10/31/2022: Tripartite meeting between Russian, Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders in Sochi
On October 31, a series of meetings, including a tripartite meeting, took place in Sochi between Russian President Vladimir Putin, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.
On this occasion, as the press release of the Prime Minister’s website relates, the Armenian leader insisted with his Russian counterpart on “the issue of the withdrawal of Azerbaijani troops from the area of responsibility of Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh“. while asking that “the beginning of delimitation work [be] preceded by the creation of mechanisms aimed at increasing the level of stability and security on the Azerbaijani-Armenian border” and recalling: “Russia’s position was that the very formation of the boundary commission and its work would become a border security mechanism. To be honest, we did not share this position at the time, but we finally decided to trust the interpretation of our strategic ally, Russia. However, on September 13, 2022, Azerbaijan launched another large-scale aggression against Armenia and occupied new territories of our country”. He also expressed the Armenian position which is clear: “The essence of the issue is this: communications passing through the territory of the Republic of Armenia must take place under the full control of the Republic of Armenia and to operate in accordance with Armenian legislation” and called for settling the issue of “the release and repatriation of all Armenian citizens detained in Azerbaijan”.
For his part, the Azerbaijani president also recalled his position, readable in the press release of the presidency website: “a trilateral declaration was signed two years ago, which put an end to the long-lasting conflict. Now is the time to talk and act for the normalization of relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia. […] Relatively recently, Azerbaijan proposed five basic principles on the basis of which relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia should be normalized”.
The two-and-a-half-hour tripartite meeting, described as “very useful” by the Russian President, resulted in a joint declaration published in particular on the Armenian Prime Minister’s website, which reports on the decision taken by the protagonists to “refrain from resort to force or the threat of force, to discuss and resolve all problematic issues solely on the basis of mutual recognition of sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of borders”.
On the eve of October 30, tens of thousands of people gathered in Stepanakert, on Renaissance Square, to demonstrate their desire for recognition of the right of “Artsakh” to self-determination and independence.
11/01-02/2022: Several Georgian citizens detained in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
The Georgian State Security Service declared on November 1 the detention of 3 Georgian citizens in South Ossetia by “Russian occupation forces” near the village of Mejvrishkevi. The next day, they also announced a new detention in Abkhazia. In these various cases, the emergency hotline of the European Union monitoring mission was activated and the co-chairs of the Geneva International Discussions (DIG) were informed. The 3 people detained in South Ossetia were released on November 3 according to the same services.
11/01/2022: A parliamentary delegation of the Union of Russia and Belarus in Abkhazia.
A parliamentary delegation from the Union of Belarus and Russia led by Artem Turtov, Chairman of the Committee on Youth Policy, Sports and Tourism of the Parliamentary Assembly, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee statement on CIS affairs, Eurasian integration and relations with compatriots travelled to Abkhazia on November 3 where it met the Abkhazian “Speaker of Parliament” Lasha Ashuba who welcomed this “first meeting of its kind” and then the Abkhazian “President of the Republic”, Aslan Bzhania.
According to the statement of the “Parliament of Abkhazia”, Lasha Ashuba recalled that “relations with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Union of Belarus and Russia […] will turn 15 in October 2023” and that he had been decided in 2008 “to grant the parliaments of [their] republics permanent observer status in the [Parliamentary Union of Belarus and Russia] Assembly” while Artem Turtov insisted on the tourism development potential of Abkhazia. Also discussed were “investments, plans for the development of programs and projects for young people in the field of sports, the possibility of using sports facilities located on the territory of Abkhazia, digital projects and cooperation in the field of information technologies” as well as the issues of “simplification of the conditions for crossing the Abkhazian-Russian state border” or relating to “legislative support of interstate cooperation“.
The meeting with the “Abkhazian president”, according to Apsnypress, gave rise to very personal exchanges, Aslan Bzhania evoking a childhood story: “In my native village, there was a pioneer camp where children from Belarus were resting. I was sent to this camp at a young age to learn Russian. As a result, when I returned, it turned out that I learned not Russian, but Belarusian. It should be noted that during the existence of the pioneer camp in our village there were 17 mixed marriages. It’s a good story. We want your generation to be aware of this already and to be successful in these areas more than us and the older generation”, and the Deputy Chairman of the Assembly’s Committee on Youth Policy, Sports and Tourism parliamentarian, Sergei Klishevich declaring: “I am here for the first time, but I often heard about Abkhazia thanks to the stories of my mother and my aunt, who often went there in Soviet times. When I said I was going to Abkhazia, they were jealous. Here, people relax in both body and mind. We walked along the embankment for a bit, drank coffee and I was surprised how good the people are here. We know your legend that when God divided the earth, he gave the Abkhazians the part he wanted to keep for himself. It really is a heavenly place.”
11/01/2022: Visit of the South Ossetian “Foreign Minister” to Moscow.
South Ossetian “Foreign Minister” Akhsar Dzhioev visited Moscow on November 1, where he met his counterpart Sergei Lavrov. Bilateral consultations took place which, according to the statement of the South Ossetian “Ministry of Foreign Affairs”, addressed “topical issues on bilateral relations, problems of maintaining and strengthening the existing system of regional security, including the state of affairs during the international discussions in Geneva in the context of developments on the international scene“. According to the statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry, “The dialogue that took place confirmed the coincidence of positions on most issues, the mutual readiness for the further development of alliance and integration relations between the two states”. In his opening address, Sergey Lavrov said: “We appreciate your balanced and objective position on what is happening in the framework of the special military operation, the declaration of independence of the two republics and the two regions, as well as your support for the results of the referendums held in the DPR and LPR and in the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions. We cooperate in the field of security. Russian military bases reliably ensure the security of the Republic of South Ossetia. Employees of the Border Department of the Federal Security Service of Russia work at the borders. Investment projects are successfully implemented. A socio-economic development program of the Republic of South Ossetia has recently been adopted. We will actively help you to implement it”.
11/01/2022: Memorandum of Understanding between Armenia and Iran to double Iranian gas deliveries.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian visited Tehran on November 1, where he was first received by Iranian Vice-President Masoud Mir Kazemi, before meeting President Ebrahim Raisi at Saadabad Palace. The latter underlined, as stated in the press release on the Armenian Prime Minister’s website, the 43% increase in trade and economic relations with Armenia in recent months, while specifying “the objective is 3 billion dollars” while that the Armenian leader described the relationship between the two countries as “a very vivid example of cooperation and friendship between Islamic and Christian civilizations” while thanking his interlocutor for “Iran’s firm positions in terms of guaranteeing the regional security and stability”.
On this occasion, a cooperation protocol was signed on November 1 between the Iranian Deputy Minister of Petroleum and General Manager of the National Iranian Gas Company, Majid Chegeni, and the Armenian Minister of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure, Gnel Sanosian, aimed at doubling natural gas deliveries to the Republic of Armenia, which already imports 365 million cubic meters per year, which it has been trading for electricity since 2009, at the rate of 1 cubic meter of gas for 3 kWh electricity from its thermal power stations. These provisions would be extended until 2031 by doubling the exchanges. A third high-voltage line would be under construction and should be able to supply Iran by the end of 2023.
11/01/2022: Arrest of 19 people in Azerbaijan accused of working for the Iranian secret service.
On November 1, the Azerbaijani State Security Service informed that “The State Security Service [is conducting] thorough investigations into cases of covert involvement of Azerbaijani citizens by Iranian special services in military exercises outside the country, financing and directing their activities, keeping them in the sphere of influence through blackmail and other violent means in order to use them against the interests of the state security of Azerbaijan” also stating: “During operational investigations, it was established that the leadership of an illegal armed formation composed of citizens of the Republic of Azerbaijan, secretly established under the control of Iranian special services through indoctrination with extremist religious ideas radicals, was attributed to Tohid Alim oglu lbrahimbayli, Rovshan Elchin oglu Asadov, Orkhan Kamran oglu Mammadov, Elshad Elchin oglu Hajiyev (Akram Hajizade) and others, against whom a he preventive measure of detention was chosen for similar crimes in 2018 by court order. They were placed on an international wanted list and are now hiding in Iran. […] Much evidence has been uncovered about the illegal armed group and the military exercises organized by it, and various banned books and videos promoting radical extremist religious views against the idea of modern development and a secular state smuggled into Azerbaijan were also identified and seized. Iskander Khani oglu Huseynov, Tural Safar oglu Hagverdiyev, Eltun Ali oglu Shukurov and others who had previously been convicted were detained and prosecuted under Articles 12.1, 279.1 (participation in armed formations not provided for by law) of the Criminal Code of AR”. According to several local media (Eurasianet, APA, Ocmédia, MeydanTV) these arrests concern 19 people.
This wave of arrests comes in the context of recent Iranian military exercises on the Azerbaijani border, which is reminiscent of the crisis that the two countries experienced last year in October and November 2021 which began with the arrest of Iranian truck drivers heading for the Armenian enclave of Karabakh and was followed by Iranian troop movements at the border and repressions against members of the Shiite clergy in Azerbaijan. It was the signing of a gas agreement between Iran, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan within the framework of the 15th summit of the Economic Cooperation Organization that had eased tensions.
According to the Turan.az media citing the words of the Iranian Embassy in Baku, the visit of Iranian Parliament Speaker Mohammed Bagheer Golabiaf to Azerbaijan would have been postponed.
11/02/2022: The Azerbaijani President sends messages to France from the 3rd Arab Summit in Algiers.
On November 2, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev travelled to Algiers to participate as guest of honour at the invitation of Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, and as chairman of the “Non-Aligned Movement” in the 3rd Arab Summit which took place this year in Algeria on November 1st and 2nd. On this occasion, he said during a speech transcribed on the website of the presidency “deeply impressed and shocked” by his visits to the Martyrs’ Memorial and the Mujahid Museum and in particular by “the brutality [and] the atrocities mass crimes committed by France against the Algerian people” and adding: “Today, while visiting the Moudjahid Museum, I was informed that during the French occupation, France laid more than 5 million landmines . It just reminded me of the same thing, the same thing we are going through now. Armenia laid more than a million mines during the occupation period and after the end of the war in November 2020, we have more than 260 Azerbaijanis who have been killed or seriously injured due to landmines”.
He also said: “Azerbaijan is a country that has also suffered like Algeria from the occupation for 30 years. Our lands were occupied by Armenia, and during all these years of occupation, we always felt the support of our Arab brothers, we felt the support of the member states of the Organization of Islamic States”. He insisted on his role as president of the “Non-Aligned Movement” by specifying: “The Non-Aligned Movement is the second largest international institution after the United Nations, which brings together 120 countries. Since 2019, Azerbaijan has chaired this institution and we were elected by a unanimous decision of all member states, which demonstrates their high level of support and respect for our position and policy. Our presidency has again been extended by unanimous decision until the end of 2023 and we see it as another sign of appreciation for our policy” and highlighting its role in access to vaccines and the fight against vaccine nationalism. by denouncing the fact that “Some developed countries in the West were buying the number of vaccines 5 to 10 times more than they needed, while the countries which had no resources had to suffer”.
The website of the Azerbaijani presidency retracing Ilham Aliyev’s visits to Algeria draws parallels between French policy in Algeria and Armenian policy in Azerbaijan in these terms: “Parallels can be drawn between France’s policy in Algeria and the Armenia’s policy in Karabakh, which remained under occupation for nearly 30 years. This approach also underpins France’s pro-Armenian policy. France, which once refused to grant autonomy to more than 11 million citizens of the largest country in Africa and the Arab world, is now demanding independence for 15,000 to 20,000 Armenians living in Karabakh. At the same time, the French army was committing massacres, numerous wars and crimes against humanity against the Algerians who demanded their freedom. The same crimes were committed against Azerbaijanis living in Karabakh and opposing the Armenian occupation. […] The tradition of not taking responsibility for the massacres committed by France seems to have spread to Armenia as well. The genocide and massacres committed against Azerbaijanis in Garadaghli, Aghdaban, Khojaly and other settlements in 1992-1993 are very similar to the massacres committed in Sétif in 1945 and in Paris in 1961. […] Another act of hypocrisy by France is the exhibition of the skulls of 21,000 representatives of the colonized nations of this country in Parisian museums. It is reported that 500 of these bones belong to Algerians. Today, mass graves and skeletons are found in the liberated territories of Azerbaijan. All this shows that there are many “similarities” between France and Armenia, and that neither of them has been held responsible for their crimes. Double standards and hypocrisy seem to be the guideline of French public policy. Today, this hypocrisy is disguised under the name of democracy”.
02/11/2022: The Tbilisi Court of Appeal confirms the sentence of Nika Gvaramia.
According to several local media (Civil.ge, JamNews, Netgazeti.ge), the Tbilisi Court of Appeal decided on November 2 to confirm the 3-year and 6-month prison sentence of Nika Gvaramia, director of the television channel Mtavari Arkhi, thereby acknowledging his guilt in the deal with Porsche Centre Tbilisi allowing him to receive a Porsche in exchange for the discounted placement of advertisements on his channel, and confirming his innocence on the charges of commercial bribery, forgery resulting in substantial damage and money laundering.
His lawyer would have described the verdict as “illegal” while declaring that this decision took away “not only Nika Gvaramia’s freedom but also that of the country and [prevented her] from continuing on the path of European integration“. The U.S. Embassy also responded with a statement posted on its website: “As Georgia’s commitment to an impartial judiciary and media pluralism comes under scrutiny, the continued detention of Nika Gvaramia, general director of the main opposition television channel, jeopardizes the clear choice of the Georgian people and leaders”. While the Transparency.ge site relayed a declaration signed by 8 civil society organizations in which one can read: “we can conclude that the case is politically motivated. It aims to punish Nika Gvaramia and disrupt the activities of a critical media.[…] The faulty administration of justice significantly affects and degrades the existing media environment and standards for the protection of human rights and freedoms in general, further deepens the polarization in the country, contradicts the spirit of the EU’s 12-point demands and does not guarantee stable democratic development. Efforts by international partners over the years to strengthen the justice system have been significantly undermined by the actions of clan members. Politically motivated cases are one of the indicators of attacks on judicial independence. Similar cases cast a shadow over the justice system, including impartial judges. Accordingly, we believe that in the future, spending partner resources on judges, who in the past have violated human rights, will not have a positive impact on the development of the judicial system”.
11/03/2022: 3rd meeting of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border delimitation commission in Brussels.
Armenian Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigorian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Shahin Moustafayev met in Brussels on November 3, a 3rd meeting devoted to the delimitation and demarcation of the border between the two countries, and for which the ministries of Armenian and Azerbaijani Foreign Affairs issued a joint statement simply informing that the parties had agreed to “accelerate the coordination of the Commission’s joint working procedure on issues of delimitation and border security of the state border between the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan and the State Commission on Delimitation of the State Border between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia”.
The Azerbaijani Defence Ministry denounced on the same day Armenian fire in the direction of the Bezirkhana settlement in the Kelbajar region, which the Armenian Defence Ministry denied. These accusations were renewed on November 4 concerning shooting for 5 hours in the direction of the Yellija and Mollabayramli settlements in the Kelbajar region, which was also denied by the Armenian side.
04/11/2022: Ruben Vardanian appointed “Minister of State of Nagorno-Karabakh”
The site of the “Presidency of the Republic of Artsakh” informed on November 4 that “President” Arayik Haroutiounian had signed a decree appointing Ruben Vardanian, a billionaire businessman who renounced Russian citizenship last summer and being recently installed in “Nagorno-Karabakh” to “support the security of Artsakh”, “Minister of State” in replacement of Artak Beglarian. Similarly, two amendments were made to the two “presidential” decrees “On the coordination of the activities of ministers by the State Minister of the Republic of Artsakh” and “On the establishment of the procedure for organizing the activities of the government of the Republic of Artsakh and other organs of state administration”, which corresponds to an expansion of the responsibilities of his office. Indeed, Ruben Vardanian would now be responsible for coordinating all the ministries except those of Defence and the Interior, unlike his predecessor who only coordinated 4 ministries.
It should be noted that the position of “Minister of State” was created in 2018 to replace that of “Prime Minister” during the transition of the entity to a presidential system.
Arayik Haroutiounian said, according to the “presidency” statement: “You, with us, have no other alternative but to succeed. Succeed for the good of Artsakh, for the good of the people of Artsakh, for the good of our right to live on our historic land, for the good of keeping Artsakh Armenian” while the principal concerned affirmed: “I have been here for two months, I have met many people in the villages, with young people, held meetings with members of the government, members of the National Assembly, various political and public figures. Maybe you don’t feel it, but I want to say that the people of Artsakh are an example for everyone in the sense that despite this difficult situation, they stay here, live here and give birth to children. And I am proud to be at your side to serve and work for the protection of our homeland, for its better future. We have received Artsakh from our ancestors and we are obliged to pass it on to future generations”.