● Arthur Khachikyan
Hello, and welcome to the Armenian News Network, Groong, Week in Review. This show was recorded on Sunday, August 28, 2022.
Here are the major topics we’ll touch on today:
● Opposition movement restarts - Edgar Ghazaryan
● Berdzor and Aghavno Handover
● Is a “Peace Plan” coming?
● Mandatory Military Service
To talk about these issues, we have with us:
Dr. Arthur Khachikyan, who is an International Relations expert from Stanford University, specializing in Intervention. He currently teaches at the Russian Armenian University in Yerevan.
In early August, the resistance movement, which is led mainly by the parliamentary opposition, Hayastan and I have Honor factions, declared a temporary moratorium on their street protests citing mainly the need to build up an infrastructure that will help institutionalize the movement. They announced last week that their next major protest is on September 2.
In the meantime, Edgar Ghazaryan, Armenia’s former ambassador to Poland and former Chief of Staff at the Constitutional Court declared a new, apparently independent effort aptly titled “The Independence Movement’, to unseat Pashinyan. Ghazaryan and people in the Hamakhmbum (Consolidation) movement, which is associated with 5165, have been generally supportive of the resistance movement and Ghazaryan, as well as Avetik Chalabyan, who is also part of “Hamakhmbum”, have participated in many of the past protests.
Ghazaryan’s self-organized protest rally on August 23 drew thousands of people. The symbolic date chosen by Edgar Ghazaryan for his protest, is the date of Armenia’s declaration of independence from the USSR in 1990. We spoke at length with Ghazaryan about his plans and about the significance of August 23 and Armenia’s declaration of independence. Look up episode No. 159 for our interview with Mr. Ghazaryan (in Armenian).
● What do you think about the movement so far and the new initiative by Edgar Ghazaryan.
It seems that Ghazaryan is relying on the procedure of impeachment to remove Pashinyan. The parliamentary opposition also has spoken about this potential move, but they have also warned that they will not support the move until they have confidence that it would succeed. In order to successfully impeach, of course, you need many Civil Contract MPs to jump ship.
● How realistic do you think this scenario is?
On August 25, the last Armenians evacuated from Berdzor and Aghavno. It took less than a day for Azerbaijani armed units to demonstratively fill up those villages with military equipment. The streets of Aghavno were full of Azerbaijani military hardware, lined up nose-to-tail. Azerbaijani flags raised, soldiers taking selfies on top of armored vehicles. The Russian peacekeepers informed us that they will fully move to the new (in quotes) “Lachin corridor” beginning September 1st. The new corridor itself is just temporary, until a more permanent road is completed on the Armenian side, while the Azeri side is already complete.
It seems that the authorities in Armenia and Artsakh are either supportive or had already accepted the inevitability of losing Berdzor and Aghavno. Even the opposition, despite issuing complaints, didn’t seem to accept this as a life and death issue, accepting the loss, since Pashinyan is still in control.
● Is there anything Armenians could have done to avoid this scenario?
Major meetings on Artsakh seem to be in the works between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the coming weeks. As we reported last week, there have been intensive contacts between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the lead-up. This last week (on Thursday, August 25) Pashinyan again had a telephone call with Putin.
Interestingly, both Brussels and Moscow seem to be in play as venues for these meetings. Based on what we know, on August 30-31 the deputy PMs will meet in Moscow in a trilateral format, while Aliyev and Pashinyan will meet in Brussels. Initially, the Aliyev-Pashinyan meeting was scheduled for Moscow as well, but the plan appears to have changed at the last minute.
For the Brussels meeting, Hikmet Hajiyev, assistant to Ilham Aliyev, said that Azerbaijan hopes to reach an agreement with Armenia on establishing a committee that will draft a so-called “peace agreement”. The Armenian side is silent on the agenda of both meetings.
● We know a little about what at least Azerbaijan wants to achieve in Brussels. But what is the agenda of the meeting in Moscow? Any more details on both meetings?
● Any idea why the meeting between Pashinyan and Aliyev was initially rumored to be in Moscow, with Putin, and then was switched to Brussels, with Michel, at the last minute?
One interesting development over the past two days was Phil Reeker’s appointment by the US as its special rep for the South Caucasus, and its co-chair for the OSCE MG. The stated goal is to find a long-term political settlement to the Nagorno Karabakh status issue. This did not please Azerbaijan. In addition, the US and France have turned down recent offers to visit Shushi.
● What is the West thinking, in this move?
There are reports that a law is circulating that will allow those who do not wish to serve in the army to pay $50,000, and get out of it. Such alternatives to military service have been considered before, but Armenia has never been weaker than it is now, since it gained its independence.
● Is this a wise, or even reasonable thing to consider at this point in history?
● What is the current government thinking?
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.
Arthur Khachikyan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, South Caucasus, Turkey, Russia, Communication channels, Corridors, Borders, Peace Negotiations, EU, European Union,