South Caucasus Geopolitical Watch – From November 26 to December 3, 2021

11/26/2021: Tripartite meeting in Sochi on the resolution of the Karabakh conflict: signing of an agreement on the creation of a bilateral border delimitation and demarcation commission

On November 26, 2021, Vladimir Putin brought together in Sochi the Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders, Ilham Aliev and Nikol Pashinyan, for three hours, just after the confirmation of an upcoming meeting between these two officials on December 15 in Brussels on the sidelines of the EU summit for the Eastern Partnership and of the announcement of an agreement between them to establish a direct line of communication between their defense ministers, serving as an incident prevention mechanism. Following the cancellation, requested by Armenia, of a meeting scheduled for November 9, the anniversary of the 2020 war ceasefire between the two nations, and the fatal border incidents of November 16, the meeting of Sochi allowed further progress. The parties thus committed themselves to the creation before the end of the year of a mechanism for the delimitation and border demarcation between the two States, and jointly underlined the progress made on humanitarian issues and questions of economic cooperation and of unblocking road and rail transport corridors.
Two detained Armenian soldiers were returned to the Armenian side on the same day. On November 24, during a meeting in Yerevan with the authorities of the province of Syunik / Zanguezur, Nikol Pashinyan, asked them to recognize that Artsakh / Karabakh was Azerbaijani and that there was also a need to let the Azerbaijan connects to Nakhichevan across the region, despite popular opposition on these issues and requests for armaments from Armenian village militias in Karabakh. On the same day, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Overtchuk, on a preparatory visit to Sochi, and his Azerbaijani counterpart Shahin Mustafayev as well as Ilham Aliev welcomed the 7% increase in bilateral trade between the two countries
throughout the year and the investment prospects of Russian companies in Karabakh.
A meeting between the deputy prime ministers of the three states has been underway in Moscow since December 1 in order to report on the decisions taken in Sochi on the unblocking of economic and transport links. On the same day, the EU’s Special Representative for the South Caucasus, Toivo Klaar, visited President Ilham Aliev in Baku. Foreign ministers of the two states have to meet on December 3 in Stockholm for the 28th meeting of the OSCE Council of Foreign Ministers.

11/28/2021: Gas agreement between Iran, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan within the framework of the 15th summit of the Organization for Economic Cooperation

On November 28, Azerbaijan, Iran and Turkmenistan signed a trilateral agreement on mutual gas supply, within the framework of the 15th summit of the Organization for Economic Cooperation (ECO) in Ashkabad. Each year 1.5 to 2 billion cubic meters of gas will transit from Turkmenistan to Iran, which will supply an equivalent quantity to Azerbaijan, notably to Nakhichevan. Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi reaffirmed his support for Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity while pointing out the dangers of “ISIS and Zionist terrorism” in the region as well as of US activity in the Caucasus. Azerbaijan, meanwhile, is committed to ensuring security at Iran’s borders. This signing eases the tensions of the past two months between the two countries, which began with the arrest of Iranian truck drivers heading for the Armenian enclave of Karabakh and continued with movements of Iranian troops on the border. and crackdowns on members of the Shiite clergy in Azerbaijan.

1/29/2021: First hearings in the trials of Mikheïl Saakashvili in Georgia

Mikheil Saakashvili, former President of Georgia from 2004 to 2012, who returned from exile in the country on September 29 amid the troubled local elections, immediately locked up due to charges of abuse of power against him and who ended his 50-day hunger strike on November 19, was presented to the Tribunal on November 29 for its first hearing. He denounced his transfer from Rustavi prison to the prison hospital in Gldani prison, calling it “torture and inhuman treatment“. The rally outside the Tribunal was severely dispersed with pepper spray and resulted in several altercations and fifteen arrests of political opponents. The ex-Georgian president who considers himself a political prisoner has defended the record of his former mandate as head of the country by acknowledging the mistakes made but by asserting that “Georgia did not have [at the time] a criminal for president ”. On December 2, in a second hearing, devoted to another case of embezzlement of budgetary funds, the municipal court rejected the defense request to dismiss the prosecutors for violating the principle of impartiality.

11/30/2021: Meeting of the leaders of the “Associated Trio” with European officials in preparation for the Eastern Partnership Summit and resumption of American-Russian tensions

On November 30, Irakli Garibashvili, the Georgian Prime Minister, and his Ukrainian and Moldovan counterparts, Denys Chmyhal and Natalia Gavrilita, partners in the “Associated Trio” created on May 17 to promote the cooperation of these three countries with a view to their accession to the EU, met Charles Michel, President of the European Council, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, and David Sassoli, President of the European Parliament, in order to jointly prepare for the Eastern Partnership Summit on December 15th. Discussions concerned in particular the demands of the three countries for their gradual integration into the European market and cooperation in the fields of transport, digital technology, environmental protection and energy. However, the Georgian Parliament nevertheless voted the next day to appoint four judges to the Supreme Court for life, before the independent evaluation of the judicial reforms, relating in particular to the appointment of six judges in July, and provided for by the April 19 agreement negotiated by the EU, attracting further criticism from the international community, US embassies and the EU as well as Georgian civil society.

On December 1, Sergei Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, said he hoped at a press conference with his Brazilian counterpart that “Ukraine would not embark on a military adventure” and “would not follow the path. borrowed by Mikheïl Saakashvili in August 2008 “while underlining” the bad influence that the West is actively trying to exert “. On the same day, Jens Soltenberg, NATO Secretary General, told a press conference closing the NATO foreign ministers’ meetings that “Russia has no right to establish a sphere of influence trying to control its neighbors ”while reaffirming the support of his organization for the territorial sovereignty of Ukraine and Georgia.

11/30/2021: Azerbaijani military helicopter crash: 14 dead

An Azerbaijani National Border Service military helicopter, Russian-built MI-17, crashed on November 30 at around 10:40 a.m., shortly before it landed near the Garaheybat training ground in the Khizi region, with 18 officers on board. , killing 14 people, including 13 soldiers and a civilian, as well as 2 wounded. This event gave rise to a farewell ceremony the next day and to many presentations of condolences from various leaders including those of GUAM, Turkey, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, France, United States, ‘Israel … An investigation is underway from the black boxes of the device, the authorities a priori excluding any outside interference to explain the tragedy.

12/01/2021: Violent police repression against a demonstration in support of Saleh Rustamov in Baku

On December 1, around 40 demonstrators in support of Saleh Rustamov, a member of the Popular Front, the ruling opposition party, imprisoned since May 2018 and who has been on a hunger strike for a month, were arrested on the Fountains Square in Baku. His hunger strike, which began on the day of President Aliev’s “Victory Day”, is motivated by his exclusion from the amnesty law for participants in the first and second Karabakh wars, adopted by the government. Parliament in November.

12/01/2021: Georgian citizen detained in South Ossetia for “illegal border crossing”.

On December 1, a 47-year-old Georgian citizen was taken into custody in the village of Vaneli in the Java district of South Ossetia for “illegally crossing the border” in the Ergneti area. The co-chairs of the Geneva International Discussions, the next cycle of which will take place on 7 and 8 December, as well as the EU observation mission have been informed by the state security services.
The last detentions recorded are those of two people, which occurred on October 29 near the village of Lopani. On November 16, Anatoly Bibilov, the de facto South Ossetian president, signed an amnesty decree freeing Gennadi Bestaev, sentenced to three years in prison for the same reason and fell into a coma in a Tskhinvali prison. He is currently staying in the intensive care unit of a clinic in Tbilisi.

12/02/2021: De facto Abkhaz president criticized for calls for shared sovereignty with Russia and dismissal of Interior Minister

The newly formed Abkhazian People’s Patriotic Union, a political opposition group, sharply criticized de facto President Aslan Bjania’s calls for sharing sovereignty with Russia in an open letter to him. They deemed such a move “unconstitutional” and consider it a “direct threat to social and political stability as well as to statehood“. On the same day, Interior Minister Dimitri Dbar was sacked under the pressure exerted for several weeks by the opposition and former combatants, following a fight between the latter and members of the Abkhaz police force on the promenade of Sokhoumi on September 30th. Dimitri Dbar thus became “head of the state security services” in place of Zurab Zantaria.

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