Hello, and welcome to the Armenian News Network, Groong, Week in Review. This show was recorded on November 1, 2022.
Here are the major topics we’ll touch on today:
● Stepanakert rally
● Sullivan Plan
● CSTO Security Council
● Trilateral Summit in Sochi
● From Sochi to Tehran
To talk about these issues, we have with us:
Benyamin Poghosyan, who is the Chairman of the Yerevan based think tank Center for Political and Economic Strategic Studies.
On Sunday, in the lead-up to the October 31 meeting in Sochi, and while Artsakh president Arayik Harutyunyan was also in Moscow, there was probably the largest demonstration rally in Stepanakert since the independence movement began in 1988, an estimated 40,000 Artsakh citizens flooded the main city square to demand that Artsakh’s independence and sovereignty not be compromised through any deals that the government of Armenia signs with Azerbaijan.
Artsakh’s parliament also convened on Sunday, and adopted a declaration that affirms its independence and rejects Armenia’s ruling party, Civil Contract’s policy to de-prioritize Artsakh’s independence. Essentially this is a rejection of the “lower the bar” paradigm that Pashinyan’s been pushing since last April due to pressure from the so-called “international community”.
● Hovik, you were at the rally. What was the experience there?
● What was the purpose of the rally and what was the outcome?
Coinciding with the rally in Stepanakert, the Armenian opposition announced a rally in Yerevan on Saturday, Nov 5.
Before we talk about the ongoing issues related to Azerbaijan, let’s talk explicitly about the relationship between Armenia and its strategic ally Russia as I think it’ll be an important backdrop for everything else.
On Friday, the CSTO Security Council met to consider measures to support Armenia in its conflict with Azerbaijan. The emergency meeting was initiated by Pashinyan.
Reportedly Pashinyan had two demands of the CSTO:
Neither of these demands were met, as it became clear that individual CSTO member states have valuable bilateral ties with Azerbaijan which they do not wish to harm. Uniquely outspoken was Belarus president Lukashenko, who said that Azerbaijan was headed by “absolutely our man, Ilham Aliyev” and that “huge ties” with Azerbaijan could not be ignored.
There’s always a need to get people on the record. But the meeting clarified that the CSTO is not ready to help Armenia against Azerbaijan.
● Has this been a diplomatic failure for Armenia? Was the move to call this emergency CSTO security council meeting wrong?
Among other things in this political sparring which we mentioned a moment ago is the banning of Russian officials from Armenia. For example, long-time Armenian supporter and first deputy chairman of a committee in the State Duma, Konstantin Zatulin; and also editor in chief of Russia Today (RT), ethnic Armenian Margarita Simonyan.
● Was this petty politics or are there further messages intended with banning Zatulin and Simonyan?
In light of the signing of a partial or interim trilateral statement in Sochi, we want to also help paint a backdrop of how Russia’s competitors in the West think the Artsakh conflict should be solved.
At the end of September Aliyev’s foreign policy advisor Hikmet Hajiyev and Armenian National Security chair Armen Grigoryan met in DC. Some details of what was discussed or agreed upon were leaked on Telegram, but it was all unconfirmed.
In his speech at the latest Valdai club meeting president Putin explicitly claimed that the US brokered deal requires that Armenia recognize the sovereignty of Azerbaijan over Nagorno Karabakh, apparently referring to this leaked document, however despite Edmon Marukyan’s statement that there is no such thing as a “Washington variant” Pashinyan himself admitted during his party’s annual congress that there are Western and Russian interpretations.
● What does the so-called “Sullivan plan” entail? What is the US offering the warring sides?
○ Is it “time-bound”?
○ Is there anything about the status of Artsakh?
○ How much is the EU on-board? We know they’ve agreed to monitors for a period of time, and we’ve already discussed that the timeline for the mission deliberately coincides with Azerbaijan’s deadline to sign an agreement by the end of calendar year 2022.
● Now that there are a couple of variant proposals for an Armenian-Azerbaijani agreement, we’re referring to the Sullivan Plan and the Putin Plan (which is the so-called Trilateral Agreement of November 2020, etc) is this providing Armenia with some wiggle room to leverage the greater powers, and make the lesser bad option less bad?
Meanwhile, Putin arranged a summit with Aliyev and Pashinyan in Sochi, which happened yesterday, October 31. Prior to the trilateral summit, Putin met with Pashinyan and Aliyev in a bilateral format. After the trilateral summit a statement was published.
● By Putin’s own admission, not all issues were agreed upon, what do you think were those outstanding issues?
The statement is heavy on territorial integrity and inviolability of borders, but there’s no word on the self-determination of people. It also put an equal sign between unresolved security and humanitarian issues (including our POWs still in Baku). Even the name “Karabakh” is avoided as a location and referred to Artsakh as the “zone where peacekeepers are stationed”.
● Two questions arise:
○ 1. What about Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh? And
○ 2. Does this mean Azerbaijan de-occupies Armenian territories it has invaded since the 44-day war?
In other news, only yesterday IRNA reported that Pashinyan will visit Iran on Tuesday, November 1, and meet with Raisi!
On the Armenian side, Pashinyan said that he told Raisi what they talked about in Sochi. Raisi on his part said that the meeting is a breakthrough for relations between the two countries and the region. Raisi also messaged that regional problems should be solved by regional players and not outsiders. Some analysts interpret this as a shot across the bow at the EU and potentially OSCE observer missions.
One objective announcement from this meeting was that Iranian companies will take part in construction of the Kajaran tunnel, part of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC).:
● Was this meeting planned? What was the reason for Raisi’s short-notice invite?
● Granted, the Kajaran tunnel is only part of the road, but in the past you’ve been pessimistic on the importance of the North-South corridor and availability of investment to push this project through. What is your assessment about the news on INSTC and other economic announcements?
That was our Week in Review and we hope you found it helpful. We invite your feedback and your suggestions. Don’t forget to find us and subscribe to our channel on YouTube, Follow us on Twitter, and Like our Facebook page.
Thanks to Laura Osborn for the music on our podcasts. On behalf of everyone in this episode, we thank you for listening. Stay well, we’ll be back next week.
Benyamin Poghosyan, Armenia, Artsakh, Nagorno Karabakh, Azerbaijan, South Caucasus, Lavrov Plan, Sullivan Plan, Sergei Lavrov, Jake Sullivan, USA, State Department, CSTO, CIS, EU, European Union, Vladimir Putin, Ilham Aliyev, Nikol Pashinyan, Security Council, Borders, November Agreement, Peace Negotiations, Syunik, Zangezur, Corridors, Transportation Links,