Region

South Caucasus

Stories under this heading cover the South Caucasus – a region encompassing Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, as well as the unrecognised entities of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Nagorno-Karabakh.

For those interested specifically in Armenian-Azerbaijani relations and events and developments in and around Nagorno-Karabakh following the 2020 44-day war, check out our sister page, KarabakhSpace.eu.

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Opinion
Opinion: Historic developments are taking place in Armenia-Azerbaijan relations, but the signing of a peace treaty will likely take a longer time

Opinion: Historic developments are taking place in Armenia-Azerbaijan relations, but the signing of a peace treaty will likely take a longer time

On May 22, the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan met in Brussels with the mediation of European Council President Charles Michel to discuss the peace process. It is worth noting that since the beginning of this year, the representatives of the two South Caucasian republics have met exclusively via the mediation of the EU, while the only Russia-mediated meeting – that of the foreign ministers held on May 12 –  took place on the sidelines of another major event and brought about no novelty in the negotiations. The Brussels summit, however, delivered some very important outcomes which, if implemented, will constitute a critical breakthrough in the peace process. The quick implementation of some of the issues agreed by president Aliyev and prime minister Pashinyan at their meeting in Brussels, can be described as truly historic, writes Vasif Huseynov in this op-ed. "But the signing of a peace treaty will likely take a longer time, and necessitate an agreement not only between Baku and Yerevan, but also between Moscow and Brussels", he adds.
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News
South Ossetia gets a young leader, but his message is old and rusty

South Ossetia gets a young leader, but his message is old and rusty

It was a piece of surreal political theatre of the sort that have become increasingly popular with the choreographers of the Kremlin. On Tuesday (24 May ) the liliputian self-declared Republic of South Ossetia, a de facto Russian protectorate, got a new president. Alan Gagloev was sworn-in at the theatre on Tskhinvali's main square. The choreography was perfect: a military guard of honour, a swearing in ceremony, and delegations of "foreign countries", except they represented other self declared entities such as Abkhazia, Lugansk, Donetsk, Nagorno-Karabakh etc. Most of the world still recognise South Ossetia as part of Georgia. Gagloev came to power unexpectedly, having defeated the incumbent Anatoly Bibilov in elections on May 17. The number of people who voted for him was 16,134 (representing 56.09% of the electorate). Bibilov left his successor a time bomb, due to go off on 17 July, in the form of a referendum calling for South Ossetia's unification with Russia. The Kremlin does not seem to be impressed. Gagloev made no reference to the referendum in his inauguration speech today, but he did heap praise on Russia and promised eternal friendship.

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Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: Historic developments are taking place in Armenia-Azerbaijan relations, but the signing of a peace treaty will likely take a longer time

Opinion: Historic developments are taking place in Armenia-Azerbaijan relations, but the signing of a peace treaty will likely take a longer time

On May 22, the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan met in Brussels with the mediation of European Council President Charles Michel to discuss the peace process. It is worth noting that since the beginning of this year, the representatives of the two South Caucasian republics have met exclusively via the mediation of the EU, while the only Russia-mediated meeting – that of the foreign ministers held on May 12 –  took place on the sidelines of another major event and brought about no novelty in the negotiations. The Brussels summit, however, delivered some very important outcomes which, if implemented, will constitute a critical breakthrough in the peace process. The quick implementation of some of the issues agreed by president Aliyev and prime minister Pashinyan at their meeting in Brussels, can be described as truly historic, writes Vasif Huseynov in this op-ed. "But the signing of a peace treaty will likely take a longer time, and necessitate an agreement not only between Baku and Yerevan, but also between Moscow and Brussels", he adds.
Editor's choice
News
South Ossetia gets a young leader, but his message is old and rusty

South Ossetia gets a young leader, but his message is old and rusty

It was a piece of surreal political theatre of the sort that have become increasingly popular with the choreographers of the Kremlin. On Tuesday (24 May ) the liliputian self-declared Republic of South Ossetia, a de facto Russian protectorate, got a new president. Alan Gagloev was sworn-in at the theatre on Tskhinvali's main square. The choreography was perfect: a military guard of honour, a swearing in ceremony, and delegations of "foreign countries", except they represented other self declared entities such as Abkhazia, Lugansk, Donetsk, Nagorno-Karabakh etc. Most of the world still recognise South Ossetia as part of Georgia. Gagloev came to power unexpectedly, having defeated the incumbent Anatoly Bibilov in elections on May 17. The number of people who voted for him was 16,134 (representing 56.09% of the electorate). Bibilov left his successor a time bomb, due to go off on 17 July, in the form of a referendum calling for South Ossetia's unification with Russia. The Kremlin does not seem to be impressed. Gagloev made no reference to the referendum in his inauguration speech today, but he did heap praise on Russia and promised eternal friendship.
Editor's choice
News
Progress in EU hosted talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan

Progress in EU hosted talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan

A third round of meetings between the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan hosted by the European Union in Brussels have resulted in progress on a range of issues as the two countries work to resolve the long standing conflict between them. European Council president, Charles Michel welcomed president Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan and prime minister Nikol Pashinyan of Armenia for another meeting in trilateral format on Sunday (22 May). He later described the talks as "frank and productive". In a statement to the media late on Sunday night Michel said the talks focused on the situation in the South Caucasus and the development of EU relations with both countries as well as the broader region. Summarising the meeting, Michel said "the discussion was frank and productive. We reviewed the entire set of issues. We had a detailed discussion on humanitarian issues, including demining, and efforts to free detainees and address the fate of missing persons." He listed a number of outcomes from the meeting including on border issues, connectivity, on a future peace agreement and on socio economic development. In conclusion president Michel said that he also stressed the importance of preparing the populations for long-term sustainable peace. The EU is ready to step up its support. "We agreed to remain in close contact and will meet again in the same format by July/August." 
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Opinion
Opinion: A transitional arrangement for Karabakh may be necessary if deadlock in Armenia-Azerbaijan negotiations is to be avoided

Opinion: A transitional arrangement for Karabakh may be necessary if deadlock in Armenia-Azerbaijan negotiations is to be avoided

The issue of the status of Nagorno Karabakh cannot be avoided in future discussions on an Armenia-Azerbaijan bilateral peace treaty, argues Benyamin Poghosyan in this op-ed. One solution is to agree to some transitional arrangement. During this “transitional period,” the status quo that emerged after the 2020 Karabakh war should remain intact, with no territorial changes or population relocation. The OSCE Minsk group or other relevant international bodies may elaborate on specific criteria to determine conditions that will allow the termination of the “transitional period." Meanwhile, the sides may seek to provide an international mandate to the Russian peacekeeping force deployed in Karabakh, potentially supplementing Russian troops with forces of other countries. Implementing robust “confidence-building measures" between the sides supported by the international community should be a significant part of the deal. Such a “Transitional period” may not seem the ideal solution. However, other options risk sooner or later destroying the fragile bilateral talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan and may bring the region back to the pre-2020 war situation. 
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Opinion
Opinion: The Armenia-Azerbaijan peace process proceeds despite challenges

Opinion: The Armenia-Azerbaijan peace process proceeds despite challenges

The Armenia-Azerbaijan peace process is passing through a critical stage which will determine the future of the relations between the two countries: Either they will now agree on normalization of relations and put an end to their hostilities, or they will remain stuck in these disputes for years to come. Hopefully, peace efforts will prevail over the agendas of nationalist groups and their external allies, writes Dr Vasif Huseynov in this op-ed
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Analysis
Fear and lack of trust are an obstacle for peaceful co-existence between Armenians and Azerbaijanis in Nagorno-Karabakh

Fear and lack of trust are an obstacle for peaceful co-existence between Armenians and Azerbaijanis in Nagorno-Karabakh

A recent survey of women from the large community of Azerbaijanis displaced by the conflict in Nagorno Karabakh in the 1990s shows that fear and lack of trust are an obstacle for peaceful co-existence between Armenians and Azerbaijanis in Nagorno-Karabakh. The survey is part of a report, “IDP Women: needs assessment for post conflict life, including expectations for safe return home”, prepared by Khalisa Shahverdiyeva on behalf of the Azerbaijani NGO “Women’s empowerment for sustainable development”. Following the 2020 Karabakh war a new situation has emerged which opened the prospect of the return of hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis displaced by the fighting in the 1990s to their place of origin, and in many cases to live together or in close proximity with Armenian communities. The survey covered 590 internally displaced women, while 30 more women were interviewed to get a tentative picture of their needs and expectations, including their fears and concerns for peace-building and returning home.  The overwhelming majority (87.55%) of respondents highlighted the necessity of being free from danger as a decisive factor behind their decision to relocate. Consequently, the full-scale clearance of landmines supported by a guarantee of non-resumption of armed hostilities have been underscored as key factors for IDPs’ return home.  
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Opinion
Opinion: Brussels summit has given a new momentum to Armenia-Azerbaijan peace prospects

Opinion: Brussels summit has given a new momentum to Armenia-Azerbaijan peace prospects

"In the days since the Brussels summit of the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan on April 6, diplomatic activity around the peace process between the two countries has intensified. In contrast to the first year after the Second Karabakh War, the role of the EU in this context has grown and provides a viable alternative to the Russia-led track in the negotiations", writes Vasif Huseynov in this op-ed. "Against this backdrop, as agreed in Brussels, Armenia and Azerbaijan have launched the preparatory work for a peace treaty which triggered a bilateral phone conversation between the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers - the first time this happened in recent decades. These developments are not welcome by Russia-aligned revanchist forces in Armenia, separatist groups in Azerbaijani Karabakh, or, to some extent, by Russia."
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Opinion
Opinion: Quo Vadis Nagorno-Karabakh?

Opinion: Quo Vadis Nagorno-Karabakh?

Nikol Pashinyan delivered a significant speech to the Armenian parliament last week on the eve of the launch of negotiations on an Armenia-Azerbaijan peace treaty. In this op-ed, Benyamin Poghosyan says that his comments on the future of Nagorno-Karabakh sent shock waves across society in Armenia and in Nagorno-Karabakh itself. Poghosyan argues that if Russia manages to keep its influence in the post-soviet space after the Ukraine war, it will probably come to an agreement with Azerbaijan and keep its troops in Karabakh after 2025, extending “de - jure Azerbaijan de - facto Russia” status for Nagorno Karabakh beyond 2025, and securing the presence of Armenians in Karabakh. However, if the war in Ukraine makes Russia significantly weaker in the post-soviet space, Azerbaijan may use the peace treaty with Armenia to force Russian troops out of Karabakh successfully. In that case, no international guarantees or promises of Azerbaijan will prevent the rapid exodus of Armenians from Karabakh.