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Editorial
Approaching the end game for Armenia-Azerbaijan peace

Approaching the end game for Armenia-Azerbaijan peace

Nikol Pashinyan has taken Armenia on a long journey, and brought it close to peace with Azerbaijan. Few if any believed that he could achieve what has been done so far. It is true that Azerbaijani military superiority, the victory in 2020, and the puzzling events of September 2023, which saw the overnight collapse of the Armenian political project in Nagorno-Karabakh and the subsequent exodus of the entire Armenian population from the territory, in many ways pre-determined what is about to follow. But given the entrenched nationalist positions and hard-line narratives that have traditionally characterised Armenia’s political thinking, even these developments were not enough to guarantee peace. The last part of the journey had to be done in the minds of Armenians, and Pashinyan set about doing this with conviction and determination, challenging the narrative of a historical Armenia, that is only the imagination of the nationalist elites and advocating instead, "a real" Armenia with fixed border.
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News
G7 explores ways to use frozen Russian assets to help Ukraine 

G7 explores ways to use frozen Russian assets to help Ukraine 

The G7 will explore ways to use future revenues from frozen Russian assets to help Ukraine. Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the G7 and its allies froze around $300 billion in Russian assets. "We are making progress in our discussions on potential avenues to bring forward the extraordinary profits stemming from immobilized Russian sovereign assets to the benefit of Ukraine," the draft statement said. G7 negotiators have been discussing for weeks how best to use these assets, which include major currencies and government bonds held mainly in European vaults. The United States (US) has been urging its G7 partners - Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Canada - to support a loan that could provide Kyiv with up to $50 billion in the near term. The cautious language of the statement, lacking figures or specifics, underlines the many legal and technical issues that would need to be resolved before such a loan could be issued. A G7 source indicated that there would be no significant changes to the statement before the final version is released later on Saturday (25 May).
Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: The anatomy of the current protests in Armenia

Opinion: The anatomy of the current protests in Armenia

Armenia is still absorbing the implications of the protests that overwhelmed Yerevan on May 9. On April 19, 2024, the Armenian and Azerbaijani border delimitation and demarcation commissions signed the protocol on the delimitation and demarcation process in the Tavush region of Armenia. That agreement granted Azerbaijan control over a patch of territory along that border that had been officially part of Soviet Azerbaijan but controlled by Armenia since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: Political Uncertainty in Armenia Should Not Disrupt Azerbaijan Normalisation

Opinion: Political Uncertainty in Armenia Should Not Disrupt Azerbaijan Normalisation

The Armenian opposition had up to now failed to come up with a leader who could unite it in its quest to overthrow Nikol Pashinyan. "That could change if a new political force led by a charismatic and populist alternative were to emerge. This month, the opposition hoped they have  such an alternative in Bagrat Galstanyan, Archbishop of the Tavush Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church, write Onnik Krikorian for commonspace.eu. Leading protests against the recent delimitation and demarcation of the Gazakh-Tavush section of the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, the cleric managed to rally up to 30,000 people in Yerevan’s Republic Square earlier this month, the largest public gathering since Pashinyan’s own in 2018.

Focus on Central Asia

Editor's choice
Commentary
The fate of Central Asia may be decided on the steppes and in the forests of Ukraine

The fate of Central Asia may be decided on the steppes and in the forests of Ukraine

Vladimir Putin was sworn in for another six-year term as the President of Russia on Tuesday, 7 May. With Putin having been the undisputed leader of Russia for decades, continuity, one would have thought, was assured. Yet Putin himself, on Monday (13 May) speaking at a meeting of the Security Council spoke of “a new political cycle” in Russia. Some of the first decisions of the re-elected president give us a sense of what is to come. First, there was the surprise dismissal of Sergei Shoigu as Minister of Defence, and his transfer to be the Secretary of the Security Council. There had been speculation for some time that Shoigu’s time at the Ministry of Defence was up. But what was surprising was the appointment of Andrei Belousov, former Deputy Prime Minister – an efficient technocrat with an economic background to replace him. That the Russian Ministry of Defence has needed a shake-up for some time has been abundantly clear, but Andrei Belousov’s mission seems to be more ambitious than that: He is tasked with transforming the Russian Defence Ministry into a modern institution that can embrace new ideas and techniques, and that has enough flexibility to conduct the sort of hybrid warfare that is likely to be the order of the day going forward. So despite all of Putin’s bravados about the Russian nuclear arsenal, it seems he is putting his faith in a more innovative, agile, and versatile force. Then on Monday, 13 May, Putin held his first meeting of the Security Council since his inauguration. The Kremlin website only referred to one item out of apparently several that were discussed, namely relations with the post-Soviet Republics, a subject much close to the heart of the president. Putin reiterated that this was a priority in foreign policy. Putin said, “we should pay even more attention to this area in the new political cycle in Russia and discuss the way we will organise this work from all points of view, including organisational”. So it appears that there is new thinking in this sphere, details of which is not yet known.

Voices - Opinion and analysis

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News
Taking forward the work on landmine action advocacy in the South Caucasus - report issued after consultation process

Taking forward the work on landmine action advocacy in the South Caucasus - report issued after consultation process

LINKS Europe has just published a report on the future of landmine action advocacy in the South Caucasus based on a consultation process with stakeholders between June 2023 and February 2024. The report focuses on the regional campaign "Landmine Free South Caucasus", which was implemented from October 2018 to December 2023. A formal consultation process was held from 15 January to 15 February 2024, through an open call to which anyone could reply. In the course of the consultation process LINKS Europe held 22 in-person meetings, 12 online meetings. and received written submissions from several partners. The report makes 12 recommendations on how the work can be organised in the future.
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News
Bonn Dialogue Meeting calls for the theme "Climate Change, Peace and Security" to be included in the agenda of COP29

Bonn Dialogue Meeting calls for the theme "Climate Change, Peace and Security" to be included in the agenda of COP29

A dialogue meeting on the topic: “Climate Change Peace and Security – COP 29 and Beyond” was held at the Bonn University Club in Bonn, Germany, on Friday, 3 May 2024. Representatives of various state-parties to the Climate Convention and of the UN Climate Secretariat, joined participants from around 30 academic institutions, think tanks and civil society organisations to review the work done on this topic at COP28 in Dubai in December and chart a way forward for ensuring the continuation of the process at the COP29 meeting in Baku in November. At the opening session, the meeting was addressed by HE Hana al Hashemi, the United Arab Emirates COP28 Chief negotiator, HE Nigar Arpadarai, the UN High-Level Champion for COP29 in Azerbaijan, and Mr Markus Hicken, Director for Energy Foreign Policy, Climate and Security at the German Federal Foreign Office. Also speaking at the opening session was Ms Maria Paloma Noriega Jalil, representing the UN Climate Secretariat. There followed an intensive one-day of discussions on the current state of the COP process, and the on-going debate on the nexus of Climate Change, Peace and Security within the COP process. The meeting was addressed by world-class experts from leading think tanks and academic institutions, including Chatham House, the German Council on Foreign Relations, ADELPHI, the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, Heidelberg University, The Hertie School in Berlin, amongst others. The meeting positively assessed the steps taken in COP28 in Dubai in December, including the inclusion of climate change, peace and security as a theme of the meeting, the holding for the first time of a day on peace in the deliberations, and the “COP28 Declaration on Climate, Relief, Recovery and Peace”. It was felt that it was important that this momentum will not be lost, and similar actions are also included as part of the COP29 meeting in Baku in November. Whilst it was recognised that the nexus between Climate Change Peace and Security was now widely recognised internationally, inserting this in the COP process remained an issue under discussion. During the meeting three aspects of the Climate Change, Peace and Security agenda were highlighted, namely water scarcity; food insecurity; and landmine contamination and environmental degradation resulting from conflict. Participants called on the State Parties to the Climate Convention meeting in the context of COP29 to ensure proper discussion and action on these themes that affect millions of people and thousands of communities across the world. In his concluding remarks at the end of the dialogue meeting, HE Ambassador Elshad Iskanderov, advisor to the COP 29 presidency, said that Azerbaijan was positive to the idea of having Climate Change Peace and Security as a theme at COP29. Ambassador Iskanderov reminded that the decision to hold COP29 in Baku was taken unanimously, and was an unprecedented confidence-building measure in the context of the South Caucasus.  Azerbaijan wanted to build on what had already been achieved in Dubai. He said that these decisions did not depend on Azerbaijan alone since COP was a multilateral process where the 198 state parties had the final say. Ambassador Iskanderov underlined the readiness of the Azerbaijani COP29 presidency to continue the dialogue on this issue with academia, think tanks and civil society as the preparations for COP 29 progress. He highlighted the fact that the discussion needs to focus not only on the potential that climate change will fuel more conflict and insecurity, but also on the impact of conflicts on climate change and environmental degradation Concluding the Bonn Dialogue Meeting, Dr Dennis Sammut, Director of LINKS Europe Foundation, who together with Candid Foundation and ReStart Initiative hosted the Bonn event, said that a lot of work needs to be done between now and November, and particularly the dialogue with the COP Troika countries, the UN Climate Secretariat and interested state parties needs to be continued and intensified. As a concrete step, LINKS Europe will set up an ad hoc working group with other interested non-state actors, to ensure that the conversation continues, and tangible results are achieved.
Editor's choice
Event
South Caucasus Youth Peace Summer School held successfully in Georgia from 21-31 August

South Caucasus Youth Peace Summer School held successfully in Georgia from 21-31 August

The first South Caucasus Youth Peace Summer School (SCYPSS) was held successfully in Kachreti, Georgia from 21-31 August 2023. Thirty young participants aged between 21 and 29, ten each from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia participated in the Summer School. At the end of the Summer School participants also attended the South Caucasus Regional Dialogue Forum. The School and the Forum were organised by LINKS Europe, with the support of the European Union and the Government of Norway.
Editor's choice
News
Taking forward the work on landmine action advocacy in the South Caucasus - report issued after consultation process

Taking forward the work on landmine action advocacy in the South Caucasus - report issued after consultation process

LINKS Europe has just published a report on the future of landmine action advocacy in the South Caucasus based on a consultation process with stakeholders between June 2023 and February 2024. The report focuses on the regional campaign "Landmine Free South Caucasus", which was implemented from October 2018 to December 2023. A formal consultation process was held from 15 January to 15 February 2024, through an open call to which anyone could reply. In the course of the consultation process LINKS Europe held 22 in-person meetings, 12 online meetings. and received written submissions from several partners. The report makes 12 recommendations on how the work can be organised in the future.
Editor's choice
News
4 April is International Landmine Awareness Day

4 April is International Landmine Awareness Day

In the South Caucasus, the problem of landmines and other unexploded remnants of war remains a serious issue across the region. Over the last months, since the end of the 44-day Karabakh War, the problem has become more acute as efforts are made to rehabilitate territories that were until recently in the conflict zone. Most of these territories are heavily mined. Problems also remain in other areas on both the Armenian and the Azerbaijani sides of the line of contact and the international border.

Focus on Yemen

Focus on the South Caucasus

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News
Tens of thousands take to the streets of Tbilisi to protest against repressive law

Tens of thousands take to the streets of Tbilisi to protest against repressive law

Tens of thousands of Georgians have taken to the streets of the capital Tbilisi on Saturday evening  (11 May) to protest a controversial "foreign influence" bill backed by the government. Protesters marched to the capital's Europe Square holding Georgian and EU flags, chanting “no to the Russian law”. The law would target civil society organisations and independent media that receive foreign funding. Massive rallies have gripped the Black Sea Caucasus country for nearly a month after the ruling Georgian Dream party reintroduced the bill. Despite a campaign of intimidation ahead of Saturday's rally - in which dozens of NGO workers, activists and opposition politicians received threats or were physically assaulted - protesters turned up in their thousands undeterred by the pouring rain. Opposition parties say the bill - coined "Russian law" after Russia's passing of similar legislation in 2012 - will be used by the government to clamp down on dissent. The US has said the bill threatens free speech. On Friday, foreign ministers of Nordic and Baltic states issued a joint statement urging the government in Tbilisi to reconsider the bill Last week, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the Georgian people want a "European future". "Georgia is at a crossroads. It should stay the course on the road to Europe," she posted on X. But the Georgian Dream government has defended the bill, saying it will "boost transparency" over NGOs' foreign funding. It aims to sign the measure into law by mid-May. If adopted, the law would require that any independent NGO and media organisation receiving more than 20% of its funding from abroad to register as an "organisation pursuing the interests of a foreign power". But the protesters fear it could be used to crush critical voices ahead of parliamentary elections later this year. The bill cleared its second parliamentary stage by a margin of 83 votes to 23. After a third reading, it has to be signed by President Salome Zurabishvili, who has vowed to veto it - although Georgian Dream has sufficient numbers in parliament to overrule her. In 2023, mass street protests forced Georgian Dream to drop plans for similar measures.
Editor's choice
Commentary
Commentary: The four Cs that will characterise Armenia-Azerbaijan relations for the next decade

Commentary: The four Cs that will characterise Armenia-Azerbaijan relations for the next decade

Armenia and Azerbaijan have practically been in a state of war with each other ever since they emerged as independent countries following the dissolution of the USSR in 1991. Over the last three years they have been negotiating, sometimes with the help of others, sometimes on their own, to end the cycle of violence and usher in a new era of peace. So far they have failed to agree on the text of a peace agreement, but it is likely that eventually they will, possibly quite soon. However, even in the absence of a formal peace agreement Armenia-Azerbaijan relations are changing, and will continue to change to become much more nuanced than has been the case so far. A relationship that has so far been based on confrontation and containment is making way for one based on contact and co-operation. The process is unlikely to be very quick, or simple and easy. At least for another decade Armenia-Azerbaijan relations will continue to be a mix of all four elements: confrontation, containment, contact and co-operation. Managing this mix will be the challenge facing the leadership in the two countries. The international community must be ready to support this process tangibly and speedily.
LINKS Europe

commonspace.eu  is an activity of LINKS Europe, an independent foundation based in The Hague, The Netherlands. We focus on issues related to European peace and security, Europe's neighbouring regions, including Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia; North Africa and the Sahel, the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. LINKS Europe is committed to contribute to a better future by increasing understanding of complex foreign policy issues, by promoting dialogue and confidence-building as tools for helping to resolve conflict, and by engaging citizens in the process of building peace and security on the basis of solidarity and mutual respect. Through commonspace.eu we aim to provide insights and analysis on different topics in our area of interest, and a platform for diverse opinions.

Read or download the 2022 Annual Review of LINKS Europe work, and our work programme for 2023 here