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Regional co-operation is back in fashion in the South Caucasus, but three is company and six is a crowd
2 November 2023
Over the last few weeks, the president of Azerbaijan, and the prime ministers of Armenia and Georgia, have made separate calls for regional co-operation among the three South Caucasus countries, highlighting the benefits that can come out from such co-operation. This is a big shift in positions, especially for Azerbaijan. There is no doubt that regional co-operation can bring great benefits to the three countries and the wider region. The three leaders need to get together and ideally sign some kind of joint declaration outlining their regional vision. Work on this should start at senior diplomat level as soon as possible.
There is an alternative vision to the trilateral regional co-operation, and this is the idea of adding to the core three South Caucasus countries, the three regional neighbours: Russia, Iran and Turkey. Meetings in this format, with the Georgians absent, have taken place in Moscow and Tehran. Those pushing for this format, whether consciously or unconsciously, are trying to destroy the idea of South Caucasus regional co-operation between the three core countries. Most things that can be done between the three (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia), cannot be done between the six. The 3 + 3 – useful only once the Georgians join, can be a talking shop. No doubt someone will come up after with the idea of the 3 + 2 – providing a forum between the three South Caucasus countries and the EU and US that can be yet another talking shop. But realistically, neither can form the basis of regional co-operation. It is clear that in the South Caucasus three is a company but six is a crowd.