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
News
UAE president, Mohamed bin Zayed, in Baku for talks with Aliyev (Updated)

UAE president, Mohamed bin Zayed, in Baku for talks with Aliyev (Updated)

A high level delegation from the United Arab Emirates, led by President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, travelled to Baku on Monday afternoon (8 January) for talks with president Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan. On Tuesday, President Mohamed bin Zayed and his delegation held talks with the president of Azerbaijan and other Azerbaijani officials. The official website of the Azerbaijani president also listed a number of documents agreed by the two sides that were signed in the framework of the visit. At the start of the visit, Sheikh Mohamed laid a wreath at the tomb of Heydar Aliyev, the founder of modern Azerbaijan, as well as at the Eternal Flame monument, according to UAE state news agency, Wam. The President was accompanied by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Vice President, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Presidential Court; Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, Ruler's Representative in Al Dhafra Region; Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad, Adviser for Special Affairs at the Presidential Court; Ali Al Shamsi, deputy secretary general of the Supreme National Security Council; Dr Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to the President and former minister of state for foreign affairs; Suhail Al Mazrouei, Minister of Energy and Infrastructure; Dr Sultan Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology; Mohamed Al Suwaidi, Minister of Investment; Ahmed Al Sayegh, Minister of State; and Mohammed Al Balushi, ambassador to Azerbaijan. President Aliyev later in the evening hosted an official dinner for the Emirati guests. No information has been released regarding the nature of the talks under discussion, but for sure Azerbaijani is keen to learn from the experience of the UAE in hosting COP28 in December, as it prepares to host COP29 in Baku later this year. COP29 will be the biggest international event ever held in the South Caucasus. 
Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: Azerbaijan seeks guarantees

Opinion: Azerbaijan seeks guarantees

"While optimism surrounds the impending peace agreement, the cautionary inclusion of guarantees becomes crucial to forestall resurgent territorial claims", writes Vasif Huseynov in this op-ed for commonspace.eu citing a comment by president Aliyev on 6 December. "As the region braces for a historic peace agreement, the challenge lies in designing a comprehensive treaty that not only concludes hostilities but fosters enduring reconciliation between Azerbaijan and Armenia."
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Opinion
Opinion: 2023 was another year of missed opportunities in Armenia-Azerbaijan relations

Opinion: 2023 was another year of missed opportunities in Armenia-Azerbaijan relations

"Despite hopes, Armenia and Azerbaijan failed to sign a peace agreement by the end of 2023", writes Benyamin Poghosyan in this op-ed for commonspace.eu. "However, since the text of the document seems to be, by and large, already agreed, there are hopes that an agreement may be signed in the first half of 2024. Otherwise, the EU and US election cycles in the Summer and Autumn of 2024 may push the South Caucasus out of the West's radar. If this happens, Russia may resume its leading role as a negotiation platform between Armenia and Azerbaijan, pushing the two sides to sign a peace agreement in Moscow by the end of 2024", he argues. 
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Opinion
Opinion: Armenia and Azerbaijan warm-up to the bilateral track in their negotiations

Opinion: Armenia and Azerbaijan warm-up to the bilateral track in their negotiations

For many months formal talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan have been in stagnation, writes Samir Hajizada in this op-ed for commonspace.eu. Then on 7 December, the two countries surprised the international community with a joint statement re-affirming commitment to the peace process and announcing confidence-building measures. A number of recent developments allow us to assume that the bilateral discussion format is finally gaining a real momentum. Thus, on December 14, the Government of Armenia has approved the regulations for the functioning of the delimitation commission- while a similar move is expected from Baku in the coming days. Moreover, on the same day Azerbaijani MFA issued a statement that normalisation of relations with Armenia seems realistic, and Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan during his visit to Azerbaijan stated that peace between the countries is very close. The opportunities for a long-awaited breakthrough suddenly started to look bright at the end of the grim 2023.
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Editorial
Editorial: EU decision to grant Georgia "candidate status" overshadowed by controversy in Brussels over Ukraine

Editorial: EU decision to grant Georgia "candidate status" overshadowed by controversy in Brussels over Ukraine

If one had said it even as recently as 2021, that by the end of 2023 Georgia would be given "candidate status" for EU membership, hardly anyone would have believed it. Yet it happened yesterday, when the member states gathered in the European Council in Brussels took the historic decision to open accession talks with Ukraine and Moldova and grant candidate status to Georgia. The immediate impact of this decision will be minimal - some consider the step as more symbolic than tangible, but soon, the impact of the prospect of a South Caucasus country becoming an EU member will sink in, with huge implications. Of course, it is the events around Ukraine starting with the Russian invasion in February 2022, that changed all the certainties. And it was also Ukraine that dominated the news yesterday. The decision to open accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova will also have tremendous implications. Perhaps appropriately it was taken in somewhat dramatic circumstances, after Hungary tried to oppose it. Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orban, left the meeting of the European Council to enable the decision to be adopted unanimously by the remaining 26 member states. There remains a decision on the issue of a substantial aid package to Ukraine, which has been left for another meeting in January. What now for Georgia? In Georgia everyone is trying to take credit for the "candidate status" decision. Good thing because everyone can now feel to be a stakeholder in the journey that needs to follow. No doubt, in the style of Georgian politics, the journey will be  adventurous and sometimes hazardous. But the new status is good news for Georgia. It will help stabilise the political situation, and contribute towards economic success. The decision also brings the EU firmly in the South Caucasus. Those who very disingenuously in the last year or so have been talking about keeping the South Caucasus cosy in a 3 plus 3  format - ie with Russia, Iran and Turkey together with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, now need to think again. The South Caucasus is Europe and Europe should be a partner in its future. But that is for later. For today, it is congratulations Georgia, and to all those Georgians who for decades worked for this development to be possible.