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Busy time for Aliyev and Pashinyan at the Munich Security Conference

Busy time for Aliyev and Pashinyan at the Munich Security Conference

Armenian prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, and Azerbaijani president, Ilham Aliyev, are this weekend both attending the Munich Security Conference. On the margins of the big event the two leaders have held a series of bilateral meetings with world leaders and statesmen. Of special significance however was their own bilateral meeting, which followed a trilateral meeting hosted by the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz. In a short read out of the Aliyev-Pashinyan meeting, the website of the Azerbaijani president said "Negotiations on the peace treaty between the two countries, normalization of relations, border delimitation issues were discussed at the meeting. The Ministries of Foreign Affairs were instructed to hold a meeting on the peace agreement and a meeting of the border delimitation commission soon. The mutual compromises and progress achieved during COP29 between the two countries were positively evaluated." The website of the Armenian prime minister makes no mention of the bilateral meeting but highlights the meeting with Scholz, adding that "the process of regulating Armenia-Azerbaijan relations and steps aimed at ensuring peace and stability in the region were discussed. It was agreed to continue the work on the peace treaty." Both Aliyev and Pashinyan have also had bilateral meetings with the German Chancellor, as well as with US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, and OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malta Ian Borg. The meetings highlight the interest of the international community to support Armenia and Azerbaijan in their quest for peace, despite on-going problems and incidents on the ground. For Azerbaijan the meetings in Munich are also an opportunity to prepare for COP29 - the Climate Convention framework meeting which is scheduled to be held in Baku in November. Aliyev met with US Special Envoy on Climate, John Kerry, and also invited him for the Baku event.
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Emir of Kuwait dissolves parliament amid continuing political crisis between government and parliament

Emir of Kuwait dissolves parliament amid continuing political crisis between government and parliament

The Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, on Thursday issued a decree dissolving the National Assembly following "disrespectful remarks by lawmakers regarding the ruler".  An official statement cited by the state news agency, KUNA,  said the parliament has been dissolved “due to the National Assembly breaching constitutional principles as it failed to show due respect to the political leadership and for deliberately using uncontrolled and offensive language”. The remarks were made by lawmaker Abdulkarim Al-Kandari last week. It is the third time the National Assembly has been dissolved during the past 18 months and the ninth time since 2006 amid non-stop political crises between the elected parliament and the government. The decree said the dissolution was based on article 107 of the constitution, which gives the Emir the authority to dissolve the National Assembly but by stating the reasons. The article also states that fresh elections must be held within two months of the date of the dissolution. The dissolved Assembly was elected barely nine months ago in early June last year after the dissolution of the previous Assembly over disputes with the government. The parliament of Kuwait (National Assembly) has more power than similar institutions in the other Gulf monarchies. This came about after the liberation of Kuwait following the Iraqi invasion and the first Gulf War. Whilst there are no political parties, parliamentarians are usually elected to represent interest groups, including religious groups. In recent years Parliament has been involved in a constant struggle with the government, which is usually led by a member of the ruling al Sabah family. This is the first political crisis under the new Emir, Sheikh Mishal al-Ahmad al-Jaber Al-Sabah, who took over as ruler in December, following the death of his predecessor. The new Emir has as yet also not named a Crown Prince, which leaves the issue of succession open. The Crown Prince usually comes from a different branch of the Al Sabah family, further complicating matters
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Work launched on "an ambitious EU-Armenia Partnership Agenda"

Work launched on "an ambitious EU-Armenia Partnership Agenda"

The European Union and Armenia have launched work on a new "ambitious partnership agenda". This was announced by EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Josep Borrell at the end of a meeting of the EU Armenia Partnership Council. Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan led the Armenian side during the discussions. At the end of the meeting Borrell spoke to the media. Addressing Foreing Minister Mirzoyan, Borrell said: "In October in the European Parliament, your Prime Minister [Nikol Pashinyan] said that Armenia is ready to move closer to the European Union.  In response, last October, the European Council, at the highest political level of the European Union, tasked me and the [European] Commission to explore ways to strengthen our relations - EU-Armenia relations - “in all their dimensions”. In this context, today we decided to launch work on an ambitious new EU-Armenia Partnership Agenda.  This decision sends a strong signal of our mutual interest in a new strategic phase in our relations, and it will provide a clear roadmap and a vision for the way forward.This is about the future. The future starts today".
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Incidents on Armenia-Azerbaijan border leave dead and injured soldiers (Updated)

Incidents on Armenia-Azerbaijan border leave dead and injured soldiers (Updated)

Armenia and Azerbaijan have reported incidents on their border in the last twenty four hours as a result of which there are several casualties, including four dead Armenian soldiers.. In the first incident, on Monday 12th February in the afternoon, Azerbaijan reported that one of its border guards, Parviz Khalizadeh, aged 24 years, was hit by a sniper bullet fired from an Armenian post in the Syunik region. Armenia said that it was investigating the incident. Later, Azerbaijan reported that Armenian forces, between 2050 and 2340 on Monday, had fired at its positions in the northern sector of the common border. No casualties were reported. The Armenian Ministry of Defence strongly denied the claim. This morning (Tuesday 13th), Azerbaijan reported that it had conducted a "retaliatory operation" against the Armenian military post from where the sniper bullet had been fired on Monday near the settlement of Nearkin Hand in the Siyunik region. Armenia confirmed that Azerbaijan had opened fire at 0530 as a result of which four Armenian soldiers were killed and and one more wounded. The four Armenian soldiers who died were named as Eduard Harutyunyan, Gagik Manukyan, Arsen Hambardzumyan, and Hrach Hovhanissian. Both sides held each other responsible for the incidents.
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Opinion: Pashinyan's Constitutional Gambit

Opinion: Pashinyan's Constitutional Gambit

Reforming the constitution of any nation is inherently challenging, but in Armenia it has always proven particularly controversial, writes Onnik James Krekorian in this op-ed for commonspace.eu "Speaking at the Ministry of Justice in January, Pashinyan not only emphasised the necessity of constitutional reform but even argued for a comprehensive overhaul rather than piecemeal amendments. The purpose, he said, in addition to possibly switching from majority to minority governmental system, was to make Armenia “more competitive and viable” in a new “geopolitical and regional situation.” The opposition instinctively interpreted those words as referring to his administration’s attempts to normalise relations with Azerbaijan. At the heart of these claims is a belief that the preamble in the current constitution referring to the 1990 Declaration of Independence, itself based on the 1989 decision on the “Reunification of the Armenian SSR and the Mountainous Region of Karabakh,” could be removed. The opposition claims that doing so would only be at the behest of Baku. Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan has not categorically denied the claim but does confirm that Azerbaijan continues to raise this issue in negotiations, interpreting the preamble as indisputable claims on its territory."
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Oil markets jittery after Israel rejects Gaza ceasefire

Oil markets jittery after Israel rejects Gaza ceasefire

Oil prices were little changed on Friday, staying on track for weekly gains, but the markets remained jittery with tensions persisting in the Middle East after Israel rejected a ceasefire offer from Hamas, according to Reuters. Brent crude futures slipped 1 cent to $81.62 a barrel by 6:34 a.m. Saudi time, while US West Texas Intermediate crude futures rose 3 cents to $76.25 a barrel. Both benchmarks rose about 3 percent in the previous session as Israeli forces bombed the southern border city of Rafah on Thursday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a proposal to end the war in the Palestinian enclave. The tensions have kept oil prices elevated, with Brent and WTI both set to gain more than 5 percent for the week. “The move yesterday seemed a bit excessive on the back of not very much at least in terms of fundamentals,” ING’s head of commodities research Warren Patterson said. “I still expect the rangebound trading that we have become accustomed to recently will continue given the comfortable oil balance.” US officials made their most pointed criticism so far of Israel’s civilian casualties in Gaza as it turned the focus of its offensive to Rafah. A Hamas delegation arrived in Cairo on Thursday for ceasefire talks with mediators Egypt and Qatar. While the conflict has propped up prices, there has been no impact on oil production. Non-Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries output from Norway and Guyana is increasing while Russia is exporting more crude in February than it planned following a combination of drone attacks and technical outages at its refineries that could undermine its pledge to curb sales under a pact from OPEC and its allies, known as OPEC+ Under the deal, Russia committed to capping crude output at 9.5 million barrels per day. It is also voluntarily cutting crude exports by 300,000 bpd and fuel exports by 200,000 bpd from the average May-June level.