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: Are France and Azerbaijan drifting back to normal?

Opinion: Are France and Azerbaijan drifting back to normal?

Relations between France and Azerbaijan have been on a downward slope since the 44-day war in 2020, when Paris emerged as Armenia’s major international supporter, and the French parliament even voted, almost unanimously, for a resolution calling for the recognition of independence of the so-called “Republic of Artsakh”. Already during the war, Azerbaijani MFA claimed that Paris “ceased to be an honest broker”, and this position only hardened over time. Since then, the bilateral ties have been progressively deteriorating, especially after Azerbaijan’s military operation in Karabakh in September 2023: France became the country where calls to sanction Baku for its “ethnic cleansing” were the most vocal, while Azerbaijan started to attack Paris over its “neo-colonial” policies, targeting continued French sovereignty over several overseas territories, primarily New Caledonia whose independence movement has been active for decades.
Editor's choice
Editorial
Approaching the end game for Armenia-Azerbaijan peace

Approaching the end game for Armenia-Azerbaijan peace

Nikol Pashinyan has taken Armenia on a long journey, and brought it close to peace with Azerbaijan. Few if any believed that he could achieve what has been done so far. It is true that Azerbaijani military superiority, the victory in 2020, and the puzzling events of September 2023, which saw the overnight collapse of the Armenian political project in Nagorno-Karabakh and the subsequent exodus of the entire Armenian population from the territory, in many ways pre-determined what is about to follow. But given the entrenched nationalist positions and hard-line narratives that have traditionally characterised Armenia’s political thinking, even these developments were not enough to guarantee peace. The last part of the journey had to be done in the minds of Armenians, and Pashinyan set about doing this with conviction and determination, challenging the narrative of a historical Armenia, that is only the imagination of the nationalist elites and advocating instead, "a real" Armenia with fixed border.

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Editor's choice
Opinion
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."
Editor's choice
Commentary
Georgia's "supreme leader"

Georgia's "supreme leader"

An extraordinary congress of Georgia's ruling Georgian Dream party on Thursday formally agreed the nomination of Irakli Kobakhidze to the post of prime minister. He is expected to be endorsed by parliament tomorrow. After the Party Congress, which lasted about 16 minutes, Kobakhidze told journalists that all ministers would remain in office except for Defense Minister Junasher Burchuladze who is to be replaced by the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Irakli Chikovani.  Irakli Garibashvili, the former Prime Minister of Georgia, resigned from his post on January 29, and today replaced Kobakhidze as the Chairman of the “Georgian Dream".  The swap is seen as another expression of the power wielded by Bidzina Ivanishvili who just before new year made a dramatic return to front-line Georgian politics. In a commentary which was first published on the electronic newsletter, Caucasus Concise on 1 February, commonspace.eu research team discusses the role of Ivanishvili as the "supreme leader" of Georgia. They argue that  "in democracies political leaders are accountable not only to the voters in elections, but also subject to scrutiny by parliament, the media and civil society. Bidzina Ivanishvili needs to be accessible to all these parts of the Georgian body politics. He needs to be able to explain policies, answer questions and accept the responsibility for decisions taken not only by him but also by his subordinates, for the Georgian Dream's government is Ivanishvili's government, and there is little doubt left about that."
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Opinion
Opinion: Roadblock to peace: the geopolitical quagmire of the "Zangezur Corridor"

Opinion: Roadblock to peace: the geopolitical quagmire of the "Zangezur Corridor"

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the 1994 ceasefire agreement that put fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces over the Soviet-era mainly ethnic Armenian Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) on hold – or at least until it escalated into war in 2016 and more devastatingly in 2020. Despite the involvement of international mediators, peace remained elusive despite occasional claims to the contrary. The sides were said to have gotten close, but never enough to prevent tens of thousands dying in over three decades of conflict.
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News
Pashinyan visits Tbilisi: Armenia and Georgia agree to establish "strategic partnership"

Pashinyan visits Tbilisi: Armenia and Georgia agree to establish "strategic partnership"

Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan, accompanied by senior ministers, visited Georgia on Friday (26 January) for meetings with prime minister Irakli Garibashvili and senior Georgian officials. Garibashvili and  Pashinyan on Friday discussed the “fruitful” bilateral ties after signing an agreement on upgrading them to a strategic co-operation in Tbilisi earlier during the day. In a face-to-face meeting in Tbilisi before the launch of an Intergovernmental Economic Cooperation Commission session at the Government office, Garibashvili expressed confidence the new deal would strengthen the cooperation, the Georgian Government press office said.  In his remarks, Garibashvili noted the two states had “always been strategic friends and partners”, adding “this reality has officially been signed today”. “We discussed important matters concerning the existing relations, partnership, and cooperation between the two countries in all directions”, he said. We have a very good partnership, relationship, cooperation in all directions and de facto, it can be said that we were already strategic friends and strategic partners. Today, it can be said, this reality has been formalised, and we officially signed a cooperation agreement on strategic partnership” Garibashvili also called Georgia and Armenia “traditionally [and] historically very strong allies” and “friends, not just neighbours”. Security considerations in the region and wider world were among the issues discussed, with the Georgian PM pointing to the significance of “supporting peace and stability” in the South Caucasus, noting such efforts would unlock “fresh opportunities” for the region.
Editor's choice
Analysis
Unblocking the Caspian route for Turkmen gas

Unblocking the Caspian route for Turkmen gas

Turkmenistan, for decades considered one of the most closed countries in the world, is moving towards modest attempts at opening up its economy. Western sanctions against Russia which caused a gradual halt to energy supply from Russia to Europe and swelling Russian gas supplies to China, once Turkmenistan’s almost-exclusive client, made Ashgabat face a new reality that challenged its longstanding economic model, resulting in a significant deterioration of living standards and social discontent. Against this background, the country had to start considering options for diversifying its gas export geography and attracting foreign investment, writes Murad Muradov in this analysis prepared for commonspace.eu. The big question remains however whether the long-cherished idea of the Transcaspian pipeline, a link which would bring Turkmenistan’s gas to European markets, will finally come to fruition after many years of aborted attempts and uncertainty. This may be within reach sooner and faster than expected.