This is a members’ functionality. Please Sign up
Commentary: A restless summer in the South Caucasus can be the harbinger of a difficult autumn
7 September 2023
Despite the sweltering heat, officials in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia appeared to have taken little if any vacations this summer. The usual exodus to the beaches, or to cool mountain resorts, sometimes stretching from mid-July to mid-September, simply did not happen. In one capital, one observer commented that officials were at their desks throughout the summer. An air of uncertainty prevailed over the region.
Low-intensity border clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan threatened the fragile peace process. More dead and injured were added to the long list of victims of this conflict. Azerbaijan’s decision to assert its control over the Lachin corridor that connects the Armenian population of Karabakh to Armenia created hardships for the Karabakh Armenians, who on their part refuse to be supplied through alternative Azerbaijani routes. Inside Karabakh the political turmoil finally ended the fate of the de facto president, Arayik Harutyunyan, who resigned this week, adding to the instability. A meeting of the UN Security Council on 16 August discussed the Lachin issue. Concern was expressed by UNSC members, and most called on Azerbaijan to restore unhindered movement across the Lachin Corridor. But there was no consensus on a resolution, or even a Statement.
In Georgia, summer ended as it started, with a permanent stand-off between the governing “Georgian Dream” party and the fractured opposition. The issue of whether or not Georgia will get EU candidate status before the end of the year continued to dominate the political discourse. Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili, whose constitutional powers are mostly ceremonial, defied government advice and travelled to Europe at the beginning of September for talks with European leaders, who rolled out the red carpet to her. But in Tbilisi, the governing party started impeachment proceedings against her. They are likely to fail because the government is not able to muster the necessary votes needed in the parliament.
Some simply dismiss the summer shenanigans as part of the usual South Caucasus political fare. Unfortunately, there is more to it than that, and the restless summer may be the harbinger of a very difficult autumn.