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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Editor's choice
Editorial
Editorial: Give Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine EU candidate status now!

Editorial: Give Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine EU candidate status now!

In the next few days the European Commission will announce its opinion on the request of Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine for European Union candidate status. A decision will then be taken by the 27 member states in the European Council at the end of this month. “Candidate Status” is the beginning of a journey for any country that wants to join the European Union. In the case of many successful candidates in the past, the process has often taken a decade or more. In the case of others, such as Turkey, the process does not appear to have an end in sight. In short candidate status is not an automatic ticket to EU membership, simply a political expression of the will of the applicant and of the EU to embark on the journey. This notwithstanding the EU has been increasingly hesitant to give a membership perspective to the trio. This is partly due to the so called “enlargement fatigue”, partly because there are those within the member states and the institutions who do not think Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine should be in the EU, period! These sceptics have been caught on the wrong foot by the war in Ukraine, the heroism of the Ukrainian resistance to the Russian invasion, and the decision of the trio to bring forward their request for candidate status and to ask that it be dealt with urgently. Clearly, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine are not ready for EU membership today, but that is not what is on the agenda now. The many challenges facing the three countries should not be hidden under the carpet, and the political elites in Tbilisi, Chisinau and Kyiv must assume their responsibility to ensure political, economic and judicial reforms are implemented more comprehensively and more speedily. But for now, candidate status, especially in the present context, is primarily a political decision and a political statement, and it should be extended to the three countries now!
Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: The Armenia-Azerbaijan peace process should be pursued "through compatible mediation between the EU and Russia"

Opinion: The Armenia-Azerbaijan peace process should be pursued "through compatible mediation between the EU and Russia"

Baku perceives certain recent actions by the Russian media and by prominent Russian politicians as a provocation, writes Vasif Huseynov in this op-ed for commonspace.eu. and this may be happening as a result of an increased EU engagement with resolving the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. One option is "to pursue the peace process in a mode of compatible mediation of the EU and Russia. The fact that the second meeting of the border delimitation and demarcation took place in Moscow before the upcoming one in Brussels indicates such an effort by the sides. This can make the Armenia-Azerbaijan peace process a unique case where the West and Russia stand on the same page and encourage the two sides to find a common language in the conflicts elsewhere."
Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: Autonomy is one way in which some of the problems in Armenia-Azerbaijan relations can be resolved

Opinion: Autonomy is one way in which some of the problems in Armenia-Azerbaijan relations can be resolved

"As Armenians and Azerbaijanis are finally trying to build a lasting peace, autonomy can be a powerful tool that brings people together instead of dividing them. It is important to give it a chance", argues Kamal Makili-Aliyev in this op-ed.  "Autonomy is a viable compromise that can lead to a lasting peace when it is implemented carefully and properly, with the aim of bringing the two nations together." "One good example is the Aland Islands, a Swedish-speaking autonomous region within Finland. That arrangement celebrated its 101st birthday this year as a successful means of bringing Swedes and Finns together politically, culturally, in education and interpersonal relations. Its secret? Carefully thought-out structures for separating powers between the autonomy and the central government, respect for minority rights, and security guarantees in the form of demilitarization (including, no local conscription or military bases) and neutralization (the autonomy cannot participate in wars neither passively, nor actively) of the region.".
Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: Peacekeeping in Karabakh can learn from the UNOMIG experience

Opinion: Peacekeeping in Karabakh can learn from the UNOMIG experience

As Armenia and Azerbaijan come closer to launching bilateral negotiations over the normalisation of relations, many issues are yet to be resolved. One of them is the future of the Russian force deployed to Karabakh after the 10 November 2020 trilateral declaration. In this op-ed for commonspace.eu, Benyamin Poghosyan says that "according to the Russian expert community, the Kremlin has no intention to withdraw them after November 2025", but others think a multinational force under an international mandate may be the solution. "All actors understand that a foreign military presence in Nagorno-Karabakh is necessary to prevent new hostilities. Russia will not remove its troops from the region but would like to have some international mandate. The US is not satisfied to see Russian troops in Nagorno Karabakh and would like to replace them with other forces under an international mandate. Azerbaijan would like to see Russian troops leaving Nagorno Karabakh but understands that this will not happen. Probably from the Azerbaijani point of view, supplementing Russian troops with forces of other countries under an international mandate could be a solution. In this context, the experience of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), deployed between 1993-2009, may be helpful."
Editor's choice
News
Yerevan meeting welcomes recommendations on confidence-building measures proposed by joint expert group

Yerevan meeting welcomes recommendations on confidence-building measures proposed by joint expert group

The conclusions of the report “The South Caucasus from War to Peace: 30 measures between now and 2030”, recently published by the Joint Armenian-Azerbaijani Working group on Confidence-Building Measures in support of lasting peace in the South Caucasus (JOLIG), were presented in Yerevan on Monday, 30 May to an audience of diplomats, officials and civil society representatives. Armenian members of the Joint Liaison Group: Stepan Grigoryan, Benyamin Poghosyan and Johnny Melikyan, spoke about the process of dialogue with Azerbaijani counterparts in the preparation of the report, and highlighted the report’s conclusions, including thirty recommendations to help the process of building trust and confidence between Armenia and Azerbaijan and Armenians and Azerbaijanis. Addressing the event, the Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Andrea Wiktorin, congratulated the joint Liaison Group for its successful work. She said the report was important and timely and  offered many useful ideas that could be implemented in the short, medium and long term in support of peace in the South Caucasus.
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." 
Editor's choice
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.