South Caucasus Geopolitical Watch – from October 8 to October 14, 2022

10/8-14/2022: The car of the Azerbaijani embassy in Washington DC targeted by gunfire and reciprocal denunciations of the breaking of the ceasefire in Karabakh.

The US Chargé d’Affaires in Azerbaijan was summoned by the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister on October 12, following the shootings sustained on the night of October 10 to 11 by the car of the Embassy of Azerbaijan in Washington. The press service of the Azerbaijani MFA reports that the MFA would have expressed its “serious concern” and its “dissatisfaction” while recalling that “the systematic nature of the attacks against the diplomatic missions of Azerbaijan by radical members of the Armenian communities in foreign countries, including the attacks and acts of vandalism committed against our embassies in Washington, Paris, Beirut and other cities, [was] very concerning” and stressing: “the need for a proper investigation on each case and to ensure the security of [its] embassies and diplomats at the appropriate level“.

It is noted several accusations of breaking the ceasefire by the Armenian side and the Azerbaijani side this week. The Armenian Defence Ministry reported various fires “in the direction of Armenian positions located in the eastern part of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border” on October 8, October 10, October 12 and October 14. The Azerbaijani Ministry of Defence denounced Armenian fire dated October 09 “in the direction of the settlements of Alibayramli, Istisu and Zaylik of the Kalbajar region and the settlement of Novoivanovka of the Gadabay region“, from October 10 “towards Astaf settlement of Dashkasan region” as well as “towards Tazakend settlement of Dashkasan region and Aghbulag settlement of Tovuz region“, from October 13 “in the direction of Alibayramli and Istisu settlements of Kalbajar region”, and of October 14 “in the direction of Alibayramli settlement of Kalbajar region”, which was called “disinformation” by the Armenian side.

10/10/2022: A Georgian citizen died in Ukraine.

According to the media, Edisher Kvaratskhelia, a Georgian fighter in Ukraine would have died on October 10 and he would officially be the 16th Georgian soldier dead in this country since the outbreak of the war on February 24 last.

10/11/2022: Start of joint “Caucasian Eagle 2022” exercises between Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey.

On October 11, the joint exercises between Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey began, called “Caucasus Eagle 2022” and hosted this year by Georgia. These aim, according to the Georgian Ministry of Defence, to “deepen the synchronization and coordination of special forces capabilities by the special operations units of the Defence Forces of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey, to share experience, increase interoperability and improve command and control in a multinational environment”.

These exercises were the subject of the following comments from the “Ministry of Foreign Affairs” of South Ossetia: “In South Ossetia, the ongoing process of building up and modernizing the military-industrial potential of Georgia raises serious concerns. In the context of Tbilisi’s official refusal of the obligations of non-use of force, the holding of military exercises in the immediate vicinity of the borders of South Ossetia is a factor which could lead to a destabilization of the situation and a rising political tensions in the South Caucasus. In the current turbulent conditions in the world, the Georgian authorities must be aware that their enthusiasm for regular military exercises with the participation of foreign troops undermines all efforts aimed at ensuring regional security”.

On October 12-13, Georgian Defence Minister Juansher Burchuladze participated in the NATO meeting in Brussels where he attended the contact group on Ukraine in the Rammstein format, after talks with the general secretary of the organization, Jens Stoltenberg. He also met with Alliance Military Committee Chairman Rob Bauer.

10/11/2022: 334 people detained in Abkhazia since the beginning of the year for violation of the “border”.

In its October 11 press release, the “Committee for State Security” or “KGB of South Ossetia, reported the figure of 334 people detained since the beginning of the year for violation of the “border” including 125 since July 2022. Thus, “234 people were sentenced to an administrative fine, 3 people were expelled from the Republic of South Ossetia with sanctions, 34 people were expelled from the Republic of South Ossetia […] criminal proceedings have been initiated against 11 people, 52 people have been warned”.

10/11/2022: Georgia elected to the UN Human Rights Council.

The UN General Assembly elected 14 members to its Human Rights Council, including Georgia with 178 votes, on October 11. This mandate runs for the period 2023-2025. The Board is made up of 47 members. The other 13 vacancies taking office on January 1 are : Algeria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Chile, Costa Rica, Germany, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Morocco, Romania, South Africa, Sudan and Vietnam. Two countries that had submitted their candidacy were not elected: Afghanistan and Venezuela.

10/12/2022: Caucasian countries and the UN vote against the “annexation” of Ukrainian regions by Russia: 1 vote in favour, 1 abstention, 1 absence.

The resolution adopted by the UN with 143 votes against the “annexation” of the Ukrainian regions by Russia was supported by Georgia while Armenia abstained (as 34 countries) and Azerbaijan was absent as 9 other countries including Iran and Turkmenistan (as well as Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Cameroon, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome and Venezuela).

10/12-13/2022: French and Russian statements on the settlement of the Karabakh conflict

While the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders announced last week that they were ready to host an EU observation mission on the border area between them, following their meeting in Prague on the sidelines of the first European Political Community promoted by French President Emmanuel Macron, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced on October 12, according to the state news agency TASS relaying the content of the discussions between the latter and his Armenian counterpart, Ararat Mirzoyan, that the CSTO was also ready to send its own mission stating: “Immediately after Armenia requested to convene an extraordinary CSTO summit, it took place, it was decided to send the Secretary General of the CSTO and Chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Armenia. They went there, brought recommendations, those recommendations have been in our hands ever since. They consist in sending to the territory of Armenia, on the border with Azerbaijan, a monitoring mission of CSTO observers”.

On the same day, Armen Grigorian, the Secretary of the Armenian Security Council, announced in an interview on Armenian state television: “We [US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, the head of the Foreign Relations Department of the presidential administration of Azerbaijan Hikmet Hajiyev in Washington D.C. and himself on September 27 and the foreign ministers of Armenia. and Azerbaijan in Geneva on October 2] also discussed the “road map” of the peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the issue of delimitation. […] We discussed the deadline for concluding a peace treaty, namely having an agreement by the end of the year. Also on the issue of delimitation, an agreement was reached for the delimitation to take place before the end of the year” while specifying that “the question of the complete withdrawal of Azerbaijani troops from the sovereign territory of Armenia” had also been discussed. He also said, “We have no news about the CSTO preparing real measures to force Azerbaijan to withdraw from the sovereign territory of Armenia. I think the CSTO is already aware of the kind of statements that Azerbaijan makes in European capitals about the CSTO, I think the CSTO should seriously think about it. […] We are still awaiting a response from the CSTO”.

The French president declared live on France 2, on October 12: “But you see, everything is linked, on this border, what is happening today, for two years? You have 5,000 Russian soldiers there who are supposedly border guards. And during this conflict, there was an underlying conflict, Russia used this conflict which was several decades old, and it interfered in this conflict, it obviously played Azerbaijan’s game, with a Turkish complicity, and it came back there to weaken Armenia which however formerly was a country of which it was close. You see, what is happening there is a destabilization maneuver by Russia, which in the Caucasus seeks to create disorder, to weaken and divide us all”.

The remarks prompted the following responses from Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova in comments posted the following day on the MFA website: “We consider the statements of E. Macron that Russia used the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to destabilize the South Caucasus as outrageous and absolutely unacceptable. Such attacks are part of the West’s anti-Russian line aimed at demonizing Russia and testify to attempts to transfer the logic of confrontation from Ukraine to other parts of the post-Soviet space, including the South Caucasus. The French president’s absurd allegations demonstrate Paris’ lack of interest in establishing a lasting peace in the region and call into question his country’s ability to play a constructive role there. Unlike France which, even during periods of tension between Baku and Yerevan, limited itself to classic calls for peace, Russia has made a concrete contribution to settling the conflict. […] With their help [Russian peacekeeping forces], 53,000 refugees returned home, more than 2,000 corpses were handed over, a total of 146 detainees were returned, and more than 25,000 explosive devices were been neutralized. […] Paris’s attempts to drive a wedge into Russia’s relations with Azerbaijan and Armenia, which are close to us, and with which Russia has long-lasting and multifaceted ties, are doomed to failure. and will only further depreciate the reputation of France in the region”. She also commented on the prospect of the deployment of an EU observation mission on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border on October 12 in the following terms during her weekly briefing: “If I understood correctly, there is no formal EU decision on the matter yet. Unfortunately, we perceive it as a new attempt by the EU to intervene in all possible ways in the settlement of relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia, to supplant the mediation efforts undertaken by our country”. She also commented on this occasion on the results of the summit of the European Political Community: “The first meeting of the European Political Community held in Prague clearly confirmed the ideological and confrontational character of this format. What is striking is the total absence of a positive agenda and, at the same time, the possibility of solving problems from a professional point of view. The motto could be: “we are friends against Russia”, “let us unite to scold Russia”. The anti-Russian accusation was not hidden. Many, realizing its emptiness, were skeptical of this event. […] Reasonable forces in Europe understand that it is impossible to build a new security system on the continent without our country, as the organizers of the European Political Community want”.

The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry called the French president’s statements “more aimed at a national audience, completely one-sided and openly defending Armenia” and “unacceptable” in a comment published on October 14 that ends with this sentence “France’s unilateral position and baseless accusations in response to Azerbaijan’s attempts to ensure peace, stability and development in the region, to normalize relations based on respect for the principles of international law, force us to reconsider the mediation efforts of this country”.

10/13/2022: Statements of Azerbaijani President in Astana for the 6th Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) and meeting between Russian, Azerbaijani and Armenian Foreign Ministers.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev travelled to Astana on October 13 for the 6th summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) where he delivered a speech transcribed on the Azerbaijani Presidency website announcing “The large-scale transport infrastructure projects implemented by Azerbaijan have transformed our country into one of the leading international transport and logistics hubs. In the first nine months of 2022, transit through Azerbaijan increased by almost 65%. Azerbaijan contributes significantly to the development of East-West and North-South transport corridors. Azerbaijan is actively promoting the creation of the Zangezur Corridor, which will be an integral part of the Middle Corridor” after having expressed his country’s difficulties regarding the reconstruction of Karabakh in these words: “Azerbaijan is one of the most most mined in the world. According to initial estimates, during the occupation, Armenia laid more than one million landmines. In the two years following the Second Karabakh War, more than 250 Azerbaijani citizens were killed or seriously injured as a result of landmine explosions. International experts estimate that Azerbaijan needs almost 30 years and 25 billion dollars to solve the problems related to demining. Today, along with demining operations, Azerbaijan, with its own financial resources, is undertaking large-scale reconstruction work in the liberated areas. We have also started the process of returning former internally displaced persons to their native lands. The program called “Great Return” has started”.

He also met on the sidelines of this summit, the Iranian leader, Ibrahim Raissi, a meeting during which, according to the Azerbaijani presidency, the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran declared that he “had the serious intention of developing overall cooperation with Azerbaijan” and the two interlocutors noted that “the opening of the Agband bridge between Iran and Azerbaijan [had] both symbolic and practical significance”. The Azerbaijani President also met with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, and the two interlocutors insisted, according to the report of the Kremlin and the Azerbaijani Presidency, on the importance of their economic partnerships in these words of Vladimir Putin: “Russia remains one of the main trade and economic partners [of Azerbaijan]. Trade turnover is growing: last year it was up by, I think, 14%, and this year, in the first seven months, by more than 7%. Our economic operators have invested 4.5 billion dollars in the Azerbaijani economy” while Ilham Aliyev said: “We are very satisfied with the development of relations between our countries. I think they have reached the highest level of allied interaction […] there are also issues related to transport, energy and cooperation in the humanitarian field”.

The heads of state of the CIS met the next day and a meeting also took place between the Russian, Azerbaijani and Armenian foreign ministers, the last meeting in this format since that of May 2022 in Dushanbe. According to the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, Djeyhoun Bayramov recalled that a meeting had taken place in Geneva on October 2 during which Azerbaijan presented the main elements of the peace agreement with Armenia and that it “expects Armenia to provide a response on the text”. The text emphasizes “the need to respect the unimplemented provisions of Armenia’s declarations” and states: “In addition, the laying of landmines on the territories of Azerbaijan and the fact that Armenia does not provide landmine maps were noted as a serious problem”. The Armenian Foreign Ministry, for its part, stressed “the need for the withdrawal of Azerbaijani troops from the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia, the immediate release of all Armenian prisoners of war and the unconditional respect for the ceasefire regime. Fire“.

During the meeting between the Armenian Foreign Minister, Ararat Mirzoyan, and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, on October 12, according to the Armenian Foreign Ministry: “The need for the immediate withdrawal of the Azerbaijani armed forces which invaded the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia following the recent aggression by Azerbaijan and the need to maintain the ceasefire regime were particularly stressed, and the problems associated with the implementation of international monitoring and control mechanisms of the border situation were discussed. Minister Mirzoyan stressed that the Armenian side expects the unequivocal position and support of Russia as a strategic ally in the withdrawal of the Azerbaijani armed forces from the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia”.

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