South Caucasus Geopolitical Watch – from October 15 to October 21, 2022

10/17/2022: Leyla Abdulayeva appointed Ambassador of Azerbaijan to France.

Leyla Abdullayeva, former spokesperson for the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, was appointed by presidential decree dated October 17, ambassador to France (replacing Rahman Moustafayev). She said via Twitter: “I will spare no effort for the development of relations between Azerbaijan and France“. His former post should be occupied by Haïkhan Hadjizadeh according to the press service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

This appointment comes in an increasingly tense context between the two countries, further aggravated by the last television intervention of the French president on October 12, the Azerbaijani public television having even broadcast a song with the participation of young children openly mocking of the French president, relayed on Youtube on October 18. A petition relayed by lagazetteaz was also signed by a group of young Azerbaijanis responding to the explanatory memorandum of a motion for a resolution presented by several parliamentarians to the French Senate examined on October 15 and aimed at demanding action from the government for the “withdrawal of Azerbaijani troops to their initial positions, particularly outside Armenian territory and the Lachin corridor, but also to put an end to the anti-Armenian policy conducted by the Government of Azerbaijan”. Similarly, the Azerbaijan-France Chamber of Commerce and Industry sent a letter to the French President transcribed by the media Azvision asking him to “play an active and positive role in supporting the negotiations led by the EU on a peace agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia, affirming the territorial integrity of the two countries” and inviting it to “an online meeting with [its] members to hear the views of French businesses and the community living in Azerbaijan”.

10/17-18/2022: Visit of the Georgian President to Moldova and visit of the Romanian Defence Minister to Georgia.

Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili traveled to Moldova on October 17 where she met the Speaker of the Moldovan Parliament, Igor Grosu, as well as his Moldovan counterpart Maia Sandu, the first visit by a Georgian president for 12 years. During the joint press conference, the Georgian President called Russia’s aggression in Ukraine an “anachronism” in the 21st century, saying that Russia was “stuck in the last century which was the century of wars and totalitarianism” and that Europe was now seeing “the true face of Russia“. Referring to the common membership of the two countries in the “Associated Trio”, she declared: “I am deeply convinced that all three of us will see the results of this path and of the European integration of our countries […] This war will end with the victory [and] the reconstruction of Ukraine, as well as our reunification with the European Union”. Responding to reporters’ questions, she did not rule out a review of the policy on establishing visas for Russian citizens, which she deemed “fairly liberal under current conditions.” It should be noted that Georgia abolished visa requirements for Russians in 2012 who now have the option of staying in the country for a year, and that the ruling “Georgian Dream” party currently opposes to any revision of this policy despite calls from civil society.

Maia Sandu said: “We reiterate, on this occasion, our unconditional respect for the sovereignty of Ukraine and the territorial integrity of the neighbouring country within its internationally recognized borders […] This is all the more relevant as Moldova and Georgia also have unresolved conflicts on their territories […] We cannot allow aggression and fear to prevail. We must do everything to restore the rules-based international order, to reaffirm our respect for international law, the sovereignty of States and their right to decide their own fate. Only in this way can we ensure lasting peace in our region and in the world […] It is our duty to do everything possible to accelerate the realization of the European dream of our peoples. […] The future in the European family of states will anchor our countries in a political, economic and valuable space where people will have more opportunities to live and develop freely, safely and prosperously”.

Romanian Defence Minister Vasile Dincu travelled to Georgia the next day, October 18, to meet Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili and his counterpart Juansher Burchuladze with whom they discussed, according to the Georgian government press release, “the Georgia-Romania cooperation and relations with NATO and the European Union” but also “future relations in the field of defence” following the recently signed declaration concerning the establishment of a strategic partnership.

10/17/2022: Deployment of a European Union observation mission on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border amid growing accusations of breaking the ceasefire.

On October 17, the Council of the European Union announced the dispatch of a monitoring mission composed of 40 experts along the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, on the territory of Armenia, following to the decision taken at the quadrilateral meeting on October 6, “with the aim of monitoring, analysing and reporting on the situation in the region“. This mission, which is planned to be seconded from the EU mission in Georgia (EUMM), should not stay longer than two months. Josep Borell, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said on this occasion: “The dispatch of up to 40 European Union observers to Armenia’s international border with Azerbaijan aims to build trust, stabilize the life-threatening situation and endanger the process of conflict resolution. This is once again proof of the European Union’s full commitment to achieving lasting peace in the South Caucasus”. Josep Borell announced on October 20 via Twitter that the mission was deploying the same day, information confirmed by the EU External Action Service.

On October 17, Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan received members of the EU Technical Assessment Mission to discuss “the mandate, locations and other details of the EU mission” according to the report of the ministry concerned, before declaring the following day October 18, according to several local media (Netgazeti,, Azatutyun), that discussions concerning the deployment of OSCE observers were also under way. during a press briefing following his meeting with Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Hudfeldt. On October 19, the OSCE did announce, through a press release, to send a “needs assessment team to Armenia” from October 21 to 27, at the invitation of the government of the Republic of Armenia, which was commented by the Azerbaijani MFA through a press release in these terms: “It should be noted that the issue of sending such a mission has never been discussed by any collective decision-making body of the OSCE […] This unilateral initiative by Armenia is nothing but a private visit by a group of several participating States, and any outcome of such a visit will be assessed accordingly. […] Such misguided unilateral action by the OSCE Chairmanship and Secretariat runs counter to the fundamental principles of responsible and credible mediation and confidence-building, which require, among other things, the consent of the parties, the impartiality of the mediators and respect for the obligations of States under international law”.

Similarly, the Permanent Representative of Azerbaijan to the OSCE, Rovshan Sadigbayli, posted the statement made during the 1395th meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council via Twitter which reads: “The Chairmanship and the Secretariat of the OSCE had neither the authority nor the mandate to send such a mission without the prior consent of the parties directly concerned, in this case Azerbaijan and Armenia. […] Obviously, the outgoing Polish Chairmanship did not ensure that its actions were not inconsistent with the positions agreed by all participating States and that all the opinions of participating States were taken into account. It is particularly deplorable that such a visit was announced without prior consultation with Azerbaijan and notification while discussions were still ongoing. […] As such, this initiative cannot and will not be considered an OSCE-mandated activity. No OSCE funds and assets will be used for such non-consensual action. Azerbaijan rejects this unilateral decision and will not cooperate with and accept the results of this private visit by a group of people from a few participating States. The Delegation of Azerbaijan recalls that, in accordance with the Rules of Procedure of the OSCE, only documents adopted by the decision-making bodies of the OSCE, such as decisions, declarations, reports, letters or other documents, can be called decisions or documents. […] Until the current situation is rectified and compliance with OSCE documents and decisions is restored, the Delegation of Azerbaijan will not be able to examine the budget proposal, including the tables posts and the costs of the resources required”.

On October 18, 47 members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (including 8 Armenian members) signed a declaration drawn up by Ruben Rubinian of the “Civil Contract” party condemning “Azerbaijan’s aggression against the sovereign territory of Armenia” and stating: “Azerbaijan launched a full-scale military aggression against the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia in September 2022. With these acts of unprovoked military aggression, Azerbaijan also targeted civilian infrastructure in densely populated areas of Armenia, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of people, including civilians. There is staggering evidence of torture, mutilation of captured and dead soldiers, including women. We condemn in the strongest terms the aggression committed by Azerbaijan, which constitutes a flagrant violation of the Charter of the United Nations, the Helsinki Final Act, international humanitarian law, as well as statutory and treaty obligations and Azerbaijan’s commitments as a member of the Council of Europe. We also condemn the intentional killings, torture and inhuman treatment inflicted on prisoners of war and captured Armenians by the Azerbaijani armed forces, the videos of which have been posted on social networks. We call on Azerbaijan to refrain from any acts of aggression against the territorial integrity of Armenia in the future and to peacefully engage in a process of negotiation. We demand the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the Azerbaijani armed forces from the sovereign territory of Armenia and the urgent repatriation of all prisoners of war and other captives”.

Reciprocal accusations of breaking the ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan have followed each other all week. Thus the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defence denounced on October 15 and 16, shooting towards the settlements of Hajilar in the district of Lachin and Tazakand in the district of Dashkasan, towards the settlements of Jamilli and Mollabayramli in the district of Kelbajar , Hüsülü settlement in Lachin district and Kokhanabi settlement in Tovuz district. He also reported “the concentration of additional personnel and four artillery units with military vehicles on positions facing Azerbaijani army units in the direction of Dashkasan” on October 17. The same applies on October 19 concerning shooting towards the settlements of Tazakend and Astaf in the district of Dashkasan and Daryurd in the district of Gadabay, then on October 20 concerning shooting towards the settlements of Astaf in the district of Dashkasan and Mollabayramli and Zaylik in the district of Kelbajar, and finally on October 21 concerning shootings in the direction of the settlements of Astaf in the district of Dashkasan, and Zaylik and Mollabayramli in the district of Kelbajar. The Armenian Ministry of Defence denounced shootings “in the eastern part of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border” on October 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20 while systematically denying the Azerbaijani accusations and reporting on October 17 “the deployment of additional Azerbaijani artillery and anti-aircraft assets”. These various accusations were the subject of the following comments by Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan via Twitter on October 17: “Azerbaijan continually attributes its own ceasefire violations to Armenia. Obviously, this is a creation of a pretext for a new military aggression against Armenia. A permanent international mechanism is needed to maintain the ceasefire regime and ensure border security”.

Separately, on October 17, the press service of the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry issued a statement regarding videos circulating regarding the destruction of Azerbaijani gravestones near Stepanakert by an Armenian military truck, describing these acts as “another example clear of the policy of destruction of Azerbaijani heritage carried out by Armenia for many years” while announcing: “The acts of urbicide, ecocide and culturicide, of which it [Armenia] is the author, have been collected and presented to international organizations”. Similarly, according to local news agencies (APA, Trend News) human remains were found on October 17 during construction work in the Khojavend district and an investigation is currently underway.

On October 19, the Armenian Prime Minister announced, via Twitter, the following figures: “There are 777 missing Armenians from the 1st Nagorno-Karabakh war, 217 from the 2nd NK war and 29 missing Armenians from the aggression of the September 13 of Azerbaijan against Armenia. We hope that Azerbaijan will cooperate to clarify the fate of our compatriots”.

10/18/2022: Armenia’s Defence Minister visits India

Armenia’s Defence Minister, Suren Papikian, visited India on October 18 where he met with his counterpart Shri Rajnath Singh, a meeting during which, according to the statement from the relevant ministry: “The interlocutors expressed satisfaction with the current level of cooperation, possibilities for expanding cooperation“. He also attended the conference of defence ministers in the “Indian Ocean Region and partners” format on October 19. An article by the Azerbaijani media Haqqin, close to defence circles, entitled “Drones, anti-aircraft missile systems, cruise missiles…and all that for Armenia” reported on October 20 that India had become Armenia’s main arms supplier since the end of the “44-day war”, referring in particular to the signing of a contract for the purchase of Pinak rocket launchers in the amount of 250 million dollars, and making of its desire to acquire additional equipment such as Akash anti-aircraft missile systems.

10/18/2022: The “Parliament” of South Ossetia approves the draft law on “adhering to the agreement on the customs code of the Eurasian Economic Union”

According to South Ossetia’s “State News Agency Res”, the “South Ossetian Parliament” unanimously approved the draft law on “adhering to the agreement on the customs code of the Eurasian Economic Union” which, according to Arsen Kvezerov, “chairman of the parliamentary committee on small businesses and agriculture”, should allow “the customs authorities of the Republic, with the support of the Russian Federation, to create a basis for the use of modern automation tools for customs operations, software tools and technologies in the field of customs”.

10/19/2022: A Georgian citizen detained in South Ossetia.

The Georgian State Security Service announced on October 19 that a Georgian citizen, Tamaz Glurjidze according to local media such as InterpressNews, was detained in South Ossetia near the village of Bershueti. The next day, the same services announced his release.

20/10/2022: Visit of the Turkish President to Azerbaijan against a backdrop of controversy around a “Zangezour corridor”.

Turkish President Reccep Tayip Erdogan arrived in Azerbaijan on October 20 to meet his counterpart Ilham Aliyev with whom they inaugurated the new Zangilan International Airport and other joint territorial development projects, events relayed by the Azerbaijani Presidency website. The two allies in the “Zangezour Corridor” project met as the snags over it multiplied this week between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Nikol Pashinyan said on October 17 via Twitter: “A draft decision of the
[Armenian government] on the opening of 3 checkpoints on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border to ensure the connection between eastern Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan has been officially broadcast for several months. The Armenian government expects a positive reaction from Azerbaijan,” to which the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry also responded via Twitter: “Armenia should stop false pretences to evade its commitments under the Trilateral Declaration of November 2020 to connect the automobile and the railways via the Zanguezour corridor. Suggesting 3 unrealistic checkpoint options for connectivity while ignoring 20 months of discussions is not good policy,” calling for a new message via Twitter from the Prime Minister of Armenia the next day: “Is there a unilateral obligation of the Armenia to build new roads between western Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan regions in the 9 11 Trilateral Declaration? NO! Could it happen after agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan. YES! Armenia is ready to do so according to its legislation. A positive reaction from Azerbaijan is necessary”. According to the media Azerbaijan Focus, a delegation of Azerbaijani parliamentarians took part in the international conference of the Silk Road Group of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly on October 18 on “strengthening coordination to ensure energy and food security in times of crisis” in Istanbul, Turkey, during which the head of the Azerbaijani delegation, Azay Guliyev, reportedly said: “Azerbaijan makes a significant contribution to the development of the East-West and North-South transport corridors, and actively promotes the creation of the Zanguezour corridor, which will be an integral part of the Middle Corridor”.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Overchuk said on this subject, on October 21, during a speech delivered at the International Export Forum “Made in Russia 2022” in Moscow: “In addition, the crossroads of the main international transport corridors “North-South” and “East-West” today is formed precisely in the South Caucasus. If created, the economies of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia will begin to receive additional benefits related to their advantageous geographical position in Eurasia. Unblocking transport links between the western regions of Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan through the territory of Armenia or Iran will play an important role in this regard. Today, Azerbaijan and Iran launched the construction of bridges on their border, which will connect the roads of the two countries and ensure the shortest and most convenient movement between the western regions of Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan. . The construction of a railway line and a highway through Meghri on Armenian territory, whose sovereignty is not questioned by anyone, depends on Armenia’s position. At the same time, a road bypassing Armenia is already being built through Iran, which means that a road will be operational in 2024, and it will provide access to the markets of Iran, Turkey and further towards Europe“.

10/20/2022: Ruben Vardanian, future “Minister of State of Nagorno-Karabakh”?

Ruben Vardanian, an Armenian-born businessman who renounced Russian citizenship last summer and moved to “Nagorno-Karabakh” to “support Artsakh’s security,” announced on October 20 via Telegram accept the proposal made on October 4 by the “President of Nagorno-Karabakh”, Arayik Haroutiounian, to appoint him “Minister of State” in these words: “I am extremely concerned about the way political events are developing around the Armenia and Artsakh, by the tense situation around the settlement of the question of Artsakh, on which depends, without exaggeration, the fate of Armenia and the Armenian world. I realize that I no longer have time to reflect, just as there is no other way but to stand with the people of Artsakh and take my share of responsibility for the future of Artsakh. Following meetings over the past month and a half with residents of the republic, its political and public figures, representatives of different territories and social groups, I have gained the conviction that people support my candidacy for the post of Minister of State of the Republic of Artsakh and want to see me as a responsible leader who will gather around him all the healthy forces and will carry out real work to get the country out of the crisis. I will officially take up my duties as Minister of State of Artsakh at the beginning of November. I will then present the strategic objectives and the priority tasks that we must solve, as well as the first steps that we are going to take”.

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