● Arthur Khachikyan
Hello, and welcome to the Armenian News Network, Groong, Week in Review.
I’m Hovik Manucharyan together with Asbed Bedrossian working to distill the week’s news in Armenia for you. This show was recorded on November 14, 2022.
We were told we were “winning”, #Հաղթելուենք they said, and all retreats were only tactical. Yet, something was off. Whether it was Arayik’s call to come defend Shushi, or the rumors of nighttime burials at Yerablur or whether it was Aliyev’ smug announcements one after another culminating with the announcement that Shushi had fallen.
On November 9, 2020, the entire worldwide Armenian community was glued to the internet to make sense of the conflicting news about Shushi. Then, we heard from Pashinyan, who said that “fights around Shushi are continuing”. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief! Then we saw an image of Samvel Babayan, with a worried look, standing alone outside the PM’s office at the Republic Square and not in Artsakh. And then, a mere hours after Pashinyan’s optimistic announcement, we heard that it was over.
Shock. Disbelief. Disgust. Grief. A rollercoaster of negative emotions.
For many Armenians, time has stopped and they’re living one long, never-ending November 10.
This week marked the second anniversary of the signing of the tripartite statement of November 10, 2020.
Here are the major topics we’ll touch on today:
● November 10 ceasefire
○ We’ll talk with our guests in Yerevan and Stepanakert about their perceptions of where we are in terms of ceasing fire, two years later.
● The peace is dead, long live the peace
○ We’ll talk about increased war-like rhetoric from Azerbaijan, threatening Armenia, Russia, Iran, and anyone else who comes to Armenia’s aid. With the pressure increasing and Aliyev’s two-month deadline approaching, we’ll investigate the possibility of renewed war.
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.
We also have a special guest from Stepanakert:
Gev Iskajyan, an ANC representative who will give us a perspective, and the views of Artsakhtsis on what Nov 10 means for them.
Arthur, as a diasporan who is currently in Yerevan, what does the Nov. 9/10, 2020, trilateral statement mean to you?
● Now putting your analyst hat on, can you briefly explain what Armenians did wrong in leading up to the war, and perhaps during the war itself?
● Was it a winnable war?
The Armenian political scene is dominated by reverberations from that war. Whether it is the Feb. 2021 demands for Pashinyan’s resignation by the general chief of staff, the elections in June 2021, the hectic search for historic maps of the region to see just when did those Azeri enclaves appear inside Armenia, the statements from Armenia’s leaders that we actually haven’t been arming the army for 2 years, that somehow the Armenians of Artsakh are different kinds of Armenians who should negotiate their own fate with Baku without guarantees or support from Armenia proper. The invasions of May ‘21, Nov. ‘21, and the horrendous war of September 2022, the bloodiest fighting since the “official” end of hostilities two years ago, where more than 200 Armenian souls perished.
Some of the basic and only hopeful things that this cease-fire was supposed to bring us, like our POWs or even, in fact, a cease of hostilities, are like a distant dream.
So now, 2 years later, we are apparently on the verge of signing yet another document, this one called a “peace treaty”. Before we go into that, which is actually the next section of our show tonight, let’s talk about the last two years.
Arthur, some Armenians simply say that “this is the hand we are dealt” and we must play it. Everything that is happening today is a result of our loss in the war.
● Do you believe Armenia’s post-war trajectory of reconstruction is the best we could do? What are some examples of successful post-war policy and some areas where you think that better choices existed for Armenia?
In other news this week, Nikol Pashinyan and Ilham Aliyev are battling it out in public statements, with Aliyev threatening Armenians, and Pashinyan accusing Aliyev of beating around the bush on the peace deal, and of preparing a genocide against the Armenians of Artsakh! Unfortunately, battle was waged with not just words. The regular cease-fire violations by Azerbaijan escalated and resulted in the wounding of an Armenian serviceman earlier this week.
Tensions really escalated this week with Aliyev’s speech in occupied Shushi, while the Armenian and Azerbaijani delegations were still in the air traveling back from Washington DC, last Tuesday. Aliyev’s speech was a doozy because it not only threatened Armenia but also Iran, almost explicitly, or anyone who would dare to come to Armenia’s aid for that matter.
On the Iran front, the backdrop was set by a month of escalatory rhetoric. Last week, both Iran and Azerbaijan recalled their respective ambassadors. In response to Iran’s recent overtures towards Armenia and the public reiteration of the integrity of Armenia proper being a “red line” for Iran, a number of political parties and organizations have been activated from their slumber in Baku. The Musavat party, for instance, is threatening to hold a protest action on November 15 in Baku.
In Shushi, Aliyev essentially said that he always gets what he wants and he wants a corridor. Aliyev proclaimed “we will achieve what we want, everyone knows this, and those who conduct military exercises in support of Armenia on our border should also know this. Nobody can scare us.”
This battle of words was also joined by State Department spokesperson Ned Price, who called Iran "a threat to the region." Some people would call Iran the main actor that’s stopping Aliyev from occupying all of Syunik now.
Meanwhile, Aliyev in a summit in Samarkand, publicly complained that “40 million Azerbaijanis” living outside Azerbaijan cannot learn their mother tongue.
● We all know a potential war is catastrophic for everyone in the region, so we have to assume that despite his oversized ego, Aliyev is rational or has rational advisors. But how far can this tension between Azerbaijan and Iran go? Do you think it might result in open warfare?
● How can the State Department call Iran a destabilizing force, when Tehran is probably the only thing making Aliyev think twice about starting a new war?
What was on the menu from Aliyev for Armenia and Russia? More threats of course. Aliyev’s rhetoric was the toughest to date, where he brought up several points:
● Said that the deadline for peacekeepers is mentioned in the November 2020 agreement (veiled threat that they won't renew their presence). This was accompanied by some pocket opposition groups in Baku holding protests against Russia’s peacekeeping operation.
● Said that they so far haven't touched cars going through Lachin but that their patience is not limitless (veiled threat that Azerbaijan will disrupt traffic unless they get a corridor). Earlier their media reported about arms traffic through Lachin.
● Can we now say that Aliyev did not like what took place in Sochi?
● What actually took place in Sochi and then in Washington DC?
The sides are trying to paint it as a continuation of the tripartite statement. But the Sochi declaration looks to have some key points strategically missing, when compared with the previous Prague declaration.
● Was Russia putting its foot down and re-taking the initiative in the Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations.
New cease-fire violations by Azerbaijan
● In addition to bellicose rhetoric, since the meeting in Sochi, increased occurrences of ceasefire violations by Azerbaijan.
● Nov 10 - Azerbaijani forces shot and wounded an Armenian soldier on the Eastern border of Armenia with Azerbaijan.
● Today, November 13, Arthakh’s Human Rights Ombudsman announced that for the 2nd time in a week Azerbaijan has fired at Khramort village, the latter time wounding a civilian.
Where are the EU monitors?!?!? The wounding of the Armenian soldier happened within Armenia’s borders and was supposed to be exactly the type of incident meant to be observed.
When asked about this on H1, Pashinyan said that the EU monitors aren’t there to monitor the cease fire, that their mission is much deeper.
However, the EU explicitly states ceasefire as one of their goals:
confidence-building between Armenia and Azerbaijan by monitoring the adherence
of both parties to the ceasefire;
2) through regular and ad-hoc reporting the EU team will monitor the situation on the Armenian side of the internationally recognised border between Armenia and Azerbaijan. This will allow the EU to better support the work of the two parties’ border commissions.“
In fact, it mentions the words cease fire 3 times and explicitly mentions that one of the mandates of the EUMM is to report on ceasefire violations
So why didn’t the monitors issue a statement and why did Nikol Pashinyan try to cover for them?
● Pashinyan’s speech on November 10
○ Unusually direct but 2 days late (or maybe 2 years late?)
○ Accused Aliyev of preparing for genocide in Artsakh
○ Repeated that Armenia has not agreed to give a sovereign corridor through Armenia and said that the route for a newly built road through Armenia must be based on agreements from both sides
○ Even brought up issue of POWs
● Pashinyan’s follow-up “Q&A” with H1
○ Said that if no guarantees are in place, then a war may start within 12 hours of signing the peace treaty. This is the first time he brings up the issue of guarantees, but didn’t he know this already?
○ Said that with Artsakh leadership's permission he has proposed that if Azerbaijan demilitarized around Artsakh then the Artsakh defense army may be downgraded
Despite all of the above, Pashinyan concluded his speech and interview by reminding Armenians that he’s committed to peace. “Long live the peace”.
● Where is Nikol’s promised era of peace?
○ If the situation is so dire, does this mean that he made all those concessions of land for naught? (e.g., verbal agreement to hand over Goris-Kapan highway)
● Last time Nikol was this “direct” with Aliyev, it seems that we had the 44-day war. How likely do you see the restart of large-scale fighting, with monitors who are supposed to be somewhere monitoring the border.
● Are you aware of what exactly Pashinyan offered to Aliyev in terms of demilitarization? What does “area surrounding Artsakh” mean? Can there be any guarantees for this?
● Speaking of guarantees, this was the first time this week that Pashinyan talked about guarantees, in the context of signing the so-called peace treaty. It looks like he’s talking about armed peacekeepers. How realistic is this scenario?
● Did it make sense to suggest to Aliyev to invite Turkish border guards?
Let’s provide some background for our listeners.
Pashinyan also said something odd that wasn’t covered in the press that much. In his address to the Civil Contract party during its annual congress and re-confirmed during this “interview” with H1. He said that one of the elements of the discussion around opening communications routes is which country’s border guards would be in charge over the Armenian portion.
He mentioned that Azerbaijan wants Russian border guards, and they don’t want to see any Armenians as they zip through their so-called “corridor” through Armenia. He said that this is against the principle of “parity” that has been agreed and if that is the case then Armenia should also demand not to see any Azerbaijanis as they go through Azerbaijan on its roads. He didn’t stop here though which would’ve been just great. He suggested that Azerbaijan could choose any third party (except Azerbaijanis) to guard the roads for Armenians. He said Azerbaijan could even ask Turkish border guards to guard the roads in Azerbaijan since Armenians have experience seeing Turkish border guards.
● Was this just an innocent gaffe, like his millions of other gaffes or a pot-shot at Russia?
With Gev Iskedjyan, recorded separately on November 14, 2022.
We’re here to learn how it feels to be in Artsakh, two years after the November 2020 trilateral statement.
● How are Artsakh citizens processing what has transpired over the last two years since the trilateral statement of Nov 9/10?
● Have refugees for the most part returned to their homes, where possible? Are refugees from Hadrut for instance in Stepanakert or in Armenia?
● How has Artsakh’s economy evolved since the end of the war? How are people earning their income?
Two weeks ago the Renaissance Square in Stepanakert was full with a sea of people, over a third of the population of all of Artsakh, who once again told the world that they’re not going to be subjects of geopolitical barters, that their rights of self-determination and to be part of the Armenian nation, to live on their historic land, are inalienable.
● Who was the addressee of that statement? Who do you think they were talking to?
● Besides governments in Yerevan, Baku, Moscow, Washington DC, do you think it was also a call to the Armenian nation?
The entire Artsakh conflict began with protests in the late 80s, where it seems like the entire population of Armenia was out in the streets. It was still the Soviet Union, but the institute of Samizdat was well-established at that point. I remember as not even a teenager going to visit our neighbor’s home to read the latest news or articles about Artsakh, often self-published and handed down from one person to another.
Question: The turnout of the Yerevan version of that protest was pretty low in comparison. Of course, the situation in 1988 is not directly comparable to now, but what do you think needs to be done better to instill confidence in Artsakhtsis that the entire Armenian nation is behind them?
We hope you found our Week in Review helpful. We invite your feedback and your suggestions, you can find us on most social media and podcast platforms. Thanks to Laura Osborn for the music on our podcasts.
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