South Caucasus Geopolitical Watch – from November 5 to November 11, 2022

11/05/2022: A Georgian citizen detained in Abkhazia.

On November 5, the Georgian State Security Service announced the detention of a Georgian citizen in the Gali district of Abkhazia, Asmat Tavadze, 29, accused of drug trafficking who also have allegedly the “state news agency” Apsnypress, “Abkhaz citizenship”. This information was confirmed by the same services on November 8. The Georgian state would have activated the direct line of communication of the EU monitoring mission as well as the co-chairmanship of the Geneva International Discussions.

On November 11, the Georgian state security services also denounced new “bordering” activities near the village of Atotsi in South Ossetia.

11/07/2022: Meeting in Washington between the Armenian and Azerbaijani Foreign Ministers.

Armenian and Azerbaijani Foreign Ministers Ararat Miroyan and Djeyhoun Bayramov met on November 7 in Washington following a trilateral meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken who said in his opening speechBut what we are seeing now are real steps, and brave steps, by both countries to put the past behind them and work towards a lasting peace. Both countries are working towards this end and ultimately towards a better future for the South Caucasus – a future of peace, countries at peace, countries working together for a better future”. The South Caucasian’s joint press statement announces that “the ministers shared their views on the elements of a possible peace treaty and recognized that there are a range of issues that still need to be addressed. . The two sides reiterated the commitments made by the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders during their meetings on October 6 in Prague and October 31 in Sochi”. This meeting was welcomed by Toivo Klaar, EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus via Twitter in these terms: “Important meeting yesterday between the Armenian and Azerbaijani Foreign Ministers in Washington. It is encouraging that Ararat Mirzoyan and Jeyhun Bayramov are engaged in a process of substantive negotiations for a bilateral peace treaty”.

However, the accusations of breaking the ceasefire did not stop during the week since the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defence denounced on November 7 the shootings dated 6 November, in the direction of the colonies of Mollabayramli and Bezirkhana in the district of Kelbajar, then on November 9 Armenian fire in the direction of the settlements of Mollabayramli, Yellija, Zaylik, Zaghali, in the district of Kelbajar and Aghdam in the district of Tovuz, as well as fire from “members of illegal Armenian armed detachments” in the direction of of the Khojavend district, which was denied by the “Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army”, while the Armenian Ministry of Defence denounced the shooting towards “Armenian combat positions located in the eastern part of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border zone” on the night of November 8 to 9, as he deplored the death of a soldier on November 10, which was denied by the Azerbaijani side. On November 11, the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry again denounced shooting towards Bezirkhana settlement in the Kelbajar district, which was denied by the “Nagorno-Karabakh Defence Army”, as well that the Armenian Defence Minister denounced firing from the Azerbaijani side.

11/07-09/2022: An Azerbaijani accused of having coordinated the terrorist attack in Shiraz and new media visibility of Abbas Badakhshan Zohouri in Azerbaijan: the rag burns between the two countries in the tense social context in Iran.

The Tehran Times and the Iranian news agency Tasnim relayed on 7 November the announcement of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence concerning the dismantling of a group of 26 terrorists responsible for the recent attacks in Shiraz on 26 October, which would have declared that “the main element of coordination and orchestration of the operation inside the country [was] an Azerbaijani national who boarded a plane at Heydar Aliyev International Airport in Baku and entered the country via the Imam Khomeini airport”. Eurasianet media revealed in a November 9 article that the figure of “Mahmudali Chehreganli, the self-proclaimed leader of the National Awakening Movement of South Azerbaijan” advocating for the secession of the azeri ethnically majority of the northern part of Iran, which would have been banned from entering Azerbaijani territory under an informal agreement dating from 2006, had been the subject of several appearances on Azerbaijani television in recent weeks. The latter even published a post via Instagram declaring: “Greater Azerbaijan will be the death of the chauvinistic and hateful regime of the mullahs”. On November 10, the Iranian news agency IRNA relayed the information according to which the ambassador of Azerbaijan in Iran, Ali Alizada, had been summoned to the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, concerning “hostile anti-Iranian publications in the Azerbaidjani media“. The latter reportedly said: “We hope that this process will be stopped as soon as possible and that the necessary measures will be taken to prevent it from happening again”.

It should be noted that these media exchanges between the two countries take place in a dual context of recent Iranian military exercises on the border with Azerbaijan and of rapprochement between Iran and Armenia, illustrated again this week by the visit of the Armenian Finance Minister Tigran Katchatrian in Iran between November 7 and 9, or the meeting between Armenian Police Chief Vahe Gazarian and Iranian Ambassador Abbas Badakhshan Zohuri on November 9 in Yerevan, about which Hetq media reported, and by a major social crisis in Iran which has seen the country’s inter-ethnic fragilities reappear. It should also be remembered that Azerbaijani irredentism in the northern province of Iran has been absent from Azerbaijani political life since the end of the government of Abulfaz Eltchibey in 1993.

On November 9, the Iranian Foreign Ministry reacted to Ilham Aliyev’s remarks during his Shusha speech in these terms: “Strengthening ties with a neighbour does not mean that these relations are against another neighbour. […] The Islamic Republic of Iran has consistently emphasized the protection of the territorial integrity of the Republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan. […] The solution to the problems of the Caucasus does not lie in appeals to extra-regional forces but in the capitals of the countries of the region, and the Islamic Republic reiterates its readiness to help resolve the outstanding issues between the two neighbours of the north in bilateral and trilateral formats and in the form of the 3+3 regional initiative in Tehran”.

On 11 November, the Iranian ambassador to Baku, Seyyid Abbas Mousavi, was summoned by the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, whose press service informed that this summons was due to “dissatisfaction and concern aroused by the recent propaganda against the Republic of Azerbaijan, the smear campaign, the threatening rhetoric of senior political and military officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is not in accordance with the spirit of the relations between the two countries”. The Ministry thus referred to “the inadmissibility of the creation of conditions for the settlement in Iran of citizens of the Republic of Azerbaijan who have committed a crime against the foundations of the constitutional structure of Azerbaijan and who have been placed in international research” and stated: “It has been said that it is a hostile move to welcome into Iranian embassies people who incite separatism in the Republic of Azerbaijan and hide in other countries, avoiding legal pursuits“.

11/08/2022: Meeting of the “Ministers of Foreign Affairs” of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Moscow and visit of the co-presidents of the Geneva International Discussions to Sokhoumi and Tskhinvali.

The “foreign ministers” of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Inal Ardzinba and Akhsar Dzhioev, met in Moscow on November 8 where according to the “Ministry of Foreign Affairs of South Ossetia”the parties exchanged opinions on relevant issues of bilateral cooperation and reconfirmed the mutual aspiration to deepen and intensify the South Ossetia-Abkhazia dialogue“. This visit to Moscow was marked, according to the “Abkhaz Foreign Ministry”, by the signing of an agreement between the Abkhaz organization “Future of Abkhazia” and the Russian organization “Russia – a country of opportunities” in support of Abkhazian youth through internships, training and organization of the ‘Pride of Abkhazia’ contest.

On the same day, a delegation of the co-presidents of the Geneva International Discussions visited Tskhinvali. According to the “South Ossetian MFA”, they would have underlined “the need to maintain and strengthen the existing system of regional security and stability, in particular in the context of the development and signing of a document on the non-use of force by Georgia against South Ossetia, was underlined” and was also said to have expressed their “concerns regarding the ongoing military expansion of foreign states into the territory of Georgia, as well as the existing threat caused by the activities of biological laboratories located in Georgia”. Also “the inadmissibility of the presence of the Georgian police station on the territory of South Ossetia in the immediate vicinity of the village of Uista (Tsnelis) of the Znaur region” was noted. The following day, the delegation, made up of the EU special representative for the South Caucasus, Toivo Klaar as well as the UN representative Cihan Sultanoglu, was in Sokhoumi where, according to the “Abkhazian MFA”, including the deputy minister, Irakli Tuzhba was present, “the key issue on the agenda of international discussions in Geneva remains the coordination and signing of a document on the non-use of force“. The Abkhaz side thus insisted on “the problem of the freedom of movement of citizens of the Republic of Abkhazia” and also expressed its concern over “a high probability of an escalation of tension in the region due to Georgia’s military activity”.

These meetings took place following consultations held by this delegation in Tbilisi on 7 and 8 November, also in the presence of the Special Representative of the Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE for the South Caucasus Viorel Mosanu, and who met in particular the Georgian First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lasha Darsalia. The Georgian Foreign Ministry thus underlined “the need to make progress on the main items on the agenda of the GID, such as Russia’s implementation of its international obligations under the ceasefire agreement. – the fire of August 12, 2008, as well as the safe and dignified return of displaced persons and refugees to their places of refuge“.

11/08-10/2022: Speech by Ilham Aliyev in Choucha and accusation of preparing a genocide by Nikol Pashinyan at a meeting of the cabinet of ministers.

On November 8, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev was on a visit to Shusha in Karabakh together with First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva and their son Heydar Aliyev, during which he delivered a speech in which he said: “The Azerbaijan’s state budget for next year has reached a record high, including in terms of funds allocated for military spending. One may wonder why, since the war is over, two years have passed since then. The answer is very simple: revanchist forces are rising in Armenia. Forces and circles that do not want to accept the results of the war are emerging in Armenia. Armenia does not fully comply with the declaration of November 10, 2020, has not completely withdrawn its armed forces from Karabakh, has not provided us with the Zangezur corridor and regularly commits military provocations against us. Therefore, we have to be prepared and that is what we are doing. The lessons of the second Karabakh war should not be forgotten by Armenia and they should know that playing with fire will cost them dearly. If anyone there, be it the government, the opposition, or an element sent or trained from abroad, intends to have a bad idea against us again, they will see our fist again, and the history of the last two years has shown this. . Even this year, Operation “Farrukh”, Operation “Qisas” [“Revenge”], the events of September 13-14 on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, all this should be a lesson for Armenia. We are teaching them this lesson and we hope they will come to understand it […] We have not touched cars going from Armenia to Karabakh and vice versa along the Lachin road for the past two years. We implement our commitment, we ensure free movement. Armenia has also made a commitment to ensure a road connection between the western regions of Azerbaijan and the Autonomous Republic of Nakhichevan. Two years have passed, there is no feasibility study, no movement, no railway, no road. How long do we have to wait? The events of September 13 and 14, 2022 did not happen by chance. Armenia committed another military provocation against us. […] Armenia was defeated in the Second Karabakh War and its army was destroyed. A defeated country cannot behave like this. Therefore, all our steps are justified. It is true that some foreign sponsors of Armenia want to blame us for something. I gave them an answer. […] We claim our rights and the fact that Azerbaijan is right is not questioned by any major international actor. […] Armenia should know that it is not some statement from a sponsor of Armenia that keeps us in the current [negotiating] framework, but our own policy. We are not afraid of anyone. If we had been afraid of someone, we would never have started the second Karabakh war. […] Because – even though the war ended two years ago – there are still troubling times and I want to appeal to the Armenian people: they are now reaping the fruits of these thirty years of occupation. They are now experiencing occupation and loss. We simply answered them, we fought on our own lands, we expelled the aggressor from our lands. They have to understand this so as not to become a victim of these circles that sit abroad and want to use this region as their playground for the second time. We have the main say here, we are the main power here. […] those conducting military training in support of Armenia on our border should also know this. No one can scare us. If Armenia wants to pursue a policy of good neighbourliness, it must above all respect all the provisions of the Declaration of November 10, 2020. […] We must not artificially gain time, we must not wait for a miracle so that someone come and fight in their place. […] We want peace, we don’t want war. Peace, but a just peace. The terms we are proposing are fair, based on international law, and the peace treaty should be signed on the basis of those terms. If Armenia shows goodwill, it will be signed, if not, it will not be signed. Life will show what will happen after that”.

Nikol Pashinian’s response came two days later on November 10 through a speech at a Cabinet of Ministers meeting uttering the term “genocide” at least 8 times and declaring: “Statements made two days ago, November 8, 2022, by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev once again showed us that the geopolitical ambitions of the Azerbaijani authorities continue to be a threat to the security and stability of the South Caucasus and the whole region. This speech full of insults against the international community and the Republic of Armenia, in which the President of Azerbaijan tried to accuse Armenia and our government of not respecting the agreements and our obligations, showed the opposite. […] With this shameful speech, the Azerbaijani leadership has blatantly violated the written agreement on refraining from the use of force and the threat of force recorded in the Tripartite Declaration adopted in Sochi on October 31, 2022 […] the ruler of Azerbaijan talks about his claims against the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia, with the obvious intention of terrorizing the civilian population. […] Azerbaijan has taken no steps to start a visible dialogue with the representatives of the Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians. […] These actions and similar declarations, as well as several others, clearly show that Aliyev not only threatens, but already prepares the genocide of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh. Developing a narrative about the withdrawal of peacekeepers is not only a violation of the Tripartite Declarations, but also a preparation for the Genocide of the Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians. Actions and statements contrary to the Tripartite Declaration of November 9, 2020 also include manipulations and attempts developed by Azerbaijan for a long time already around the Lachin Corridor, in particular attempts to draw parallels between the Lachin Corridor and all regional transport and communications. […] The President of Azerbaijan is trying to create fictitious motives to close the Lachin Corridor, encircle the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh and subject them to genocide and deportation […] I have already said that the President of Azerbaijan itself refuses to use the opportunity offered by Armenia for transport communications between the western regions of Azerbaijan and the Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan. The President of Azerbaijan himself refuses the proposal for the construction of new communication links, which the Republic of Armenia formulated in writing and transferred to Azerbaijan in December 2021. […] Why is he acting this way? Why does Azerbaijan always bring the process to a dead end? To pursue its aggressive policy of genocide. […] There is no Armenian army in Nagorno-Karabakh, there is a defence army of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is perhaps a significant obstacle to the implementation of the policy of genocide. My perception is that the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh only have an army because of the danger of being subjected to genocide. […] Azerbaijan, with its aforementioned practices, is reminiscent of “Al-Qaeda” and “Islamic State”, which discredit Islam. […] If we pay attention to the speeches of the President of Azerbaijan, we would see that in fact he is threatening everyone: Russia, the United States of America, France, Iran, European Union. Azerbaijan also continues to hinder the process of normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey, which can undoubtedly contribute to regional stability”.

11/09/2022: A new French ambassador to Azerbaijan

A decree of November 9 signed by the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron and relayed by the Azerbaijani media Azvision and Touran, informed of the appointment of a new ambassador to Azerbaijan in the person of Anne Boillon, replacing Zacharie Gross.

11/10/2022: 109th Meeting of the Mechanism for Prevention and Response to Incidents (MPRI) in Ergneti

The 109th Meeting of the Mechanism for Prevention and Response to Incidents (MPRI) was held in Ergneti on 10 November, co-hosted by Ambassador and Head of the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM) Marek Szczygieł and Ambassador and Special Representative of the OSCE Chairman for the South Caucasus Viorel Mosanu. The press release issued by these two representatives states: “The co-facilitators noted the continued benefits of the temporary opening of the Odzisi and Karzmani crossing points along the South Ossetian administrative border line between 20 and 30 of each month since August 2022. In the same vein, they advocated for the lifting of restrictions on freedom of movement during the upcoming festive period, while reiterating their calls for the full reopening of the points crossing for regular traffic. In addition, the issue of the expiry of passage documents […] was discussed, with the co-facilitators calling on participants to show leniency in this matter. Ambassadors Szczygieł and Moşanu called for a humanitarian approach to resolving outstanding detention cases in view of the upcoming holidays. The co-hosts insisted on the need for their proper care in the meantime, particularly in terms of health. Participants at the IPRM discussed issues that negatively impact the lives and livelihoods of the conflict-affected population, including the continuation of “bordering” activities. They agreed beforehand to hold a technical meeting on the theme of access of local populations to irrigation and drinking water by mid-March 2023”. The next meeting is scheduled for January 17.

The Georgian Security Service issued a press statement stating: “The illegal actions carried out by the Russian occupation forces along the occupation line and the region occupied by the Russian occupation forces and all significant incidents were discussed. Representatives of the Georgian central government forcefully raised the issue of the unconditional and immediate release of those illegally detained. Restrictions on freedom of movement and illegal so-called “bordering” issues were the main topics discussed during the meeting. An in-depth discussion took place on issues relating to the so-called passage procedures currently in force at checkpoints”.

The South Ossetia “state news agency” RES, for its part, relayed the words of the “Deputy Plenipotentiary Representative of the President of South Ossetia for post-conflict settlement issues”, Egor Kochiev , according to which the discussions focused on “security issues, the situation on the state border between South Ossetia and Georgia, violations of the national borders and drone overflights” and who reportedly stated: ” The removal of the illegal Georgian checkpoint deployed on the territory of South Ossetia near the village of Uista [Tsnelisi] has for several years already been the main problem of meetings in the MPRI format. We have not yet reached a consensus […] We have taken steps towards the Georgian side, and one of them is the temporary opening of checkpoints for residents of Leningor and Dzau districts. […] Since the last meeting, six violations of the state border from Georgia have been recorded, and […] all perpetrators have been deported to Georgian territory. […] Furthermore, the question of drone overflights is also an important subject. […] As a rule, the Georgian side does not confirm that these flying objects belong to them”.

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