Hello, and welcome to the Armenian News Network, Groong, Week in Review. We are recording this show on November 28th, 2021.
Today we’ll be talking about the following major topics:
● Pashinyan Live on Facebook
● Trilateral in Sochi, Bilateral in Brussels
● Turkish-Armenian “Normalization”
● Russian-Turkish “Co-opetition” in Eurasia
To talk about these issues, we have with us:
Hrant Mikaelian, a political scientist and multidisciplinary researcher in social sciences based in Yerevan. He is also a senior researcher at the Caucasus Institute.
Yeghia Tashjian, who is a regional analyst and researcher based in Beirut, with expertise in China, Iran and the Persian Gulf. Tashjian is Associate Fellow at the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut, and hosts a monthly radio program called “Turkey Today”.
Earlier this week on Tuesday, prior to his trip to Sochi, Prime Minister Pashinyan gave a lengthy pre-recorded interview. The questions for this interview were pre-selected from the media a day earlier. The media for the rest of the week was mainly dominated by reactions to this interview and the trilateral meeting in Sochi that was scheduled for later in the week.
Impressions? Takeaways? What was noteworthy, what did we learn from it?
Two days ago on November 26, prime minister Pashinyan, and presidents Putin & Aliyev met in Sochi. This seems to have been the meeting the three countries were preparing for and had originally planned for Nov. 9, but then suddenly Pashinyan remembered that was the anniversary of his crushing defeat a year ago and postponed it.
The absolutely idiotic idea to plan the meeting for Nov 9/10, then postponing it cost a dozen soldiers on both sides their lives, and 23 Armenian POWs being taken by Azerbaijan in the November 15-16 mini-war, and we’re not even talking about the Shushi incident and 3 Armenians killed; the additional Azeri checkpoints on the Goris-Kapan and Kapan-Chakaten highways. BTW, since May 12, 2021 Azerbaijan now controls nearly 100 sq. km inside “Armenia proper” (according to Nagorno Karabakh Observer).
So they held the meeting, and we’ve read a lot of statements. What was the outcome?
What about the timing of the meeting, ahead of the one in Brussels? Is Russia basically carving out and staking a claim on the issue of demarcation & delimitation but deferring the resolution of other issues to other formats?
Possible follow-up and discussion:
● Mutual recognition?
○ On an earlier episode of our podcast, Arthur Martirosyan mentioned that demarcation and delimitation might presuppose the establishment of diplomatic relations (or even a peace agreement)? Should we expect something of this nature also agreed upon before the start of D&D?
○ It seems that the parties are interested in beginning the process, but would it be correct to say that the actual process will be lengthy and measured in decades (similar to other demarcation & delimitation processes)?
● Artsakh Status
○ Nothing was uttered about the status of Nagorno Karabakh (Artsakh), not even by Pashinyan.
○ Many fear that by agreeing to recognize Azerbaijan’s borders, the fate of Artsakh’s status inside Azerbaijan will be sealed. Is this what we’re headed for or can Pashinyan avoid such a scenario? Does he want to?
● There was nothing in the document about our prisoners.
○ The Geneva convention prohibits the use of prisoners in bargaining, yet many are claiming that this is exactly what Armenia is acquiescing to. Why?
○ Do you think they’re planning to talk about it in Brussels (mentioned by Andranik Kocharyan)? If so, why?
● The Lachin corridor
● The Lavrov plan in mid-stream of realization
● Pashinyan’s “ground zero” for negotiations
There was much noise in the last two weeks in the wake of Pashinyan postponing the Sochi meeting, that Moscow’s mediation had failed, and when a proposal by the EU for the prime minister and president Aliyev to meet in Brussels was accepted, there was an impression that the West was upstaging Russia.
However, Pashinyan and Aliyev were already going to be basically in the same room, at the EU Eastern Partnership summit on December 15 in Brussels. The EU invitation for a bilateral meeting on the sideline seems somewhat opportunistic, especially considering that there have been hardly any preparations for it.
Pashinyan mentioned in his Facebook live address that the meeting in Brussels will be focused on humanitarian and POW issues.
Are the two meetings complimentary, or competitive in agenda? Why couldn’t the humanitarian issues also be on the table in Sochi, for example?
Could Brussels be an attempt to secure the West a small share in the post-war conflict resolution process?
● What outcomes can we expect from Brussels?
● What leverage does The West, - the US and the EU, - have to mediate with results? And what is even the scope of their involvement?
● One of the core principles of the Eastern Partnership process in the EU is the non-use of force. Will Armenia find the strength to bring up Azerbaijan’s use of force at the summit?
As we know, in the past couple of months Armenia has been sending signals to Turkey that it wants to “normalize” relations with it unconditionally. At every step, Turkey has put more conditions for Armenia to satisfy before Turkey will talk about “normalization”. So this past week Armenia officially requested Russia’s help to mediate in “normalization” talks. Russia has been stating for some time that they’re ready to facilitate such talks.
Hrant: First of all, do you have any idea what Armenia means by “normalization” of ties with Turkey? What does “normalization” mean to Turkey?
Yeghia: You’re a diaspora Armenian, so I’m very interested to hear, and compare and contrast your impressions to the same question: What does “normalization” mean to Armenia? To Turkey? And of course, to the Armenian Diaspora?
What does Russia bring to the table? How can Russia help mediate, or “normalize” ties between Armenia and Turkey?
OK, Yeghia, we’re going to turn to your article published in The Armenian Weekly this past week, analyzing the Russian-Turkish relations across a wide arc from North Africa to the Middle East and to the South Caucasus. These various relationships can be considered conflicts, co-operations, collaborations, competitions, and in fact you use a new term called “Co-opetition” to describe them.
Where does this term come from, and why does it describe the wide range of relationships between Russia and Turkey across the map?
What drives the evolution of these relations from flat out conflict and war, to more of a competition and then sometimes to a collaboration? What are the external forces that these co-opetitions are trying to manage or keep at bay? (Taking examples of the cases in Libya, Syria, Artsakh and Ukraine)
Turning our attention to this co-opetition evolving in the South Caucasus, we’ve seen it go from the 44-day war in Artsakh, to a lot of post-war elbow-shuffling to gain a “peacekeeping” role in and around Artsakh, and finally now to the so-called “3+3 regional security platform” where Russia and Turkey appear to be in general agreement. How can Armenia, or any small country, navigate through stormy co-opetitions between regional rivals?
That was our Week in Review show, and we hope it helped you catch up with some of the issues in and around Armenia from this past week. As always, we invite your feedback and your suggestions. You can find us on most social media and podcast platforms, or our website Groong.org.
Thanks to Laura Osborn for the music on our podcasts. Don’t forget to subscribe to our channel on Youtube, Like our pages and follow us on social media. On behalf of everyone in this episode, we wish you a good week, thanks for listening and we’ll talk to you next week.
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Hrant Mikaelian, Yeghia Tashjian, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Nagorno Karabakh, Artsakh, Georgia, South Caucasus, Turkey, Russia, Iran, Adjaria, Batumi, Syunik, Turkish-Armenian Normalization, Reconciliation, Genocide Recognition, Co-opetition, Communication channels, Corridors, Borders, Peace Negotiations, EU, European Union, Erdogan, Vladimir Putin,