South Caucasus Geopolitical Watch – from October 1 to October 7, 2022

01-07/10/2022: Georgian denunciations of setting up “borders” in South Ossetia.

The Georgian state security services denounced on October 1 the establishment of borders between Georgia and South Ossetia by the Russian occupation forces near the village of Karapila. On October 7, the same services condemned the same process near the village of Dvani and in particular the installation deemed illegal of metal poles and barbed wire. This is the third case of demarcation in a week since the one announced on September 30 near the village of Knolevi.

01/10/2022: Georgian denunciation of the “annexation” of Ukrainian regions by Russia.

Georgia’s Foreign Minister denounced the “illegal annexation” of Ukrainian regions by Russia on October 1, saying: “Georgia, which has experienced attempts to forcefully modify the borders, never recognizes the results of the so-called referendums held in the regions of Ukraine and clearly reaffirms its support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders“.

02-05/10/2022: Horrifying videos of probable “war crimes” by the Azerbaijani army against Armenian prisoners.

Horrifying videos of possible war crimes committed by the Azerbaijani army against Armenian prisoners of war during the latest violent clashes on September 13 and 14, which left just under 300 dead on both sides, have surfaced on October 2 and were forwarded in particular to Toivo Klaar, European Union Representative for the South Caucasus who said via Twitter: “Another gruesome video has emerged showing Armenian POWs apparently executed. If this video is proven to be genuine, it is a war crime that must be investigated and the perpetrators must be punished” before announcing the next day: “Today, I received several videos apparently showing war crimes committed against Azerbaijanis. These must also be investigated and determined whether the authentic perpetrators should be held accountable. The conflict has left deep wounds on both sides and to heal, accountability is needed.”

The Armenian human rights defender, Kristin Grigorian, announced that she verified the authenticity of the videos in these terms: “The fact is confirmed by the study of the field, the comparison with similar videos available in our databases and others, as well as the complex combination of weather conditions, military uniforms, the conversation of the Azerbaijani military and other parameters”. The Prosecutor General of Azerbaijan announced that he had launched a “thorough investigation“, stating: “Based on the results of the investigation, the measures provided for by law will be taken“.

The Armenian Foreign Minister said: “Many videos regularly posted by Azerbaijani users on social networks demonstrate war crimes, extrajudicial executions of Armenian prisoners of war, torture of Armenian servicemen, including women, and the desecration of corpses committed by the Azerbaijani armed forces. The Republic of Armenia demands a clear assessment of the appalling war crimes committed by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces during this and previous periods. We will constantly strive to bring the issue to the relevant international platforms and courts and to bring the perpetrators and organizers of the above crimes to justice, including through the application of international sanctions. In this context, a proper international investigation is called for. At the same time, the international community is obliged to increase pressure on Azerbaijan for the immediate repatriation of all Armenian prisoners of war and civilians illegally detained in Azerbaijan, the clarification of cases of enforced disappearances and the fate of missing persons” while his Azerbaijani counterpart spoke of “an example of the hypocrisy of a country which pursued an aggressive policy for decades, flouted the basic rights of almost a million people and committed numerous war crimes against servicemen, as well as civilians” announcing: “On September 17, 2022, the Military Prosecution of the Republic of Azerbaijan announced the start of a thorough investigation to determine whether the videos posted on social networks are real, the time and place where the videos were filmed, as well as the identity of the military personnel reflected in them” and recalling the Khojaly massacre committed by the armed forces in February 1992, the Armenian missile attacks against the civilian population of Gandja, Barda and Mingueshevir in October 2020 or the fate of the 250 Armenian landmine victims since the November 2020 ceasefire.

On October 5, the Azerbaijani media (Azerfocus and Azernews) relayed the discovery of a mass grave containing the bodies of 12 Azerbaijani soldiers near the village of Adili in the Khojavend district dating from the first Karabakh war.

03/10/2022: Summoning of the French Ambassador to the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry following repeated attacks against the Azerbaijani Embassy in France.

The French ambassador to Azerbaijan, Zacharie Gross, was summoned on October 3 by the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, which gave him a note of protest relating to the repeated attacks suffered by the Azerbaijani embassy in Paris. The press release of the Azerbaijani MFA thus states that “it was noted that the number of attacks committed by radical Armenian groups living in France against the diplomatic missions of the Republic of Azerbaijan located on the territory of the French Republic [had ] recently increased. [And that] it [had] been brought to the attention of the other side that the next such attack [had] taken place on the night of October 1, 2022, when a group of radical Armenians [had ] threw red paint on the administrative building of the embassy and [had] written insulting words against Azerbaijan on the building” while denouncing that “the mentioned incident [had] happened as a result of the French government’s inability to take the necessary measures in the context of repeated requests from the Azerbaijani authorities to ensure the protection of the embassy and its employees“, which it considers to be a “failure to fulfill the obligations arising from the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations”.

04/10/2022: The “Georgian Dream” party loses its parliamentary majority in Georgia.

Following the departure on October 4 of 4 deputies from the parliamentary majority of the ruling “Georgian Dream” party (Viktor Japaridze, David Kacharava, Eka Sepashvili, Irakli Beraia and Zaal Mikeladze) who joined the anti-Western movement “People’s Power », which was announced by deputy Sozar Subari during a briefing broadcast by the television channel Imedi TV, this formation now only has 75 deputies out of the 150 in the National Assembly. The new “People’s Power” formation has 9 deputies, and this movement has been joined by several presenters and experts from the pro-government television POS, of which 52% of the shares are now held by the deputy Viktor Japaridze, according to the media.

Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili reacted by responding to several journalists, which was transcribed by Imedi TV. He said: “We had a conversation within the team about these things and told them that we disagreed with their position and we made that clear. We told them that it was unacceptable to express their positions in this way. […] we need stronger partners and allies. We need very good, solid relations with everyone, especially with our main partners, the United States, [and] the representatives of the European Union”. He also said regarding the ongoing deoligarchization law: “We know a lot of oligarchs and old or active politicians or businessmen inclined to oligarchy, and of course we took the Ukrainian model, which is approved by the European Union, and we will pass this law“.

05/10/2022: Press release by the co-presidents of the Geneva International Discussions and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia on the resumption of negotiations.

A press release from the co-chairs of the Geneva International Discussions was relayed on October 5 by Toivo Klaar, EU representative for the South Caucasus via Twitter which reads: “The co-chairs of the Geneva International Discussions ( GID) welcome the holding of the 56th cycle of GIDs in Geneva on October 5, 2022. In accordance with the six-point agreement of August 12, 2008 and the implementing measures of September 8, 2008, the GID process continues to serve as a platform -unique form where the consequences of conflicts are addressed and other important issues are discussed. This round was the first to be held since December 2021. The communication channels between the co-chairs and the respective participants remained operational during this period. The co-chairs reiterated their appreciation for participants’ commitment to the GID format”.

Following this 56th round which was held at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, the press release of the Russian Foreign Ministry issued the same day states: “The Russian side underlined the destructive nature of the actions of a number of participants in the discussions, who, in accordance with their anti-Russian line, “froze” the work of the Geneva format for nine months. They stressed the inadmissibility of a repetition of such a situation. They made it clear that we would determine our next steps taking into account the responsiveness of the Co-Chairs and the host Swiss side to Russian concerns. Separately, they expressed concern about ongoing attempts to hold the Geneva talks hostage to events in other regions and the wider geopolitical situation. They called on the co-chairs to avoid politicizing the negotiation process. […] As for the situation on the ground, despite the pause of several months in the holding of the rounds, as well as the attempts of non-regional actors to provoke tensions, the situation in the border regions of Georgia, Abkhazia and of South Ossetia remains relatively calm. This is greatly facilitated by ongoing dialogue in other negotiation formats. […] The Russian, Abkhazian and South Ossetian delegations once again underlined the need to materialize the work aimed at concluding a legally binding agreement on the non-use of force between Georgia, on the one hand, and Abkhazia and South Ossetia, on the other hand, as well as the delimitation of borders with their subsequent demarcation, which will contribute to the achievement of lasting security in the South Caucasus”.

06/10/2022: Quadripartite meeting in Prague between the leaders of Azerbaijan, Armenia, France and the European Council and first meeting between the Turkish President and the Armenian Prime Minister.

A new quadripartite meeting took place between the Armenian, Azerbaijani and French leaders in the presence of Charles Michel, resident of the European Council on October 6 in Prague on the sidelines of the first European Political Community. On this occasion, according to the declaration of the European Council, the protagonists of the conflict reaffirmed their adherence to the Charter of the United Nations and to the Almaty Declaration of 1991, recognizing the territorial integrity and sovereignty of their respective States, while confirming that they would serve as a basis for the work of the border delimitation commissions whose next meeting should take place in Brussels at the end of October. Furthermore, this statement announces that Azerbaijan has agreed to cooperate with an EU civilian mission along the border to start in October for a period of two months.

On the same day, a first meeting took place between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. Preceded by a short conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. According to the Armenian government’s press release, this first meeting between the Armenian and Turkish leaders served to underline the importance of “direct contacts and high-level meetings in the framework of the normalization of relations” between the two countries.

Nikol Pashinian, the Prime Minister of Armenia, said via Twitter the following day: “In Prague, I again confirmed our proposal to unblock all regional communications. Azerbaijan, again, did not respond positively. I reiterate: Armenia is ready to unblock all regional communications in full respect of our sovereignty and legislation.” The Azerbaijani Ambassador to France, Rahman Moustafayev, relayed the statements of the Azerbaijani Head of State via Twitter in these terms: “The Armenians who live in Karabakh are our citizens. Their fate, their future life, is our internal affair, and we will not discuss it with any state, including Armenia. They will enjoy full equality of rights and obligations in Azerbaijan.

For its part, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared through its spokesperson Maria Zakharova during a briefing on October 6: “We are providing full assistance in normalizing relations between the two close and allied states of the Russia, including the preparation of a peace treaty. Our full proposals have been submitted in Baku and Yerevan. As we have already reported, the special representative of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Igor Khovaev, has made a series of trips to the region for consultations on this subject. The last such visits took place in September. Those who try to question our role or talk about our inaction are wishful thinking. We do practical work. Yes, we do not do it for a date or a beautiful format, but so that it is fixed with specific results. We do not engage in special advertising activities, under which there is nothing. We do the opposite: we talk about what we managed to do. Given the high sensitivity of the subject of the peace treaty, we believe it is inappropriate to comment publicly on the details of the ongoing negotiations. As for the respective positions of Baku and Yerevan, these questions are addressed to them. We focus on results”.

Barely veiled response to the statements of Catherine Colonna, French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, who responded to a member of the National Assembly on October 4, which was relayed on her Twitter account: “These events, which took place on the internationally recognized territory of Armenia, also revealed – I underline this – the inability of Russia to play the role of arbiter that it had claimed to be the only one to assume following the clashes of the ‘year 2020”.

06/10/2022: ECHR fine against Azerbaijan for violation of the right of assembly and an army colonel sentenced.

On 6 October, the European Court of Human Rights condemned Azerbaijan to pay a fine of €13,500 for violating the right of Azerbaijani citizens to freedom of assembly, following a judgment concerning 3 applications in the case of Moustafa Hadjili and 5 other applicants, all complaining of the refusal by the Azerbaijani authorities to authorize “peaceful public gatherings” and of insufficiently reasoned decisions.

According to several Azerbaijani media (Meydan TV, reserve colonel Elnur Mammadov was sentenced to 6 months in prison on October 6 by the Baku Military Court, found guilty of “defamation concerning the commission of a serious crime” following a lawsuit filed by Elchin Aliyev, the head of the Defence Ministry’s legal department who was targeted by Elnur Mammadov’s accusations via social media. He would thus have claimed to have been offered the rank of general in exchange for the payment of a port of wine and would have admitted his involvement in the torture inflicted on soldiers detained in the spring of 2017 in the “Terter affair”.

07/10/2022: A Kyiv court requests the transfer of Mikheil Saakhashvili to testify in Ukraine.

According to JamNews, in an article dated October 7, a Kyiv court requested the transfer of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who is still in detention, to Ukraine to testify about an incident that occurred in 2017 when the former Ukrainian President Viktor Poroshenko had decided to deport Mikheil Saakashvili to Poland.

07/10/2022: Consultation of Vice-Presidents of CSTO Member States in Yerevan.

On October 7, the vice presidents of CSTO member states met in Yerevan as part of a “high-level group” chaired by Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Mnatsakan Safarian. According to the CSTO statement: “During the meeting, a set of documents was discussed in detail, consisting of 16 projects on topical issues of political and military-technical cooperation between the member states of the Organization. As a result of the consultations, a number of projects have been finalized and approved”.

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