Table of Contents
Hello, and welcome to the Armenian News Network, Groong, Week in Review for Sunday December 13, 2020. We’ll be talking to our guests about the following major topics:
● Renewed Fighting & OSCE Minsk Group Visit
● Expedited Border Demarcations?
● What will happen to Sotq?
● Diplomatic Relations with Azerbaijan?
To talk about these issues, we have with us:
Emil Sanamyan, who is a senior research fellow at USC’s Institute of Armenian Studies specializing in politics in the Caucasus, with a special focus on Azerbaijan.
Pietro Shakarian who is a historian and a Ph.D. candidate in Russian History at the Ohio State University. His analyses on Russia, Armenia, and the post-Soviet space have appeared in several publications, including The Nation, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Russian International Affairs Council, Russia Direct, Hetq, and more.
This episode was recorded on Sunday, December 13, 2020
The Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Dec. 11 that Azerbaijani armed forces launched an attack on the line of contact in the area of Hin Tagher and Khtsaberd villages in the Hadrut region. As of today, it appears that Azerbaijani forces had taken control of Hin Tagher and Mt. Dizapayt and have reached the outskirts of Khtsaberd. Per the announcement, six Armenian servicemen received injuries.
While Russian peacekeepers were reported to be trying to restore calm in this area, we also heard news that fighting is also ongoing in the direction of Mets Shen and Hin Shen villages which are close to the Lachin corridor.
Prior to the MFA announcement, the initial response from Mane Gevorgyan, Pashinyan’s spokesperson was as follows: “The attack of the Azerbaijani forces in Hin Tagher-Khtsaberd direction should receive reaction from Russian peacekeepers in the first place"
This fighting was going on while the OSCE Minsk Group was in Baku on December 12 and due to visit Yerevan the following day. During this meeting, Ilham Aliyev had a firm derogatory stance toward the group and chided the organization for failing to resolve the conflict in over two decades. He also gloated about being able to resolve it by force. If you watch the video, it is hard to find a moment where the OSCE co-chairs were able to look Aliyev in the eye.
It is also noteworthy that during this meeting OSCE MG co-chairs several times referred to new realities on the ground. Furthermore, their statement from Dec 3 omits any mention of territorial integrity and self-determination and only refers to the principle of “non-use-of-force”.
Do we see the OSCE MG remaining relevant here? What remains of their role?
In a parliament hearing on Dec. 9, Tigran Avinyan indicated that a border demarcation process is currently underway between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Avinyan said that the negotiations will start this year and will be done under a strict deadline. What was notable is that Avinyan mentioned that Soviet maps from 1928-29 will be used as the basis for this demarcation (among other maps).
What is the urgency of officially demarcating the borders now? Why did Avinyan emphasize 1928-29 maps? Are they advantageous for Armenia?
If Armenia were to recognize Soviet Azerbaijani borders, what would that mean for the status of Karabakh? How will that affect recognition of Artsakh either as an independent state or even as an autonomous region in Azerbaijan? According to a resolution of Armenia Parliament in 1992, the Republic of Armenia is obligated to protect and support the Republic of Artsakh and any document where Artsakh is mentioned as part of Azerbaijan would be unacceptable to Armenia.
One of the key issues that is certain to be discussed during the border demarcations is the destiny of the Sotq gold mine. Since the withdrawal of Armenian forces from Kelbajar, Azerbaijan seems to be claiming half of the mine and has sent a military unit to the area to set up an observation post.
In response to the outcry from this incident, Armenian officials, including Pashinyan seemed to confirm this.
This is a big deal since Sotq mine is Armenia’s 4th largest taxpayer and the mine has now announced that it plans to cut back its operations significantly until this issue is resolved.
While we covered this in the past, I’d like to bring up just one issue as a result of my discussions with a former US state department employee.
The Sotq mine was privatized in 1997 and at that time. Because a US company was interested in acquiring the mine (and because of Azerbaijani complaints resulting from it), the US State Department conducted a thorough survey of the territory between July - August of 97) and they found that the mine was completely on the Armenian side.
This document may possibly be obtained as a result of a FOIA request. If any journalist wishes to submit such a request, please contact us and we can provide more detailed information that should help narrow-down your request.
What could be the repercussions if the mine is split between Armenia and Azerbaijan?
On December 8, Andranik Kocharyan from My Step made a provocative speech in the parliament arguing that Armenia should try to establish dialogue with Azerbaijan and not delay attempts to establish diplomatic relations with Azerbaijan. That was only a few days before the military parade in Baku where Aliyev claimed that not only Karabakh, but also Zangezur, Sevan, and even Yerevan are historical Azerbaijani lands.
Is this likely to happen?
That concludes our program for This week’s Groong Week in Review. We hope it has helped your understanding of some of the current issues. We look forward to your feedback, and even your suggestions for issues to cover in greater depth. Contact us on our website, at groong.org, or on our Facebook Page “ANN - Groong”, or in our Facebook Group “Groong - Armenian News Network”.
Special thanks to Laura Osborn for providing the music for our podcast. On behalf of everyone in this episode, we wish you a good week. Thank you for listening and we’ll talk to you next week.
OSCE Minsk Group, Sotq Mine, Border Demarcation, Diplomatic Relations, Emil Sanamyan, Pietro Shakarian, Hadrut
Additional: Armenia, Nagorno Karabakh, Artsakh, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Hin Tagher, Mt. Dizapayt, Khtsaberd, Mets Shen, Hin Shen, Mane Gevorgyan, Ilham Aliyev, Nikol Pashinyan, Baku Parade, Enver Pasha, Nuri Pasha, Shushi, Tigran Avinyan, Andranik Kocharyan, Zangezur, Sevan, Yerevan