Hello and welcome to the Armenian News Network, Groong,
In this Conversations on Groong episode, we’ll be talking about Armenia’s prospects for peace after the 44-day War in Artsakh a year ago.
This episode was recorded on Monday, October 18, 2021.
The 44-day War in Artsakh ended with Armenia signing a document of capitulation in November of 2020. The three signatories, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia, agreed to implement a number of points to maintain the ceasefire, and work towards a longer lasting peace deal in the region.
In the past month a flurry of diplomatic
activity has risen around Armenia. The top diplomats from neighboring
countries, regional and global powers have met with Armenia’s top leadership to
discuss the shifting geopolitics reshaping the South Caucasus politically and
economically for the coming decades. How is Armenia’s diplomacy navigating the
“Corridor Politics”, and what are the prospects for a peaceful neighborhood?
To discuss Armenia’s diplomacy and corridor politics, we have with us:
Varuzhan Geghamyan, who is an assistant professor at Yerevan State University and teaches on Turkey’s modern history and the history of Azerbaijan.
On Wednesday, October 12, India’s External Affairs Minister Subramanyam Jaishankar visited Armenia, where he met with PM Pashinyan, FM Mirzoyan and Parliament president Alen Simonyan. This was a first-ever high-level visit by an Indian minister to Armenia. Beyond Jaishankar’s visits to Tsitsernakaberd, and Cultural gestures and expressions, the diplomats discussed significant geopolitical projects involving Armenia in the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) project from India, through Iran, Armenia, Georgia, and beyond.
The two countries have traditionally friendly ties. There are over 3,000 Indian students in Armenian universities, and Armenia supports India’s candidacy for permanent membership in the UNSC.
The timing of this visit and the fact that it is the first such visit in the history of independent Armenia, seems very conspicuous, coming right after the recent Iran-Azerbaijan tensions and in the midst of talk of “corridors” through Armenia. Was this meeting in response to regional geopolitical developments?
● India’s geopolitical interests in Armenia are interesting and complex. Was this visit a success in cementing closer political and economic relations between the two countries?
● What is Iran’s role and stake in this relationship? How is it promoting it?
● Much is being said about Iran’s Chabahar port, on its coast on the Indian Ocean. What is the significance of this port in the North-South route?
● How do Azerbaijan and Turkey look upon this relationship?
● How does Russia feel about stronger Armenian relations with Iran and India specifically?
○ Looking at the chronology of events, the Pashinyan-Putin meeting was announced a day after the Indian announcement. Was the Armenian government’s PR commensurate with the level of importance shown by Jaishankar?
● Does China view the INSTC - North-South Corridor, in light of its own Belt & Road Initiative? Do these international projects compete, or do they complement each other? Is Armenia more likely to benefit from these projects, or end up in the middle of yet another superpower proxy competition?
We were talking with Pietro Shakarian and Benyamin Poghosyan a couple of weeks ago, and we touched upon the so-called “Zangezur Corridor” that Aliyev talks about all the time. The consensus was that, at least for the time being, Aliyev’s definition of a “corridor” is unfettered access through Armenian territory between Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan. This means visa-free, customs-free, inspection-free access for people and goods through Syunik, Gegharkunik, etc.
In exchange Armenia would get similar access to Russia and Iran through Azerbaijani territories.
This of course is part of implementing Point 9, of the November Agreement. What are your thoughts about connecting Azerbaijan with Nakhichevan and on to Turkey?
Azerbaijan’s definition for peace begins with a process to determine and recognize its borders with Armenia, including an explicit recognition of Artsakh as Azerbaijani territory.
Let me ask you in general terms: What are Armenia’s prospects for peace with Azerbaijan? We’ll ask later about the prospects for war.
The 44-day War in Artsakh left Armenia in a very weak negotiating position vis-à-vis Azerbaijan and as a result the November agreement committed Armenia to a number of very painful concessions and depending on how Armenia’s government conducts its negotiations and implements the requirements in the Agreement, there’s risk to the long term sovereignty of Armenia, especially given that Aliyev has proven to be negotiating not in good faith.
For example, Pashinyan’s immediate release of all Azeri prisoners before Aliyev reneged on his obligation, caused a year-long and continuing pain to thousands of families who lost their loved ones in the war. Meanwhile, Aliyev has forced Pashinyan into further concessions for the return of more POWs, which were not in the November Agreement. This, of course, has created a deep lack of trust towards the current Armenian government regardless of the June elections, and Pashinyan’s claims that the domestic situation has been resolved.
Does this government have the resources to negotiate for Armenia’s best interests?
Economic, human, talent, diplomatic, military, and other resources.
That concludes this Conversations On Groong episode, and we hope you found it helpful. As always, we invite your feedback, 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 soon.
Varuzhan Geghamyan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkey, East-West Corridor, North-SOuth Corridor, Syunik, Zangezur Corridor, November Agreement, Economy, 44-day war, Artsakh, Nagorno Karabakh, India, Subramanyam Jaishankar, International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC). Nikol Pashinyan, Ararat Mirzoyan, Foreign Minister, External Affairs Minister,