Hello, and welcome to the Armenian News Network, Groong, Week in Review. This show was recorded over the weekend, today is Monday, September 5, 2022.
Here are the major topics we’ll touch on today:
● September 2: Artsakh Independence Day
● Developments in Geopolitics
● “Normalization” with Turkey
● Remembering Mikhail Gorbachev
To analyze the developing geopolitical landscape, we have with us:
Benyamin Poghosyan, who is the Chairman of the Yerevan based think tank Center for Political and Economic Strategic Studies,
31 years ago on September 2, the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh declared independence from the USSR. It was the initial step by the Supreme Council of Karabakh, which was then ratified on December 2 in a public referendum. While normally this would be a festive date since the war in 2020 this date has become yet another one to remember our fallen heroes and the events of the recent years.
Both in Yerevan and Stepanakert there were political protests against the policies of Nikol Pashinyan and Arayik Harutyunyan by extension. The Yerevan protest was the long-awaited reboot of the resistance movement.
Hovik, can you tell us briefly what took place? Did the titular opposition heed Edgar Ghazaryan’s call to start impeachment proceedings?
There were two major meetings this week between Armenia and Azerbaijan. On August 30, the deputy PMs met in Moscow, then on August 31, Pashinyan and Aliyev met in Brussels.
First, let’s talk about Moscow. The deputy prime ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan, Mher Grigoryan and Shahin Mustafayev, held a border demarcation commission meeting in Moscow, together with Russian deputy PM Alexei Overchuk on August 30th. While Armenia earlier initially rejected this process until Azerbaijan withdrew its forces from Armenian territory, they changed their story to “no preconditions” and agreed to start this process. Now the process is expected to take “a very long time”, according to Civil Contract parliamentarian Vigen Khachatryan.
The opposition fears that, the same as the so-called peace negotiations, the government is engaging in this process from a position of weakness, ready to concede Armenian sovereign territory in exchange for moving the process forward to Azerbaijan’s advantage.
● The only agreement in the Armenian MFA’s announcement was to hold a subsequent meeting. Is there any tangible outcome from this process?
● What is the outlook of this “border demarcation and delimitation” process?
Note: here is the Russian announcement reporting on the meeting.
The day after the Armenian and Azerbaijan border commissions met in Moscow, the two countries held a summit in Brussels. This was the third meeting in 2022 between PM Pashinyan and President Aliyev under the auspices of EU co-president Charles Michel, who released a statement to report on the meeting.
Again, it’s hard to discern what tangible results were achieved.
● What were the outcomes from this summit?
One note in the reports said that there was agreement to move the next Border commissions meeting to Brussels. In addition, the next meeting between Aliyev and Pashinyan will also be in Brussels, in November.
Russia mocked the Brussels meetings and their effectiveness, saying deputy PM Overchuk’s border commission meetings with the Armenian and Azerbaijani deputy PMs has achieved more than the Michel summits.
● This agreement to move the border commission meeting to Brussels, is it a win for the EU and a slap at Russia, or is it nothing?
○ Note: Edgar Ghazaryan says this is another indication that Russia is being sidelined in that process as well.
Recently Turkish FM Cavusoglu said that Turkey may engage in dialogue with Syria without preconditions.
● In the constant cooperation and competition between Russia and Turkey across multiple fronts, including the Middle East and the South Caucasus, is this announcement a net-positive, or a negative?
● Mikael Arzumanyan arrested
○ Michael Arzumanyan was appointed as commander of the Artsakh Defense Forces at the end of October, when the war was well in its course, after Jalal Harutyunyan was injured.
○ In 2021, he resigned his position in 2021 after his decision to set up a passport control checkpoint for Azerbaijanis using Artsakh roads did not go that well with Artsakh leadership.
○ A day before the Brussels meeting, arrested on his way to Yerevan, in Armenia.
○ Accused of negligence that caused the loss of Shushi. The following day, an additional charge of commanding Armenian forces to withdraw from Shushi.
○ In the past, Nikol Pashinyan has separately accused Arthur Vanetsyan, Manvel Grigoryan, and even Seyran Ohanian of losing Shushi. Now we have Michael Arzumanyan who was appointed as commander of the Artsakh Defense Forces at the end of October, when the war was well in its course.
○ Currently, Arzumanyan is chief advisor to Artsakh’s President, Arayik Harutyunyan.
○ How does this bode for Yerevan-Stepanakert relations?
○ How about respect for independence/respect for Artsakh (Armenia could’ve requested Artsakh authorities to arrest him and extradite him)
● Charges filed against Jalal Harutyunyan
Let’s briefly touch on one of our favorite topics of 2022: the Turkish Armenian so-called Normalization process.
We have with us
Prof. Vahram Ter-Matevosyan, who is an associate Professor and Chair of the Political Science and International Affairs Program at the AUA. His research interests focus on Turkish politics, Kemalism, Political Islam & Security in the South Caucasus.
There were reports both from Turkey and Azerbaijan that the 5th meeting of the special representatives is set for September. But Armenia did not confirm this.
In other articles on the topic, it was reported that Rubinyan and Kiliç have apparently talked over 500 times in 2022; and that Kiliç is now insisting that the next meeting must happen either in Turkey or Armenia.
Meanwhile, as far as we know, the border has not yet been opened for anyone, including citizens of third, fourth, or fifth countries.
● What is the current status of the discussions, and what do you think are the main points of discussion, and/or contention?
● Why is Turkey pressing to meet only in Turkey or in Armenia?
Turkish officials at the highest level have now tied the normalization process to the Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations, specifically Turkey seems to be saying that Azerbaijan has the power of veto over the process and the implication is that the process won’t reach fruition until Azerbaijani demands from Armenia are satisfied.
● So: at what point will this talk of “no preconditions” become a farce impossible to hide? How long will Armenians choose to believe in Turkey’s fake sincerity? Or, in other terms we could ask: what’s in it for Armenia? Why does the Armenian government continue with this process?
● Does this process contain anything positive for Armenia?
○ Besides the fact that Kiliç reportedly sent condolences to Rubinyan about Surmalu. Maybe we should concede Historic Armenia and start calling the Armenian Genocide “the tragic losses during the first world war” in exchange for those condolences…
● Is “Normalization” simply a different term for “Capitulation” on the western front?
As a final topic, we had an opportunity to ask both Vahram Ter-Matevosyan and Ara Sanjian for their views and remembrance about Mikhail Gorbachev, who passed away this past week at the age of 91.
Mikhail Gorbachev, who served as the last leader of the Soviet Union from 1988 to 1991, died this past week on August 30th, at the age of 91.
We had the opportunity for a quick conversation with
Professor Ara Sanjian, who is an Associate Professor of History and the Director of the Armenian Research Center at University of Michigan, Dearborn, about this.
Gorbachev was in charge when a number of momentous events in the life of the Armenian Soviet Republic happened: the earthquake in 1988, for one; the Karabakh Liberation Movement; the pogroms against Armenians in the Azerbaijani Soviet Republic, and more.
● Both as a historian, as well as a student and researcher in Armenia during those times, how do you remember Gorbachev’s time in leadership and the fall of the Soviet Union?
● How do you assess his leadership and decisions about Nagorno Karabakh, Armenians in Azerbaijan, specifically in Sumgait and Baku?
We also asked Prof. Ter-Matevosyan for his recollections of the Gorbachev years.
All right, that’s our show, we hope you found that useful. Please find us on social network and follow us on Twitter and YouTube, Facebook, etc. The links are on our Linktree page, in our show notes. Thanks for listening, we’ll talk to you next week!
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.
Benyamin Poghosyan, Ara Sanjian, Vahram Ter-Matevosyan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, South Caucasus, Turkey, Russia, Mevlut Cavusoglu, Syria, Iran, Middle East, Kurds, Kurdistan, Syrian Democratic Forces, Transport Links, Corridors, Borders, Peace Negotiations, Military reform, EU, European Union,