An Armenia-Azerbaijan peace agreement before the end of the year appears to be within reach
Senior officials of Armenia and Azerbaijan are in Brussels this week to prepare for a leaders summit, scheduled to be held in Granada, Spain on 5 October. Armenian National Security Council Secretary, Armen Grigorian, and Azerbaijani Presidential Foreign Policy Assistant, Hikmet Haciyev will meet with representatives from the EU, France and Germany to prepare for the summit. This was announced simultaneously in Baku and Yerevan immediately after the visit to the region of the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus, Toivo Klaar on Friday and Saturday. Such meetings between Haciyev and Grigorian have taken place in the past, but usually without much publicity. The announcement comes amongst increased speculation that Armenia and Azerbaijan are close to agreeing the text of a peace agreement between them and that this could be signed before the end of the year, a pre-document, may even be signed in Granada. This development comes despite the fact that recent weeks have seen a high level of tension in the region, which culminated on Tuesday (19 September) in a 24 hours Azerbaijani military operation which re-asserted Azerbaijani control over Nagorno-Karabakh - even whilst leaving hundreds of casualties and thousands of refugees. The operation led to the Armenians of Karabakh agreeing to disarm, and the two sides are now holding talks for the eventual reintegration of the territory within the Azerbaijani state. The process has been mediated by the command of the Russian military contingent in Karabakh. political editor says that a picture is emerging, whereby Russia is taking the leading role in the mediation between Baku and the Karabakh Armenians, and with supervising any agreement between them through the Russian military contingent in Nagorno-Karabakh, which numbers around 2000 personnel. The EU, through the wider format involving both the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, and the leaders of France and Germany, can now focus on Armenia-Azerbaijan relations, and the eventual signing of a peace agreement. This arrangement looks very neat on paper, but of course there are many cross cutting issues. How the two processes will evolve in parallel yet in harmony is yet to be seen.
dennis2020 Mon, 09/25/2023 - 07:55
Future of Nagorno-Karabakh starts taking shape as one era ends, and another is about to begin
After a long stand-off, a one day war which left hundreds of casualties, and a series of long overdue face to face talks, the Government of Azerbaijan has agreed terms with the leaders of the Armenian community of Nagorno-Karabakh which will see Azerbaijan assuming back full control of the territory after a failed secessionist movement which lasted more than three decades. The leadership of the Armenian community of Nagorno-Karabakh has now published the points agreed by the two sides at their meeting on Thursday in an official notice released by the Artsakh Information Centre. It contains six points, which the Centre says are already being implemented, including the disarmament and eventual disbanding of the armed formations of the self-declared Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Azerbaijani troops have now consolidated their control over outlaying villages and settlements around the administrative capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, Stepanakert, but have not entered the town itself. It seems they will not, yet. In an interview with the Azerbaijani Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty,  Farid Shafiyev, the head of AIR Centre – an Azerbaijani government think tank - said that ”until 2025, the Azerbaijani military and police will not be in Khankendi [Stepanakert],". political editor said in a comment that Azerbaijan is de facto in control of Nagorno-Karabakh, but it understands it needs to thread carefully amidst widespread warnings against ethnic cleansing. Baku needs to re-assert control over the territory whilst creating enough conditions for the Armenian population to stay and not depart en masse. The first task is to deal with the immediate aftermaths of fighting of the last days, namely bury the dead, provide for the wounded and managing the problem of displaced persons. There are also issues related to alleviating the suffering of the civilian population who had been under a blockade for a number of months. Then the more difficult task of trying to find a right political model for Karabakh will start. The last days have seen the end of an era in Karabakh, another one is about to start.
dennis2020 Sun, 09/24/2023 - 08:25 European diplomacy takes stock after an eventful week in the South Caucasus

EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus, Toivo Klaar, travelled to the South Caucasus for urgent consultations with the leaderships of Armenia and Azerbaijan after an eventful week  which saw a short Azerbaijani military operation in Nagorno-Karabakh leading to the emergence of a completely new situation on the ground.

On Friday, 22 September, Klaar met in Yerevan with Armenian prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, and a day later in Baku, with Azerbaijani president, Ilham Aliyev.

dennis2020 Sun, 09/24/2023 - 09:07 Commentary: War returns to the Caucasus for one day leaving hundreds of casualties, but the prospects for peace remain
War returned to the Caucasus for one day this week, claiming hundreds of lives, displacing more people, and denting further the prospects for peace. Every time blood is spilt, regardless of any justification, the wounds of the past open again, and this time is no exception.  Whilst Baku appears to have achieved its objective of frustrating the decades-long Armenian political project in Karabakh, the situation on the ground remains fluid. Tens of thousands of civilians are now caught in the epicentre of a difficult and painful political transition that will see Nagorno-Karabakh re-integrated back into Azerbaijan. How this process will work out is not clear at all, and every step is fraught with risks. So far Baku has shown its stick. Now it needs to show its carrot. Following this week’s events, some said that the peace process is dead. This needs not be the case. In fact in their speeches in the last hours both President Aliyev and Prime Minister Pashinyan reiterated their commitment to the peace agenda. In the coming weeks and months Armenia and Azerbaijan need to remain focused on the one objective of signing a peace agreement. Without it the chance of more deadly violence in future will be much higher. The international community too must keep this as its top agenda in the region. The journey has not become easier in the last days, but the road remains open. The journey now needs to be finished.
dennis2020 Thu, 09/21/2023 - 14:38 Baku and Stepanakert hold historic talks on the future of Karabakh and its Armenian community
Talks between representatives of Baku and Stepanakert on the future of Karabakh and its Armenian community were held on Thursday, 21 September in the town of Yevlakh. Representatives of the Armenian community of Nagorno-Karabakh arrived in the Azerbaijani town of Yavlakh for discussions with Baku officials on the future of the territory and its Armenian population. According to Armenpress news agency the Armenian group is led by Davit Melkumyan, head of the "Artsakh Democratic Party" faction in the parliament of the self-declared Nagorno-Karabakh Republic parliament, and Sergey Martirosyan, deputy secretary of the Security Council.  The group travelled by car in a convoy escorted by Azerbaijani police and Russian forces. For the Baku side, the talks will be led by Ramin Mammadov, a member of parliament who earlier this year was designated by the Azerbaijan government as the lead person for contacts with the Karabakh Armenians.
dennis2020 Thu, 09/21/2023 - 08:19 Opinion: Baku was left no other option but the military one

Since the closure of the Lachin road by Azerbaijan in response to an armed accident on 15 June 15 this year, tensions around the Armenian-populated area in Karabakh currently controlled by the Russian peacekeeping forces, have been brimming. The Armenian side launched a campaign of blaming Azerbaijan in enforcing a “blockade” of the region and even in committing “genocide” of the Karabakh Armenians.

dennis2020 Thu, 09/21/2023 - 12:32

Focus on Central Asia

Editor's choice
Kazakhstan looks back at a difficult 2022, determined to pursue change and reform in 2023

Kazakhstan looks back at a difficult 2022, determined to pursue change and reform in 2023

For the Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan, this year has probably been the most difficult one since its independence in 1991. Yet the country has emerged from it stronger. The process of reform initiated by President Kassym Jomart Tokayev appears to be gathering momentum, despite resistance from parts of the ruling elite still associated with the country’s first president Nursultan Nazarbayev. On Thursday, 29 December, Tokayev addressed the Kazakh Senate in the capital, Astana, where he summed up the year’s results. “This year, the country has been through a lot, but we managed to overcome all difficulties,” said the President. Tokayev paid particular attention to preserving stability and security, and paving the way for the dynamic development of the state is a priority for Kazakhstan. The reforms in all spheres will be continued into the following year. In early January Kazakhstan faced an unprecedented upheaval, initially triggered by price rises, but which soon got hijacked by elements close to the previous president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who were unhappy with the reforms being implemented, and most of all with the clampdown on corruption which had started to affect them. At this point Nazarbayev still held control over several leverages of power, including as Head of the Security Council and as President of the ruling party. The disturbances were contained but at considerable human and material costs.
Monday Commentary: Why Central Asia matters
Very often, Central Asia is referred to as Russia’s back yard, even though today the region feels more like China’s front garden. But whilst the two “inseparable” friends, compete for influence and resources, the five Central Asian countries have set on a course to integrate themselves in global processes, break out of their geographic - and more importantly their geo-political constraints - and deliver better for their people. In this week's Monday Commentary on, Dennis Sammut says that the Central Asian states have been reaching out to the EU and the US, whilst domestically some of them have embarked on deep reforms considered all but unimaginable until recently. The visit of European Council president Charles Michel to the region on 27-28 October marked a high point in a new phase in the relationship between the EU and Central Asia. In Kazakhstan, Michel not only met the Kazakh leadership, but also held a summit with the five Central Asian leaders in Astana, before travelling to Uzbekistan. For both the Central Asians and for the EU this is a watershed moment, and the beginning of a long journey. Europe’s approach to Central Asia needs to be respectful, both to the five countries themselves, and to their existing partners. Arrogance, even of the intellectual kind will simply backfire. But respect does not mean meekness. As a heavyweight in international relations, even if for the moment its economic weight dwarfs its political weight, the EU needs to approach Central Asia neither as a supplicant, nor as a benefactor, but simply as a reliable partner. Furthermore, this partnership needs to be diverse, multi-tiered and nuanced. It must take in relations with citizens, where Europe has much to offer both in terms of being a model, but also in terms of what it can share in areas such as education, innovation, youth welfare, women’s rights and diversity.
dennis2020 Mon, 10/31/2022 - 07:35

Voices - Opinion and analysis

Opinion: An eventful year has left many confused on the prospect of Armenia-Azerbaijan peace, and more hard work is needed
In April 2022 a group of Armenian and Azerbaijani experts published their report “The South Caucasus from war to peace: 30 measures between now and 2030” in which they outlined their vision for the process of building trust and confidence between Armenia and Azerbaijan and between Armenians and Azerbaijanis, in order to contribute to lasting peace in the South Caucasus. One year later, in this joint paper, Ahmad Alili and Benyamin Poghosyan, co-rapporteurs of the group, reflect on events and developments over the eventful past twelve months. They say peace remains within reach, but more hard work is needed.
dennis2020 Wed, 04/26/2023 - 12:06
Landmine Free South Caucasus releases educational video on the consequences of landmines and ERWs

To mark the 4 April International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, the regional campaign Landmine Free South Caucasus has released the following educational video about the consequences of landmines and explosive remnants of war in the South Caucasus.

You can watch the video on YouTube by clicking here.

patrickn97 Tue, 04/04/2023 - 15:45
Editor's choice
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.
Landmine Free South Caucasus: message on the occasion of the International Day for Mine Awareness
4 April is marked each year as the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action by the United Nations and countries, organisations and communities across the world. This year, the theme is “Mine action cannot wait”. This is a particularly poignant theme in the South Caucasus where the problem of landmines is acute and the region is now identified as being amongst the ones with the highest contamination of landmines in the world. The campaign Landmine Free South Caucasus joins the international community to mark this year’s International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. In particular, we raise our voice with that of the rest of the international community in saying that “Mine action cannot wait”. Since 2018, the campaign Landmine Free South Caucasus has worked with partners in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia to raise awareness on the issue of landmines across the region, to highlight the good work being done by deminers at considerable personal risk, and to focus on the impact of landmines on victims and their communities.
patrickn97 Tue, 04/04/2023 - 05:46
Armenian and Azerbaijani experts discuss process of confidence-building with EU officials in Brussels
The Joint Armenian-Azerbaijani Liaison Group on Confidence-building measures in support of lasting peace in the South Caucasus (JOLIG) met in Brussels on 1 – 2 February 2023. Armenian and Azerbaijani experts that form part of the Group discussed recent developments in the South Caucasus, developments in the process of normalising Armenia-Azerbaijan relations and establishing peace in the region, and how confidence-building measures can help overcome present and future problems and challenges. On 1 February, the Group had a substantive meeting with the European Union Special Representative for the South Caucasus, Toivo Klaar, who reiterated the continued and ongoing commitment of the European Union in support of peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The group asked EUSR Toivo Klaar to convey their appreciation to European Council President Charles Michel for his continuing efforts to mediate between the two sides. The Group expressed its willingness to contribute with tangible actions and initiatives towards on-going European Union peace efforts in the region.
patrickn97 Thu, 02/02/2023 - 14:42
Watch again! The closing event of 'The Hague Conversations on the Future of Europe in the World' is pleased to be the media partner for the closing event in 'The Hague Conversations on the Future of Europe in the World' – a series of ten activities organised by LINKS  Europe  in  association  with  the City of The Hague and with the support of the Hague Humanity Hub. The events were mostly held in person, with some also held online or in hybrid format, from September 2021 to February 2022 as part of the “Conference on the future of Europe” process. 

Maximiliaan va… Tue, 02/22/2022 - 16:14
Joint Armenian-Azerbaijani expert group on confidence-building measures agrees to intensify efforts
The Joint Armenian-Azerbaijani Liaison Group on Confidence-building measures in support of lasting peace in the South Caucasus (JOLIG), made up of 11 Armenian and Azerbaijani independent experts and opinion-shapers, met in Kachreti, Georgia on 27 and 28 June 2022 to review its activity, and agree on a strategy as to how its work on confidence-building measures can contribute to efforts aimed at bringing lasting peace in the South Caucasus. Participants discussed ongoing efforts aimed at establishing the right conditions for the normalisation of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan being undertaken by the governments of the two countries with the support of international players. They called on the leadership of the two countries to remain focused and committed to this mission. The group emphasised its belief that confidence-building measures are necessary to be implemented in the current state of Armenia-Azerbaijan relations, and were indispensable as the governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan seek peaceful solutions to long lasting disputes and controversies between them.
dennis2020 Wed, 06/29/2022 - 04:12

Focus on Yemen

Focus on the South Caucasus

Editor's choice
Opinion: Russian obstacles to the peace process are contributing to renewed tensions in the region

Opinion: Russian obstacles to the peace process are contributing to renewed tensions in the region

Statements made by Russian president Putin and foreign minister Lavrov since October have made Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan a target of nationalist groups in Armenia and its diaspora. The result has been Armenian procrastination in the pursuit of the peace process. These Russian attempts to derail the peace process led by the EU are adding to increased tensions in the region. In this op-ed for, Vasif Huseynov says that "Baku is not planning to engage in extended negotiations with Armenia and its external patrons with no clear prospects for a successful conclusion. Azerbaijan can now more confidently counter the threats to its territorial integrity and its efforts to reintegrate the Karabakh region."
Editor's choice
Stepan Grigoryan: "The current Armenian government really wants peace"

Stepan Grigoryan: "The current Armenian government really wants peace"

Dr Stepan Grigoryan, the Chairman of the Board of the Analytical Centre on Globalization and Regional Cooperation, is a respected analyst and opinion-shaper in Yerevan who has over many years been a moderate voice in what has often been a toxic inter-Armenian debate on the prospects for peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan and in the wider region. He spoke to in Tbilisi on 22 October 2022 about the current state of the Armenia-Azerbaijan peace process, recent events surrounding it, and prospects for the future. Speaking about the current political situation in Armenia Stepan Grigoryan said "We have a strong civil society, active NGOs and active experts, and they act like pillars of independence in Armenia. And this civil society also criticises Nikol Pashinyan, but they are trying to help him. Yes, I myself am sometimes not happy with what Nikol Pashinyan is doing, but I try to help him with my advice, with my publications, with my speeches. So in Armenia one should not only look at the political field - which is polarised - but civil society too. We shouldn’t think that we have an ideal government, they have made many mistakes, but they really want peace."
LINKS Europe  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 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