration on the Strategic Partnership between the two republics was signed as well as a memorandum on the creation of the Interstate Council, a protocol of cooperation between the National Academies of Administration of the two countries, an agreement of cooperation between the Azerbaijani Broadcasting and Television Joint Stock Company and the State Television and the Kyrgyz Broadcasting and Television Corporation, an agreement on cooperation in the field of agriculture between the Ministries of Agriculture of the two countries, a memorandum on cooperation between the State Service for Anti-monopoly Supervision and Control of the Consumer Market under the Azerbaijani Ministry of Economy and the Anti-monopoly Regulatory Service of the Kyrgyz Ministry of Economy and Trade, a memorandum on the development of cooperation in the field of communications and information and communication technologies between relevant ministries, an agreement on air communications between the Azerbaijani government and the Kyrgyz cabinet of ministers, a memorandum of understanding and cooperation in the field of intellectual property protection and finally a memorandum of understanding on cooperation between the Ministries of Finance.

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