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.

Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: Political Uncertainty in Armenia Should Not Disrupt Azerbaijan Normalisation

Opinion: Political Uncertainty in Armenia Should Not Disrupt Azerbaijan Normalisation

The Armenian opposition had up to now failed to come up with a leader who could unite it in its quest to overthrow Nikol Pashinyan. "That could change if a new political force led by a charismatic and populist alternative were to emerge. This month, the opposition hoped they have  such an alternative in Bagrat Galstanyan, Archbishop of the Tavush Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church, write Onnik Krikorian for commonspace.eu. Leading protests against the recent delimitation and demarcation of the Gazakh-Tavush section of the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, the cleric managed to rally up to 30,000 people in Yerevan’s Republic Square earlier this month, the largest public gathering since Pashinyan’s own in 2018.
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News
Tens of thousands take to the streets of Tbilisi to protest against repressive law

Tens of thousands take to the streets of Tbilisi to protest against repressive law

Tens of thousands of Georgians have taken to the streets of the capital Tbilisi on Saturday evening  (11 May) to protest a controversial "foreign influence" bill backed by the government. Protesters marched to the capital's Europe Square holding Georgian and EU flags, chanting “no to the Russian law”. The law would target civil society organisations and independent media that receive foreign funding. Massive rallies have gripped the Black Sea Caucasus country for nearly a month after the ruling Georgian Dream party reintroduced the bill. Despite a campaign of intimidation ahead of Saturday's rally - in which dozens of NGO workers, activists and opposition politicians received threats or were physically assaulted - protesters turned up in their thousands undeterred by the pouring rain. Opposition parties say the bill - coined "Russian law" after Russia's passing of similar legislation in 2012 - will be used by the government to clamp down on dissent. The US has said the bill threatens free speech. On Friday, foreign ministers of Nordic and Baltic states issued a joint statement urging the government in Tbilisi to reconsider the bill Last week, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the Georgian people want a "European future". "Georgia is at a crossroads. It should stay the course on the road to Europe," she posted on X. But the Georgian Dream government has defended the bill, saying it will "boost transparency" over NGOs' foreign funding. It aims to sign the measure into law by mid-May. If adopted, the law would require that any independent NGO and media organisation receiving more than 20% of its funding from abroad to register as an "organisation pursuing the interests of a foreign power". But the protesters fear it could be used to crush critical voices ahead of parliamentary elections later this year. The bill cleared its second parliamentary stage by a margin of 83 votes to 23. After a third reading, it has to be signed by President Salome Zurabishvili, who has vowed to veto it - although Georgian Dream has sufficient numbers in parliament to overrule her. In 2023, mass street protests forced Georgian Dream to drop plans for similar measures.

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Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: Political Uncertainty in Armenia Should Not Disrupt Azerbaijan Normalisation

Opinion: Political Uncertainty in Armenia Should Not Disrupt Azerbaijan Normalisation

The Armenian opposition had up to now failed to come up with a leader who could unite it in its quest to overthrow Nikol Pashinyan. "That could change if a new political force led by a charismatic and populist alternative were to emerge. This month, the opposition hoped they have  such an alternative in Bagrat Galstanyan, Archbishop of the Tavush Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church, write Onnik Krikorian for commonspace.eu. Leading protests against the recent delimitation and demarcation of the Gazakh-Tavush section of the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, the cleric managed to rally up to 30,000 people in Yerevan’s Republic Square earlier this month, the largest public gathering since Pashinyan’s own in 2018.
Editor's choice
News
Tens of thousands take to the streets of Tbilisi to protest against repressive law

Tens of thousands take to the streets of Tbilisi to protest against repressive law

Tens of thousands of Georgians have taken to the streets of the capital Tbilisi on Saturday evening  (11 May) to protest a controversial "foreign influence" bill backed by the government. Protesters marched to the capital's Europe Square holding Georgian and EU flags, chanting “no to the Russian law”. The law would target civil society organisations and independent media that receive foreign funding. Massive rallies have gripped the Black Sea Caucasus country for nearly a month after the ruling Georgian Dream party reintroduced the bill. Despite a campaign of intimidation ahead of Saturday's rally - in which dozens of NGO workers, activists and opposition politicians received threats or were physically assaulted - protesters turned up in their thousands undeterred by the pouring rain. Opposition parties say the bill - coined "Russian law" after Russia's passing of similar legislation in 2012 - will be used by the government to clamp down on dissent. The US has said the bill threatens free speech. On Friday, foreign ministers of Nordic and Baltic states issued a joint statement urging the government in Tbilisi to reconsider the bill Last week, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the Georgian people want a "European future". "Georgia is at a crossroads. It should stay the course on the road to Europe," she posted on X. But the Georgian Dream government has defended the bill, saying it will "boost transparency" over NGOs' foreign funding. It aims to sign the measure into law by mid-May. If adopted, the law would require that any independent NGO and media organisation receiving more than 20% of its funding from abroad to register as an "organisation pursuing the interests of a foreign power". But the protesters fear it could be used to crush critical voices ahead of parliamentary elections later this year. The bill cleared its second parliamentary stage by a margin of 83 votes to 23. After a third reading, it has to be signed by President Salome Zurabishvili, who has vowed to veto it - although Georgian Dream has sufficient numbers in parliament to overrule her. In 2023, mass street protests forced Georgian Dream to drop plans for similar measures.
Editor's choice
Editorial
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.
Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: Armenia-Azerbaijan Gas Co-operation: Pipe Dream or Reality?

Opinion: Armenia-Azerbaijan Gas Co-operation: Pipe Dream or Reality?

In that context, is it even possible to consider Armenia purchasing gas from Azerbaijan? Unless Yerevan can cancel or renegotiate its existing obligations, that remains unknown. However, that is not to say there aren’t other opportunities. Given the finite nature of fossil fuels, and a gradual switch to renewables anyway, perhaps alternative energy sources offer more potential. Armenia already exports electricity to Georgia and that could be expanded to include Turkiye and through the Black Sea Submarine Cable too – but likely only if normalisation continues. "Following an unprecedented joint statement by Yerevan and Baku last December, in which Armenia green lit Azerbaijan hosting the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP) later this year, the event offers the opportunity to take this conversation further. At the weekend, Azerbaijani Presidential Advisor Hikmet Hajiyev had already put the focus on making the important global event “an engine for peace by finding common ground […].” As the world continues to grapple with the problem of climate change and securing new sources of energy for the future, it is vital that Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia work together as part of a larger solution. The signs are already there", wites Onnik James Krikorian in this op-ed for commonspace.eu