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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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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.
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Editorial: COP29 in Baku needs to be also a summit of peace

Editorial: COP29 in Baku needs to be also a summit of peace

The nexus between “climate change, peace and security” has been at the centre of attention for many years. It is not only about how climate change is exacerbating environmental conditions, increasing the prospects for conflict on owning and sharing resources, and accentuating already existing problems, such as for example water shortage in the Sahel, but it is also about how conflicts are contributing directly to a worsening environmental situation, increasing the gravity of climate change. With major climatic incidents now a regular occurrence across the world, and from which no one is spared, minds have recently become more focused. At COP28 in Dubai in December 2023, the UAE took the initiative to bring the discussion within a COP context. Here again, there was no consensus, with Russia, China and some of the countries in the Global South resisting, But the UAE persisted, and found a way through which they could do three things: insert the theme in the proceedings of COP28; establish a dedicated day during the COP summit where the focus was peace, and push for the adoption, even if not by consensus of the “COP28 declaration on Climate, Relief, Recovery and Peace“. This was a big achievement, but only a start. It is clear that what was achieved in Dubai needs to be consolidated and developed in Baku in November 2024. The Azerbaijan government, host of COP29 was initially reluctant to go too far in the inclusion of the peace agenda in COP29 but they have now warmed up to the idea. Over the weekend, the Presidential Foreign Policy Advisor, Hikmet Haciyev, spoke about the possibility of having a COP truce during the Baku summit. There are more than a hundred ongoing armed conflicts in the world. Securing a cease-fire in even one of them would be positive and welcome, but may be very difficult to achieve. A COP29 cease-fire may be an aspiration, but the focus should be on more tangible objectives, and particularly on building on what has been already achieved in COP28 This can include: Having the theme Climate Change, Peace and Security as a theme of COP29; More specifically in Baku the focus should be on water scarcity; food insecurity and landmine contamination and the linkage between conflict and environmental degradation • Having a dedicated day of peace in the COP29 programme, with the participation of the UN Secretary-General, and a gathering of Nobel Peace Price winners • Adopting a new declaration, building on the one agreed in Dubai in November, which would also have the possibility of signatories presenting packages that could be practical tools for moving forward some of the ideas contained in it. All this is doable. There are then other issues on which work needs to be done, but which are also achievable. Will COP29 be historic also because it would be the first time an Armenian leader visits Baku since the long conflict of the last three decades? Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan does not shy away from difficult decisions. He can very well see the value of this gesture, particularly since in Baku he will not only be welcomed by the leader of Azerbaijan, but by the biggest gathering of world leaders ever to gather in the South Caucasus. President Aliyev and Prime Minister Pashinyan can co-host a special event at the dedicated Peace Day. Imagine the significance of that! All the ingredients exist to make COP29 in Baku a historic summit of peace and it should not be missed. But there is much work to be done yet, and the negativity of the malcontents needs to be overcome.
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From Blighty with love – UK charm offensive in Central Asia is well thought through

From Blighty with love – UK charm offensive in Central Asia is well thought through

UK Foreign Secretary, Lord Cameron, conducted a whirlwind tour of the five Central Asian countries and Mongolia in the last days, visiting countries that had never before been visited by a British Foreign Secretary. There is very little you can do on a trip like this when you are in a country for one day, sometimes for a few hours. But this visit was well prepared and was part of a well-thought-through British strategy to engage with Central Asia.
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The new kid on the block – Azerbaijan’s new role in Central Asia

The new kid on the block – Azerbaijan’s new role in Central Asia

Those who know their political geography will tell you that there are five countries in Central Asia: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. But in the last two years, a new kid has appeared on the block. Azerbaijan is not usually described as a Central Asian country: Caucasus or Caspian are more likely labels, but recently one could spot Azerbaijan in key summits and meetings of the Central Asian republics, including those with other blocs, such as the Gulf Co-operation Council. Two things are driving this process.
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Commentary: So Long! Farewell! Do Zvidaniya!

Commentary: So Long! Farewell! Do Zvidaniya!

The Russian Army has started leaving Nagorno-Karabakh. The military contingent of around two thousand troops deployed there with much fanfare in November 2020 started leaving unceremoniously on Wednesday (17 April) eighteen months before its scheduled departure. Many in 2020 believed that once in Karabakh the Russians will never leave. Having a strategic foothold there had been a major Russian objective for decades, and the Russian Army does not have a track record of leaving voluntarily from places where it is deployed. The deployment of the “Russian peacekeeping” contingent was one of the points agreed in the trilateral declaration of 10 November 2020 which ended the 44-day Karabakh War. With the Armenians in a state of disarray following a crushing military defeat the contingent was seen by the Armenian population of Karabakh as a redeeming presence. Russian troops were greeted with flowers, and very soon Russian language classes sprung up in Stepanakert. But, like many other things in Karabakh, it was a delusion. This Russian peacekeeping effort was not the same as that seen in Abkhazia and South Ossetia in the 1990s. From the beginning, Azerbaijan insisted on strict rules for the deployment, and a clear understanding both of why they were there, as well as of the fact that this was a temporary mandate lasting only until November 2025.
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Remain focused on peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan!

Remain focused on peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan!

On Friday, 5 April Prime Minister Pashinyan will meet in Brussels with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen. Excitement about this meeting in Yerevan is at a fever pitch. Azerbaijan has declared that this meeting is aimed against it, and asked that it be postponed. That will not happen but amongst more sober elements in Brussels and Washington, there is a realisation that misperception may lead to a more complicated situation. Blinken spoke to Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev on Wednesday (3 April) to try to reassure him – unsuccessfully it seems – but that was the right thing to do. From Friday’s meeting, Armenia will get comfort from some reassuring statements, and a handsome package of assistance. It will be a boost for Pashinyan, but that will not stop his critics in saying that what was received was not enough. Russia may become even more aggressive. Which is why the most important issue remains that of a peace agreement. This will enable a whole set of other developments, including the opening of borders, to come into play. Aliyev and Pashinyan must remain focused on finishing the job. And the first and most important task of the international community is to support them in this. Anything done or said that harms the prospects for peace, even if it is well-intentioned, should be avoided.
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Editorial
"COP28 Declaration on Climate, Relief, Recovery and Peace" lays a solid foundation for future work

"COP28 Declaration on Climate, Relief, Recovery and Peace" lays a solid foundation for future work

At the COP28 summit held in Dubai last November, for the first time a day dedicated to peace was marked, during which the "COP28 Declaration on Climate, Relief, Recovery and Peace" was launched. The declaration, endorsed by more than a hundred countries and international organisations, highlights a commitment by the international community to act on the vital impact of climate change "in situations of fragility, conflict or severe humanitarian needs". The declaration lays a solid basis for future work on the nexus between climate change, peace and security. There is an increasing need for the international community to develop a shared and enhanced understanding that climate change and environmental degradation lead to spiralling instability and conflicts, and vice versa, as well as to human suffering, resource scarcity including water and food insecurity, internal displacement and forced migration, as was stated in a recent statement by the Council of the European Union. It is now necessary, on the basis of the "COP28 Declaration on Climate, Relief, Recovery and Peace" for the international community, working with non-governmental stakeholders, to develop a road-map for future action. Work in this direction must be done ahead of the COP29 meeting in November in Baku.