Hello, and welcome to the Armenian News Network, Groong, Week in Review. I’m Asbed Bedrossian and this week we’re going to talk about the following major topics:
● Road to Syunik Blocked and Unblocked
● 5-Year Plan Approved
● Parliamentary Dynamics
To talk about these issues, I’m joined by:
Benyamin Poghosyan, who is the Chairman of the Yerevan based think tank Center for Political and Economic Strategic Studies, He was deputy director of the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the Ministry of Defense from 2010 to 2016 and the Vice President for Research, at the National Defense Research University from 2016 to 2019.
Late at night on August 25, Azerbaijan blocked the highway that links Goris to Kapan, and therefore the southern province of Syunik to the rest of Armenia. A 21-kilometer stretch of this highway passes through the territory of the old Soviet republic of Azerbaijan and now has gone under Azeri control since the 44-day war. So Azerbaijan’s forces blocked the highway along this stretch, essentially stopping traffic and transportation between Iran and Armenia.
After 2 days of what the government called negotiations, Azerbaijan unblocked the highway.
The pretext for this event was that allegedly an Azeri border guard was stabbed by Armenians.
Why did they block, and then unblock? Was this just a show of force, or did they want something in return?
● Iran immediately sounded off to its neighbors to reach a peaceful solution.
○ The deep vulnerability of Syunik, trade with Iran, and Armenia’s ongoing state of national insecurity is a clear concern for Iran, almost more than to the Armenian government. What is giving this government any level of confidence in its future security, in the middle of this geopolitical mess? How is Iran adjusting to this new, insecure “normal”?
● PM Pashinyan said: “reopening of the road in the Eyvazli and Chaizami sections can be a very good symbol of regional stability”. The Azerbaijani press picked this up right away that Pashinyan is talking in Azeri terminology for the region.
○ How can Azerbaijan’s ability to disrupt Armenia's economy on a whim any show of regional stability?
● Armenia’s ombudsman Tatoyan received a stream of calls from area residents. He continues to be a highly respected and trusted public figure. I want to note again how highly appreciated he is.
○ Wil Tatoyan enter politics at some point?
● In many of the videos we can see that the region’s roads to the villages are all unpaved, in poor condition everywhere: Shurnukh, Vorotan, everywhere. Why hasn’t this critical infrastructure to connect the country materialized over the years?
After 3 days of so-called “debate” in the national assembly, the parliament passed the government’s 5-year plan along a deeply partisan line vote, 70-0. Only Civil Contract MPs voted for the plan. We’re going to talk about the events in the parliament in a moment, but for right now let’s focus on the 5-year plan, which we also covered last week. For the sake of brevity I won’t read all the points, but I’ll duplicate them for our listeners in the show notes and we’ll provide the link on our pages.
Here is the government’s 5-year plan’s top ideas:
● Reforming the armed forces to secure the nation
● Active and proactive foreign policy
● Strategic alliance with Russia and the CSTO
● Working with the OSCE to determine a status for Nagorno-Karabakh, that’s Artsakh
● Opening regional infrastructures to enhance stable regional environment
● What is an “active and proactive” foreign policy? What must happen?
● What military reforms are crucial? Are the high-level strategic requirements from the Defense Minister necessary and sufficient for success?
1. Buy modern weaponry only
2. Grow a domestic production of modern weaponry
3. Eliminate middlemen in the defense procurement process, between the ministry and the vendors.
Going back to the so-called “debate” in the parliament earlier this past week, we’ve all seen the videos and news coverage of the scuffles breaking out over the course of two days, MPs hitting each other, throwing bottles of water at each other, security forces dragging out MP Anna Mkrtchyan, etc.
What were your impressions as you watched this coverage?
● There is the Interpersonal dimension to the relationships between these MPs: it really looks like they despise each other, and I am not optimistic about this parliament coming to compromise solutions for the sake of the Armenian people.
○ How representative are the MPs of all of the regions of Armenia, from Lori to Syunik? Is every community truly represented in this parliament?
○ Is there, for example, an MP who represents Spitak and looks out for its interests and its people?
● Speaker Alen Simonyan was shutting down MP Mkrtchyan for her statements.
○ Should the opportunity of expression allotted to the MPs be based more on time, than the views expressed? For example, give each MP a few minutes, and they can speak whatever they deem to be for the benefit of the community they represent. But should they be shut down because the speaker does not approve of their views?
● Speaker Simonyan blocked coverage of parliament events by the press
○ We discussed this last week as well, and all of us on the podcast have deep concerns about stunting Armenian press from covering the parliamentary events, regardless of what’s going on there. The arbitrary rules are there on the pretext of security, but in reality they protect the ruling party from inquisitive press, and erode democracy. What do you think about these new press rules?
That concludes our program for This Week in Review episode. We hope it has helped your understanding of some of the issues from the previous week. We look forward to your feedback, and 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. Don’t forget to subscribe to our channels, Like our pages and follow us on social media. Thanks for listening and we’ll talk to you next week.
Benyamin Poghosyan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, South Caucasus, Turkey, Russia, Communication channels, Corridors, Borders, Peace Negotiations, 5-year plan, Rearming, Military reform, Press Freedoms, Politics, Military Procurement, JCPOA, United States, Iran, Iranian Gas, LNG, Pipelines, EU, European Union,