Opinion, Analysis, Editorial, Interview, Commentary

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Opinions, analysis and editorial pieces, interviews and general commentary on issues and regions in and around Europe from our panel of regular experts and research associates, and guest writers and contributors.

Deployment of the EU monitoring mission to Armenia: A view from Azerbaijan

On January 23, the Council of the European Union (EU) agreed to establish a civilian monitoring mission in Armenia’s border areas in order to “ensure an environment conducive to normalization efforts between Armenia and Azerbaijan”. The deployment of the mission has caused mixed reactions in the two countries and frustrated Russia, writes Vasif Huseynov in this op-ed for commonspace.eu.

patrickn97 Thu, 01/26/2023 - 14:53 Opinion: Kazakhstan’s "Yurts of Invincibility" are more than just a humanitarian initiative for Ukraine

In early January 2023, amid the freezing temperatures and power blackouts of Bucha - the Kyiv suburb now infamous for it being the location of Russian massacres of Ukrainian civilians in early 2022 - there popped up a Kazakh yurt where residents were served free traditional Kazakh food and tea, could keep warm and could charge their electronic devices. Soon after, another yurt appeared in downtown Kyiv.

patrickn97 Tue, 01/24/2023 - 09:56
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Deployment of the EU monitoring mission to Armenia: A view from Azerbaijan

On January 23, the Council of the European Union (EU) agreed to establish a civilian monitoring mission in Armenia’s border areas in order to “ensure an environment conducive to normalization efforts between Armenia and Azerbaijan”. The deployment of the mission has caused mixed reactions in the two countries and frustrated Russia, writes Vasif Huseynov in this op-ed for commonspace.eu.

patrickn97 Thu, 01/26/2023 - 14:53
Opinion: Kazakhstan’s "Yurts of Invincibility" are more than just a humanitarian initiative for Ukraine

In early January 2023, amid the freezing temperatures and power blackouts of Bucha - the Kyiv suburb now infamous for it being the location of Russian massacres of Ukrainian civilians in early 2022 - there popped up a Kazakh yurt where residents were served free traditional Kazakh food and tea, could keep warm and could charge their electronic devices. Soon after, another yurt appeared in downtown Kyiv.

patrickn97 Tue, 01/24/2023 - 09:56
Opinion: Armenia must not use the Lachin corridor for the transportation of military goods
While Azerbaijan gets most of the blame for the ongoing crisis in the “Lachin Corridor,” the international community does not see the elephant in the room: Armenia’s shipment of weapons and illegal mining operations through this corridor intended for civilian use, writes Nurlan Mustafayev in this op-ed for commonspace.eu
dennis2020 Thu, 01/19/2023 - 08:46
Opinion: Armenia - India Relations: Time is right to develop a strategic partnership
The defeat in the 2020 Nagorno Karabakh war shocked Armenia and Armenians all around the world, and destroyed many deeply entrenched perspectives on Armenia's geo-political realities, writes Benyamin Poghosyan in this op-ed for commonspace.eu. "Armenia should establish new partnerships that will allow Yerevan to decrease its economic and military development gap with Azerbaijan while adding a new layer of deterrence against Turkey in addition to the existing strategic alliance with Russia. In this context, India is the natural choice for Armenia", he argues. All the necessary ingredients are there to boost Armenia – India relations and bring them to the level of strategic partnership. There is an urgent need to institutionalize the ties, and the first step toward that direction could be establishing an Armenia - India high-level cooperation council. It should have annual sessions with the participation of Armenian and Indian Prime Ministers. At the same time, joint strategic planning groups should be established under the council to develop concrete projects in different spheres. 
dennis2020 Tue, 01/17/2023 - 10:20
Opinion: No Peace is possible with zero trust
"If one side of the conflict, regardless of the motives and explanations, takes action to starve the civilian population of the other side, trust will not reach the zero level; it may go beyond zero. Thus, all external actors, who have been involved in the complicated task of creating some trust between Armenians and Azerbaijanis, should clearly express their position – the blockade of the Lachin corridor should be stopped immediately. At the same time, negotiations should continue to address any concerns of Azerbaijan without breaching the November 10, 2020, trilateral declaration, writes Benyamin Poghosyan in this op-ed for commonspace.eu.
dennis2020 Mon, 01/09/2023 - 10:05
Opinion: EU mediation between Armenia and Azerbaijan is needed now more than ever
The stalemate in the process of normalising relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan has created new risks. Writing for commonspace.eu in this op-ed, Vasif Huseynov says that "there is widespread concern in the region that the sides might end up in a violent military escalation this year if they fail to sign a peace treaty and agree on a roadmap for the resolution of the remaining disputes concerning the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan and the re-opening of regional transportation links. Under these circumstances, there is a great need for the constructive intervention and active mediation of the EU, without which Baku and Yerevan are unlikely to be able to overcome the difficulties created by the Russian side", he argues.
dennis2020 Fri, 01/06/2023 - 07:17
Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: 2022 - a year of high expectations tempered by dire realities

Opinion: 2022 - a year of high expectations tempered by dire realities

After the wave of diplomatic activities in late September – early October 2022, it seemed that the idea of signing a peace treaty between Armenia and Azerbaijan by the end of 2022 was more than a dream. However, November – December 2022 proved that pessimists were closer to reality. After Russia re-inserted itself in the negotiation process by organizing a new trilateral leaders' summit on October 31, 2022, and Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers met in Washington on November 7, 2022; the peace process stalled. In the current situation, the external players involved in the negotiations and interested in preventing a resumption of hostilities should focus on preserving the fragile stability that emerged after September aggression by Azerbaijan. In this context, the resumption of the Brussels format of negotiations is of utmost importance. Otherwise, the Nagorno Karabakh conflict and Armenia – Azerbaijan relations risk becoming another pawn in Russia – US confrontation, with negative implications for all sides.
Opinion: Azerbaijan is intensively engaged in new projects that aim to contribute to energy security, especially in Eastern Europe
Over the last month, the diplomatic traffic between Azerbaijan and the Eastern European countries has intensified in a remarkable way. The mutual high-level visits between Albania and Azerbaijan, as well as between Serbia and Azerbaijan in a short period of time over the last few months were a sign of the sides’ interest in bilateral cooperation in various fields, particularly in the field of energy. Azerbaijan is also involved in projects with the countries of the region within multilateral formats together with the European Union (EU). In this context, two major agreements signed this year provide a good basis for this cooperation both in the imports of natural gas and importantly green energy, writes Vasif Huseynov in this op-ed for commonspace.eu. These developments in the relations between Azerbaijan and the Eastern European countries brings with it also geopolitical approximation between the sides. As President Aliyev stated following the signing of the electricity deal in Bucharest, Azerbaijan’s contribution to European energy security creates an important bridge between the EU and Azerbaijan. The bridge between the two shores of the Black Sea forms a larger security architecture which increase the resilience of the regional countries in the face of national security challenges they face.
dennis2020 Mon, 12/26/2022 - 10:59
Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: 2022 started promising from the perspective of peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan but prospects for 2023 are bleak

Opinion: 2022 started promising from the perspective of peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan but prospects for 2023 are bleak

Russia's attempts to show Armenia and Azerbaijan its red lines during the summit in Sochi on 31 October disrupted a positive moment in Armenia-Azerbaijan relations that had been ongoing throughout 2022. A deterioration in Azerbaijan-Iran relations has further hightened tensions in the region. "One can foresee that new escalations and hostilities will be imminent, if the peace efforts fail to deliver tangible outcomes between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and if some external actors continue to fuel the tensions in the region", writes Vasif Huseynov in this op-ed for commonspace.eu.
Opinion: The end of the truce in Yemen: what are the next scenarios?

Attempts to extend the truce in Yemen failed because "the Houthis currently have the upper hand over the legitimate government and the coalition’s shaky military situation," writes Monif Aldarwish in this commentary for commonspace.eu. He adds that the current relative calm in Yemen "is not due to the parties' need for rest; they have rested enough during the truce. It is instead due to the Houthis' association with Iran's foreign policy, which is itself currently proceeding cautiously due to its domestic environment.

patrickn97 Thu, 12/15/2022 - 11:07
Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: Russian obstacles to the peace process are contributing to renewed tensions in the region

Opinion: Russian obstacles to the peace process are contributing to renewed tensions in the region

Statements made by Russian president Putin and foreign minister Lavrov since October have made Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan a target of nationalist groups in Armenia and its diaspora. The result has been Armenian procrastination in the pursuit of the peace process. These Russian attempts to derail the peace process led by the EU are adding to increased tensions in the region. In this op-ed for commonspace.eu, Vasif Huseynov says that "Baku is not planning to engage in extended negotiations with Armenia and its external patrons with no clear prospects for a successful conclusion. Azerbaijan can now more confidently counter the threats to its territorial integrity and its efforts to reintegrate the Karabakh region."
Opinion: The complexities of the current world order

 "The current confusion in global geopolitics is quite different from the original Cold war. In the second part of the 20th century, the world was bipolar, as the US and Soviet Union were fighting each other. Many countries sought to avoid this confrontation through membership in the Non – aligned movement, but it never became a third pole. Now the situation is much more complicated. As the US and Russia are facing each other in a new rendition of a Cold war, the world is far from being bipolar.

dennis2020 Mon, 12/12/2022 - 06:06
Kazakhstan looks back at a difficult 2022, determined to pursue change and reform in 2023
For the Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan, this year has probably been the most difficult one since its independence in 1991. Yet the country has emerged from it stronger. The process of reform initiated by President Kassym Jomart Tokayev appears to be gathering momentum, despite resistance from parts of the ruling elite still associated with the country’s first president Nursultan Nazarbayev. On Thursday, 29 December, Tokayev addressed the Kazakh Senate in the capital, Astana, where he summed up the year’s results. “This year, the country has been through a lot, but we managed to overcome all difficulties,” said the President. Tokayev paid particular attention to preserving stability and security, and paving the way for the dynamic development of the state is a priority for Kazakhstan. The reforms in all spheres will be continued into the following year. In early January Kazakhstan faced an unprecedented upheaval, initially triggered by price rises, but which soon got hijacked by elements close to the previous president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who were unhappy with the reforms being implemented, and most of all with the clampdown on corruption which had started to affect them. At this point Nazarbayev still held control over several leverages of power, including as Head of the Security Council and as President of the ruling party. The disturbances were contained but at considerable human and material costs.
dennis2020 Fri, 12/30/2022 - 07:07
Under the Pall of War: Implications of Russia's Invasion of Ukraine for Peace Processes in the South Caucasus
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 shattered Europe’s security architecture, with far-reaching and unpredictable implications for conflicts in neighbouring regions where Russia plays a role. This discussion paper, just published by Conciliation Resources, focuses on the impacts of war in Ukraine on the peace processes of the South Caucasus, a region fractured by protracted conflicts dating back to the 1990s.
dennis2020 Sun, 12/18/2022 - 06:34
The Yemeni Diaspora: a case study analysis of the German and American Yemeni diasporas

In this second article in a series of three pieces about different aspects of the Yemeni diaspora, Hisham Almahdi discusses notable aspects and intricacies of the German and American diasporas. The first article can be read here and, the third article in this series will be published in due course.

patrickn97 Wed, 12/14/2022 - 14:00
The Yemeni Diaspora: An analysis of its history, development, and nature
In this first article in a series of three pieces about different aspects of the Yemeni diaspora, Hisham Almahdi discusses the history, development and nature of the global Yemeni diaspora, and notes how its varying waves and changes have impacted all three. There are about 6-7 million Yemenis spread across the six continents, at least according to Mohammed Al-Adil, Yemen's deputy minister of expatriates, and several other official and unofficial sources. Compared to Yemen’s total population of over 30 million, the size of the diaspora is indeed significant, although it is unclear whether the diaspora is included in the overall population count. Almost half of the diaspora (3 million Yemenis) live in Gulf countries, mostly Saudi Arabia, where Yemenis, alongside their South Asian counterparts, make up the backbone of the oil producing nations' labour force. Other estimates report that the number of Yemenis in Egypt is somewhere between 500-900 thousand, with another 58,600 and 12,000 Yemeni nationals in the US and UK respectively. This is not to mention second- and third-generation migrants who have been abroad for decades, as well as tens of thousands in countries like Djibouti, Malaysia, Turkey, and Jordan. 
patrickn97 Sat, 11/26/2022 - 11:23
Editor's choice
Analysis
Analysis: Mohammed bin Zayed meets Putin in Moscow as Gulf states ponder the new world order

Analysis: Mohammed bin Zayed meets Putin in Moscow as Gulf states ponder the new world order

The president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), met in Moscow on Tuesday (11 October) with president Valdimir Putin of Russia. Putin warmly greeted his UAE guest at the Kostantinovsky Palace. The visit comes as Gulf states ponder about the new world order, Even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the world order that had emerged at the end of the Cold War had clearly run out of steam. Russia and the West, instead of partners in the international system through membership of the G8, cooperation in space, and extensive arms control agreements, became first rivals, and, since February this year, enemies. China, whose rise over the last four decades as an economic power was first admired, has subsequently become a “systematic rival”. As it verges on superpower status it has become more assertive and less predictable. The US and its allies are seriously worried.  For the countries of the Gulf this new world order is uncharted waters. During the Cold War the Gulf was first a British lake, and later an American one. The American shield protected the Gulf states against intruders. When Iraq invaded Kuwait and occupied it in 1990, the US and its allies led the international community in a fightback, and Saddam Hussein was driven back across the border with a bloody nose. When he tried to rear his head again, the West finished him off. Then there was Iran. A huge American presence, with other allies in the wings, saw off Iranian ambitions in the region. It seemed that US-GCC relations were set in stone. Yet as the world reverted back to a multipolar state - the parameters of which are as yet undefined - it was only the naïve who thought that the GCC states will simply slide back to their old role of doing the USA's bidding in return for protection. Things in the Gulf have changed dramatically in the last six decades, and in the last decade in particular, in political terms the region is unrecognisable. In Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Doha and elsewhere the national interest has been re-defined. 
Analysis: Russia's "Wagner group" poses a threat to peace and security in the Sahel
While the world’s attention is focused on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s presence in Africa, and particularly in Mali, increasingly represents a threat to international security, writes Camille Victor for commonspace.eu. Russia’s presence in Mali has generated considerable controversy since the end of 2021, with many Western powers denouncing the activities of the Russian “Wagner Group” paramilitary mercenaries in the country, accusing them of violating human rights and the rule of law. Indeed, while Mali had been cooperating closely with France in the fight against terrorism since 2013, the Malian junta that seized power in a coup in May 2021 has drastically changed its foreign policy, now turning to Moscow to help stabilise the security situation by employing the services of this shady Kremlin-linked private security group. Given that Mali’s security is currently in the hands of forces that not only fail to effectively counter an increasing terrorist threat, but also to fail to respect human rights and the rule of law, all the while facing zero accountability for their abuses, ensuring that the junta upholds its commitment to conduct democratic elections in 2024 must remain a priority. In the meantime, an integrated security risk management and peacebuilding strategy should include measures that encourage transparency and accountability for abuses and breaches to the rule of law committed by security forces, notably through strengthening civilian institutions and oversight mechanisms.
patrickn97 Wed, 09/21/2022 - 17:18
Analysis: Origins of the Houthi supremacist ideology
One of the several, often overlooked, challenges facing Yemen is the supremacist and divisive ideological basis of the Houthi movement. The movement’s ideology has rebellion and violence at its core, a recipe that can perpetuate crises within a society. In this analysis for commonspace.eu, Noman Ahmed and Mahmoud Shamsan shed light on the ideological fault lines that fuel the current conflict in Yemen, highlighting the nature of this ideology, which suggests that Ahl al-Bayt — descendants from the family of the Islamic Prophet — are, by divine decree, considered to be more deserving of the right to greater political and religious rule than other socio-political components. The analysis then looks into the background of the Houthis and argues that the ideology is a catalyst for conflict rather than peaceful political competition, and that so long as the Houthi political goal of Hashemite dominance remains unrealised, Houthi desire for conflict will not recede.
patrickn97 Tue, 08/23/2022 - 15:21
Editor's choice
Analysis
Questions remain as to who was behind deadly protests in Uzbekistan’s Karakalpakstan region

Questions remain as to who was behind deadly protests in Uzbekistan’s Karakalpakstan region

Two weeks after violent protests rocked Uzbekistan’s Karakalpakstan region, speculation continues about who was behind the turmoil that appeared to take officials in the capital, Tashkent, completely by surprise. This despite the fact that the reasons that triggered the unrest appear to be clear, namely proposed constitutional changes that promised to weaken the autonomy of the region, which occupies a territory, of 166,590 sq kms, and has a population of 1.9 million. Official reports say that 18 civilians were killed during the protests, 94 hospitalised, and hundreds more injured. The Uzbek Government has blamed unspecified foreign forces for being behind the unrest. Uzbekistan is a tightly managed country, where such unrest is by and large unheard of, and where the only country that has the potential to provoke such wide-spread disturbances is Russia, given its longstanding and deep rooted influence in Central Asia. Some Uzbek diplomats in Europe have been briefing that the disturbances were part of a planned “colour revolution”, although they did not quite explain what they meant by that. Uzbekistan is known to have been under considerable pressure from  Moscow in recent years to join Russia-led regional structures, such as the Eurasian Economic Union and the CSTO military alliance, but president Shavkat Mirziyoyev has so far resisted the pressure.
Editor's choice
Analysis
Macron gets a second chance to push for a new type of French partnership with Africa

Macron gets a second chance to push for a new type of French partnership with Africa

The re-election of Emmanuel Macron as President of the French Republic was the occasion for many congratulations from African heads of state with most leaders hailing the French president's "brilliant" election. Yet on the continent, not everyone is so enthusiastic, and speculation is high how France’s Africa policy will play out during Macron’s second term. The silence of Bamako, Conakry and Ouagadougou reflects the challenges of Emmanuel Macron's African policy in the years to come. Macron has put a great deal of energy into opening a new chapter in the relationship between France and Africa, but the results have been below expectations. A sustainable and mutually beneficial relationship is very important in these new, uncertain times. Whether it is through the gas alternative proposed by some North African countries, or the emergence of new partnerships in the Sahel and in English-speaking Africa, France will have to play a prominent role and has much to gain from being close with Africa. 
Fear and lack of trust are an obstacle for peaceful co-existence between Armenians and Azerbaijanis in Nagorno-Karabakh
A recent survey of women from the large community of Azerbaijanis displaced by the conflict in Nagorno Karabakh in the 1990s shows that fear and lack of trust are an obstacle for peaceful co-existence between Armenians and Azerbaijanis in Nagorno-Karabakh. The survey is part of a report, “IDP Women: needs assessment for post conflict life, including expectations for safe return home”, prepared by Khalisa Shahverdiyeva on behalf of the Azerbaijani NGO “Women’s empowerment for sustainable development”. Following the 2020 Karabakh war a new situation has emerged which opened the prospect of the return of hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis displaced by the fighting in the 1990s to their place of origin, and in many cases to live together or in close proximity with Armenian communities. The survey covered 590 internally displaced women, while 30 more women were interviewed to get a tentative picture of their needs and expectations, including their fears and concerns for peace-building and returning home.  The overwhelming majority (87.55%) of respondents highlighted the necessity of being free from danger as a decisive factor behind their decision to relocate. Consequently, the full-scale clearance of landmines supported by a guarantee of non-resumption of armed hostilities have been underscored as key factors for IDPs’ return home.  
dennis2020 Fri, 04/22/2022 - 06:09
Editor's choice
Analysis
Ukraine poses a dilemma to the three South Caucasus countries, but they have still one important card they can play

Ukraine poses a dilemma to the three South Caucasus countries, but they have still one important card they can play

Dennis Sammut, Director of LINKS Europe and Managing Editor of Commonspace.eu discusses how the countries of the South Caucasus have reacted to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and what they should do next. “In the present circumstances, the strongest card that the three countries have, if they choose to play it, is regional co-operation and an informal loosely co-ordinated common approach”, he says. All the Russian strategy in the South Caucasus in the last thirty years has been built  on the premise of adversity and unhealthy competition between and within the three countries. Debunking this will be a major victory for all the countries and people in the region.
Editor's choice
Analysis
Opinion: If Russia is able to keep its "big power" status after the Ukraine crisis, it will seek to work with Iran and Armenia to contain Turkish influence in the South Caucasus

Opinion: If Russia is able to keep its "big power" status after the Ukraine crisis, it will seek to work with Iran and Armenia to contain Turkish influence in the South Caucasus

"If Russia successfully resists the unprecedented pressure from the West and remains one of the main poles in the emerging multipolar world, its interests lie in balancing Turkish influence in its neighborhood, including the South Caucasus. It does not imply that Russia and Turkey will stop their economic cooperation. It simply means that Russia will seek to prevent Turkish dominance over the South Caucasus", writes Benyamin Poghosyan in this analysis on current geo-politics in the South Caucasus.
Editor's choice
Editorial
Unimpeded movement on the Lachin corridor should be restored immediately and Armenia and Azerbaijan should return to the EU mediated talks

Unimpeded movement on the Lachin corridor should be restored immediately and Armenia and Azerbaijan should return to the EU mediated talks

The Lachin Corridor, a road that connects the areas controlled by the Armenian community of Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia, has been blocked for several days. A group of Azerbaijani activists on Monday arrived in the area to show concern about exploitation of natural resources in the territory which is under Armenian control, but which is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan. A stand-off with Russian troops that have overall control over the corridor led to the closure of the road, effectively isolating the Armenian population in the territory. The issues are ofcourse deeper than simply control over some goldmines and other natural resources. In essence it is about the future of Karabakh. It is also about the Russian role in the region and in the wider South Caucasus. On 10 November 2020, Russia, in agreement with the governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan,  deployed around two thousand soldiers as "peacekeepers" as part of an agreement that followed the Azerbaijani military victory in the 44 day war. Their mandate has always been thin, and their mission full of ambiguity. The current stand-off reflects these weaknesses. So far, serious incidents in this current stand-off have been avoided, but either side can easily escalate the situation, and unplanned incidents can also exacerbate the situation. Over the last twenty-four hours their have been expressions of concern voiced by the international community, including the US and the EU. Both want Armenia and Azerbaijan to return to menaningful negotiations and to move quickly with the signing of a peace agreement. What the Russians want is another matter. President Putin spoke to the leaders of the two countries separately on Monday, but clearly did not achieve much. Russia's priority is to maintain its military presence in the area, because it believes it gives it leverage on both Baku and Yerevan. Yet as this latest incident is showing the presence also puts on Russia responsabilities. Distracted by the war in Ukraine, and unsure how it really wants to proceed Russia may opt, for the moment at least for inaction. This does not serve the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh well. The Lachin corridor is a lifeline, and without it the community has no future - or at least none that it is ready to accept. It is not a humanitarian disaster yet, but it can become one quickly. The free and unimpeded movement on the Lachin corridor should be restored as soon as possible, and the negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan with the mediation of the European Union, that looked so promising only a few months ago, need to be continued and the momentum regained. 
Editor's choice
Editorial
Kherson: The end of the beginning

Kherson: The end of the beginning

The withdrawal of the Russian army from the city of Kherson ends the first chapter of Vladimir Putin's misadventure in Ukraine, which started on 24 February when he ordered his army to invade. Ukrainians rightly celebrated, as the Ukrainian army returned to the city which Russia illegally annexed only a few weeks ago. Kherson was the only regional centre the Russians were able to occupy following their February invasion, which, let us not forget, initially aimed to take Kyiv and all other Ukrainian cities. But as the Ukrainian president, and other Ukrainian officials warned, the war is far from over yet. But the Russian army is still in Ukraine, and now consolidating its positions on the left bank of the Dnipro river.  The river will now serve as a natural defence barrier for the Russians in the face of Ukrainian attempts to liberate the rest of the territory under Russian occupation. And the coming winter may prove challenging for Ukraine in other ways too, given the Russian attempts to destroy key infrastructure and disrupt energy supplies. But still Kherson can be seen as the end of the beginning. The journey for the liberation of Ukraine will take longer. And after all Ukrainian territory is liberated, another journey will have to start: that of rebuilding Europe's security architecture on new foundations. Where Russia will stand in this is still not clear. Despite the facade of defiance and bravado, it is already evident that soul-searching has already started amongst the Russian elite about the Ukrainian adventure, and indeed about how Russia itself is governed. That, the Russian people will have to figure out by themselves, and the process is not likely to be either short, or easy.
Editor's choice
Editorial
Editorial: A dark day in the history of Europe

Editorial: A dark day in the history of Europe

Friday, 30 September 2022 will for a long time be remembered as a sad and dark day for Europe. This afternoon, at 15:00 (12:00 GMT) in the St George Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace president Vladimir Putin will hold a signing ceremony annexing four more regions of Ukraine into the Russian Federation. The events in Europe in the 1930 are repeating themselves with an eerie familiarity: a big country invades a smaller neighbouring country, organises a sham referendum in parts or all of that country, after which it claims the moral authority to annex that territory or country.  In an act of cynicism late on Thursday, the Russian president signed two decrees recognising Zaporizhzhia and Kherson as independent territories. Their so called independence will last for only a few hours, before they are absorbed into Russia. The documents, shared on Russian state media, say the independence of the two regions is being recognised in accordance with international law and "enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations". However, UN Secretary General António Guterres has said any annexation of a country's territory based on the use of force violates the UN Charter and international law. Europeans thought that those times were over, and that the lessons had been learnt. Apparently not. Russia's invasion of Ukraine last February set the stage for what will take place in the Kremlin today. After votes in Luhansk and Donetsk in the east of Ukraine, and in Zaporizhzhia and Kherson in the south, Russia will annexe them, in defiance of the wish of the Ukrainian people and their legitimate government, and of most of the international community. It has already acted in this way once, when in 2014, in similar circumstances it occupiued and annexed Crimea. Today's events are being hailed as a victiory by the Kremlin. A stage has already been set up in Moscow's Red Square, with billboards proclaiming the four regions as part of Russia and a concert planned for the evening in celebration. Some Russians may decide to follow the misguided steps of their leaders, but for the rest of Europe today is a sad and dark day.
Editor's choice
Editorial
Editorial: Lukashenko's trip to Abkhazia is another act in Putin's nefarious plan

Editorial: Lukashenko's trip to Abkhazia is another act in Putin's nefarious plan

The president of Belarus, Alexandre Lukashenko, made a surprise appearance in Abkhazia on Wednesday (28 September), in a move that many see as being part of the Kremlin’s present strategy to further distabilise Eurasia to help achieve the ultimate aim, which is complete Russian hegemony on the post-Soviet Space. For sure, Lukashenko did not go to Sukhumi to have a last dip in the Black Sea before winter sets in. This was a calculated political move, typical of Lukashenko. So why did he go, and why now? Lukashenko has long been a tool of the Kremlin, not only when it comes to affairs in his own Belarus, but more broadly on the international stage. Yet he has also tried to cultivate the image of being independent-minded, not the sort to take orders from Vladimir Putin, but rather one that is able to influence the Kremlin and its policies. This visit proves that in fact he is simply a stooge.
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
Editorial
MARIUPOL: the name of a city etched in history with the blood of its people

MARIUPOL: the name of a city etched in history with the blood of its people

The war in Ukraine is likely to continue for some time, and after that it will be an uneasy peace that will follow. For Ukrainians this is an existential battle - whether they want their country to continue to live. For the Kremlin it is existential too. A humiliating defeat in Ukraine will seriously undermine the legitimacy of the regime. There are therefore likely to be many battles ahead, many heroic Ukrainian cities to add to the catalogue of history. But for sure Mariupol's name will forever be associated with the heroism of its people, with the war crimes committed by the Kremlin in Ukraine, and with the futility and irrationality of war.
Editor's choice
Editorial
On International Women's Day we salute the courage of the women of Ukraine

On International Women's Day we salute the courage of the women of Ukraine

8 March is International Women's Day - an occasion to celebrate the role of women in our societies, an opportunity to re-affirm their right for equality, a time to remember that across the world millions of women still do not have such rights and are often treated inhumanely.  This year we celebrate International Women's Day at a time when the world is watching in horror as the Russian invasion of Ukraine unfolds. For nearly two weeks now Russian forces have committed atrocities against peaceful civilian communities. Millions of Ukrainians have been displaced, nearly two million to neighbouring European countries. The world has watched in awe as Ukrainians put up a stiff resistance to the invaders. And none more so than Ukrainian women who are playing a leading role in the resistance.
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Editorial
Editorial: Give Ukraine and the other trio countries an EU membership perspective now

Editorial: Give Ukraine and the other trio countries an EU membership perspective now

A European Parliament resolution yesterday urged EU countries to work towards granting Ukraine EU candidate status. A membership perspective in the form of candidate status is not membership. It is a political signal that the door of membership is open, and an opportunity to focus minds on all the sides to start the long and laborious process of EU membership. Whilst the resolution of the European Parliament speaks only about Ukraine, the three trio countries should be given the membership perspective and candidate status simultaneously. All three are very determined in pursuing this path; all three have strong Association Agreements with the EU; and all three are under considerable Russian pressure. A membership perspective will strengthen the hand of those working for reforms in these countries. It will also send another message to Putin's Russia that its nefarious policy towards the neighbours has failed. Now is the right time to do that. Give Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia a membership perspective now! Give them candidate status and work with them to make this an achievable task within this decade.
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Editorial
Editorial: End this Genocide of a nation and hold those responsible to account

Editorial: End this Genocide of a nation and hold those responsible to account

In front of the eyes of the whole world President Putin is conducting a genocide against the Ukrainian people. Having one week ago questioned the very existence of Ukraine, he subsequently unleashed the whole military might of Russia against it. The heroic scenes of resistance across the whole of Ukraine has been simply inspirational and has forced governments across the world to step up their response against this naked violence and aggression. The world must show unity of purpose in rejecting Putin's aggression and in holding him and his immediate circle accountable. Those who end up on the wrong side of history will be eternally ashamed of their mistake.
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Editorial
Editorial: It seems that in Moscow they forgot how to count from 1 to 3

Editorial: It seems that in Moscow they forgot how to count from 1 to 3

The Russians persisted in presenting a gathering in Moscow on Friday as a meeting of " 3 + 3 ", when in fact only five countries were present, and it was more the case of 2 + 3. Diplomatic deceit is not the basis on which South Caucasus regional co-operation should be built.
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Editorial
Editorial: Thank you Mrs Merkel, Welcome Mr Scholz

Editorial: Thank you Mrs Merkel, Welcome Mr Scholz

Strong leadership in and by Germany is necessary if Europe is to succeed in meeting the challenges of the future. Tomorrow Mr Scholz will travel to Paris and Brussels for meetings with the French President and with the EU leadership.
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Interview
Nikoloz Samkharadze: "Georgia does not have any hidden agenda other than having peace and stability in the South Caucasus"

Nikoloz Samkharadze: "Georgia does not have any hidden agenda other than having peace and stability in the South Caucasus"

Prof. Dr. Nikoloz Samkharadze is the Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Parliament of Georgia. On 21 November 2022, during his visit to The Hague, Prof. Dr. Samkharadze spoke to commonspace.eu about Georgia's Euro-Atlantic trajectory, the Armenia-Azerbaijan peace process, Georgia's relations with Russia and Ukraine, and recent successes in Georgian rugby. On the Armenia-Azerbaijan peace process, Prof. Dr. Samkharadze says, "Georgia has a very big asset in its hands, and this is trust and credibility in both the Azeri and Armenian capitals. Georgia is equally respected in Yerevan and in Baku, and equally trusted by Yerevan and Baku. And no other player around us, no big regional power, has the same trust and credibility. This is very important in the South Caucasus. As you know, we came up with the Peaceful Caucasus initiative, and this initiative is supported by both Armenia and Azerbaijan. Recently we have had very productive visits of high-level Armenian and Azerbaijani delegations in Georgia, and I believe that there is room for reaching a comprehensive peace treaty between Armenia and Azerbaijan. We will do our most, we will facilitate, we will mediate, because it is in Georgia’s interests to finally have long-lasting peace and stability in the region. I believe that our partners in Yerevan and Baku also know that we don’t have any hidden agenda other than having peace and stability in the South Caucasus. So we will play a very active role despite the fact that some of our neighbours might not like our activity in that regard."
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Interview
Stepan Grigoryan: "The current Armenian government really wants peace"

Stepan Grigoryan: "The current Armenian government really wants peace"

Dr Stepan Grigoryan, the Chairman of the Board of the Analytical Centre on Globalization and Regional Cooperation, is a respected analyst and opinion-shaper in Yerevan who has over many years been a moderate voice in what has often been a toxic inter-Armenian debate on the prospects for peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan and in the wider region. He spoke to commonspace.eu in Tbilisi on 22 October 2022 about the current state of the Armenia-Azerbaijan peace process, recent events surrounding it, and prospects for the future. Speaking about the current political situation in Armenia Stepan Grigoryan said "We have a strong civil society, active NGOs and active experts, and they act like pillars of independence in Armenia. And this civil society also criticises Nikol Pashinyan, but they are trying to help him. Yes, I myself am sometimes not happy with what Nikol Pashinyan is doing, but I try to help him with my advice, with my publications, with my speeches. So in Armenia one should not only look at the political field - which is polarised - but civil society too. We shouldn’t think that we have an ideal government, they have made many mistakes, but they really want peace."
Interview with the Director of the Azerbaijan Campaign to Ban Landmines, Hafiz Safikhanov

The Azerbaijani Campaign to Ban Landmines has been in existence for nearly twenty five years, and has implemented many actions in support of banning landmines. South Caucasus Landmine Observer interviewed Hafiz Safikhanov, Director of the Azerbaijan Campaign to ban Landmines, about the work of his organisation and the serious landmine problem in Azerbaijan:

Maximiliaan va… Fri, 08/26/2022 - 08:02
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Interview
Art-Gene Turns Nineteen: In Conversation with Tamar Melikishvili

Art-Gene Turns Nineteen: In Conversation with Tamar Melikishvili

July 2022 saw the 19th edition of what has become a staple event in the Georgian cultural calendar. Founded in 2003 by artists Tamar Melikishvili and Giorgi Baramidze, musicians Zaza Korinteli and Niaz Diasamidze, sculptor Nika Anjaparidze, and photographer Maria Lanevski, the Art-Gene music and crafts festival has played a huge role in reviving Georgia’s now thriving traditional cultural scene since its dog days of the early 2000s. Looking forward to Art-Gene’s 20th anniversary next year, commonspace.eu’s Deputy Editor Patrick Norén spoke to Tamar Melikishvili about Art-Gene’s origins, ethos, community, and future. Melikshvili told commonspace.eu that ‘if a country keeps and loves its own culture, it will become very open and interested in the culture of other countries. The world is nice because we are so different, but we also make one big picture, like a painter. When I am working on the canvas, all of these different moods and colours become one symphony, and that is what makes the picture interesting.’
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Interview
Brian Mefford: "I had no doubts the Ukrainians will fight to defend their country"

Brian Mefford: "I had no doubts the Ukrainians will fight to defend their country"

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Brian Mefford, an American long time resident and expert of Ukraine, knew exactly what he needed to do. Shifting his office from Kyiv to Warsaw he started a humanitarian operation that has already helped tens of thousands of Ukrainians. In this interview with commonspace.eu Mefford reflects on the response of Ukrainians to the Russian invasion, the current humanitarian situation, and the prospects for Ukraine after the war. “I have seen enormous changes in Ukraine since I arrived in 1999.  Ukraine is dramatically more European and focused on a future with the West as a partner. If Ukraine makes the tough changes needed during the war to enter the EU, it will speed the process of integration. War time is the easiest time to make radical changes. As I often point out, Abraham Lincoln didn’t wait till after the American Civil War to free the slaves, he specifically did it during the war because after the war it might not have been possible”, he argues.
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Interview
Interview with the Ambassador of Kazakhstan to the EU:  "We have very high hopes that the results of the referendum will have deep positive consequences for the future of our country"

Interview with the Ambassador of Kazakhstan to the EU: "We have very high hopes that the results of the referendum will have deep positive consequences for the future of our country"

On Sunday, 5 June, the people of Kazakhstan voted overwhelmingly in favour of big changes to the country's constitution which envisage a redistribution of presidential powers to various other state organs and a system of checks and balances. The changes complement other ongoing political and economic reforms that have been initiated by president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev over the last three years. Commonspace.eu interviewed Ambassador Margulan Baimukhan, Head of the Mission of Kazakhstan to the EU about the importance of the constitutional changes, the role of Kazakhstan in Central Asia and the changes taking place in his country. "We have very high hopes that the results of the referendum will have deep positive consequences for the future of our country. It brings us one step closer to become a democratic state. Most importantly for me is that the referendum result paves the way for increasing the participation of the population in the governance of the country. It will nurture the culture of people in standing and defending their rights", the Ambassador said. Ambassador Baimukhan also spoke about the relations of his country with the European Union.  "The European Union was, is and will be at the forefront of our foreign policy agenda."
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Interview
Interview with Ukrainian politician and activist Hanna Hopko: "Russia will not break us"

Interview with Ukrainian politician and activist Hanna Hopko: "Russia will not break us"

One hundred days ago, on 24 February, Russia invaded Ukraine in an attempt to overthrow the country's democratic government and install a puppet regime. This objective failed, but the war goes on, especially in the Donbass region where heavy fighting is taking place. Commonspace.eu interviewed Hanna Hopko, a Ukrainian politician and activist, who previously served as Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Ukrainian Parliament and is today at the forefront of several important humanitarian initiatives. Hopko  speaks about Ukraine's frustration with Europe's long standing failure to appreciate Ukraine properly. She speaks about the heroism of young Ukrainians who are fighting off current Russian aggression, and recalls the loss of some of her own friends who have died in battle or have been imprisoned. Hopko however remains optimistic about the future, referring to the Ukraine Recovery Plan that is already being prepared. She speaks about the country's hopes to be granted EU candidate status later this month: "Ukraine will not except any plan B. Only candidate status.  Our aspiration to apply to EU membership is a result of the long fight of Ukrainians for the right to be part of a free European family. It is based on our achievements in transformations of the country despite Russian continues efforts to break us." Read the interview in full.
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Interview
Opinion: "Our ambition in Kosovo is to transform our young and vibrant democracy into the most prosperous nation in the region"

Opinion: "Our ambition in Kosovo is to transform our young and vibrant democracy into the most prosperous nation in the region"

Recently, the Government of Kosovo submitted a formal application to join the Council of Europe as a full member. The international community remains divided on the issue of Kosovo's international recognition. Yet in the few years since its independence Kosovo has made great strides forward, and today has one of the most dynamic economies in the Western Balkans, a vibrant cultural life, and a solid track record on human rights and the fight against corruption. commonspace.eu interviewed the Ambassador of Kosovo to the Netherlands, Dren Doli, about the current state of play in relations between Kosovo and Serbia, and on the thorny issue of whether the recognition of Kosovo has emboldened secessionist movements elsewhere. Ambassador Doli said that "the tendency to use Kosovo as a model for other cases is a strategy to generalise the rules that guide the creation of states and inflict confusion, deflect the truth, and deny the significance of objective arguments that differentiate Kosovo from other cases". Doli told commonspace.eu that "Kosovo is one of the rare examples of successful democratic state-building supported by western democracies". Ambassador Doli said that the government of Kosovo is committed to further develop and improve its relations with Serbia and welcomes any initiative  by the EU and the US in this direction.
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Interview
In an interview with commonspace.eu Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Paruyr Hovhannisyan describes EU-Armenia relations as "very diverse, multifaceted and dynamic"

In an interview with commonspace.eu Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Paruyr Hovhannisyan describes EU-Armenia relations as "very diverse, multifaceted and dynamic"

In November of last year Paruyr Hovhannisyan was appointed Deputy Foreign Minister of Armenia with responsibility for relations with the European Union. This week he was in Brussels where he had meetings with officials from the EU institutions. Commonspace.eu spoke with the Deputy Foreign Minister on the current state of Armenia-EU relations and prospects for the future. Hovhannissian described relations as very diverse, multifaceted and dynamic.
GEU Podcast: Giving EU citizens a voice on foreign policy – with Dr Dennis Sammut
“I think what is important is that the issue of international affairs is understood not to be an elitist sphere but something that impacts the lives of everyone in one way or another; and as a result, discussions on foreign policy need to be extended to include the wider citizenry. This is a challenge going forward and an increasingly important one.” – Dr Dennis Sammut on the latest final episode of Global Europe Unpacked
W.Murray Fri, 04/01/2022 - 08:31
GEU Podcast: After Ukraine, can we still talk about soft power? - with Prof Jamie Shea
“EU soft power will still be a factor, but I think the EU now recognises that this works more with like-minded countries that aspire to join the EU... The notion that soft power works on countries with different political systems – I think that has been, if you like, the victim of the Ukrainian crisis” says Prof Jamie Shea in this episode of our Global Europe Unpacked podcast.
W.Murray Mon, 03/14/2022 - 20:01
Commentary: War between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 2023 is unlikely, but peace is elusive

This is a commentary prepared by the editorial team of commonspace.eu. It was first published in the electronic newsletter Karabakh Concise on 5 January 2023.

For Armenia and Azerbaijan 2023 has started pretty much as 2022 ended. The two countries remain at odds with each other, and a peace process between them appears stalled. On the ground the continued stand-off on the Lachin corridor, where Azerbaijani activists block the free flow of traffic between Armenians in Karabakh and Armenia, shows no sign of easing.

dennis2020 Fri, 01/06/2023 - 07:32
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Commentary
Moscow surprised "Excitable Caucasians" have become rational

Moscow surprised "Excitable Caucasians" have become rational

For many years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the emergence of the newly independent successor states, Russian diplomats counselled their western colleagues on the business of dealing with the people of the Caucasus, and their politics. They often described the Caucasians as the "excitable people of the South", who needed a special kind of handling, and only Russians knew how to do it. It was a Soviet version of "orientalism" that still lingers among the current Russian elite. Putin’s handling of the 2nd Karabakh War - and the subsequent steps he took to establish the post-war order in the region - was very much in this vein. Russia rushed troops to Karabakh to keep the peace, and Russia was to be involved at every stage and in every corner of building a post-war order. There was no space left for others to contribute to this process, except for some general reference to a UN role in providing humanitarian aid. Well content that the excitable people of the South had been calmed down, President Putin turned his attention to other matters – namely what for him were the less excitable, but no less irritable people on the western frontier, the Ukrainians.
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Monday Commentary: Comrade Xi's party

Monday Commentary: Comrade Xi's party

An event on the other side of the world that started on Sunday has huge global importance and will define international politics for decades to come. The 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) is perhaps not the most important ever in terms of its impact within China itself, but when it comes to China’s role in the world it certainly is. This is not only because China is today stronger than it has ever been in modern times, but also because the congress gives the seal of approval to a Chinese global posture that is assertive, ambitious and with as yet an undefined end-game. That end-game is being defined by Xi Jinping, who during this congress is expected to be confirmed in his post as  Party leader for an unprecedented third term. President Xi has been making speeches both at the main session of the Congress and at side events. This morning he told a meeting of Communist activists on the fringe of the main event, that Chinese people should stay united as "a piece of hard steel" under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and “pull together with one mind to power the giant ship of national rejuvenation through the wind and waves to reach its destination.” In a more formal speech to the Congress plenum a day before Xi had given an indication of what that destination is: “Incomparable glory’ awaits China on world stage”, Xi Jinping told the party congress. By 2049, when the People’s Republic will hold centennial celebrations, China should become a leading power in all aspects, the leader stated So no modesty or lack of ambition here. But what does this mean for the rest of the world?
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Commentary: Putin’s partial mobilisation exposes how weak he really is

Commentary: Putin’s partial mobilisation exposes how weak he really is

Speaking in a pre-recorded speech that was originally scheduled for the evening before, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Wednesday morning (21 September) a partial mobilisation of 300,000 reservists to boost his faltering invasion of Ukraine. Far from being a demonstration of strength, however, his announcement exposes how weak a position Russia currently finds itself in, and on a number of levels too, writes commonspace.eu Deputy Editor Patrick Norén. The Russian President finds himself hamstrung across three fronts: his narrative of "everything is going according to plan" is imploding; the risks of doing nothing or declaring a full mobilisation have resulted in an unsatisfactory fudge that does not address the root cause of the problem; and Russia's far-right, furious at the disastrous invasion of Ukraine, is baying for blood.
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Commentary: Ukraine crisis helps Europe re-discover the meaning of the word “solidarity”

Commentary: Ukraine crisis helps Europe re-discover the meaning of the word “solidarity”

Since the start of the Russian invasion, the EU and its member states have given Ukraine billions of euros of budgetary assistance, have welcomed more than 3.7 million refugees, and have extended unprecedented levels of military assistance. Europe has re-discovered the meaning of the word solidarity, even if not all of the solidarity is altruistic but involves also a measure of self-preservation in the face of Putin's Russia naked aggressiveness and expansionist ambitions. Solidarity with Ukraine and Ukrainians is also ultimately in the interest of every European Union country and citizen. But this does not in any way lessen the significance of Europe’s support for Ukraine. Can this solidarity be sustained for the months, and probably years ahead, as Ukraine struggles to defeat Russia, and hopefully afterwards, victorious, start the difficult process of reconstruction? The decision to give Ukraine EU candidate status was in this regard significant, and indicates that the EU sees Ukraine as a long term commitment. For sure, as the winter cold starts biting and Putin plays politics with Russian gas supplies, there will be those who will question the value of Europe’s solidarity with Ukraine.  It is important they remain marginalised. For this, European leaders, decision makers and opinion shapers, need to communicate constantly to European citizens the righteousness of the decision to help Ukraine to stand up to Russia, and to help the Ukrainian people in their hour of need.
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Commentary
Commentary: War or Peace in the South Caucasus?

Commentary: War or Peace in the South Caucasus?

In their report “The South Caucasus from war to peace: 30 measures between now and 2030”, published last April, Armenian and Azerbaijani experts made a stark statement: “All the ingredients for peace exist in the South Caucasus. All the ingredients for war exist too. What is in front of us is a choice.” Never have these words sounded so pertinent as in these last days when in Armenia and in Azerbaijan the sounds of war and the sounds of peace competed with each other, with little sign of compromise. Yet neither war, nor peace, is inevitable. It is a choice, and one that both sides can neither make lightly nor take for granted. This week has once more shown that Armenia and Azerbaijan, and Armenians and Azerbaijanis, face a choice between war and peace. The death and injury of yet more Armenians and Azerbaijanis should focus minds, and increase mutual determination to work for lasting peace and to avoid any steps that can bring another war nearer.
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Opinion: The quest for peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan can follow many paths, all of which need to be explored and exploited

Opinion: The quest for peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan can follow many paths, all of which need to be explored and exploited

Preparations are under way for a fourth meeting between Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev, facilitated by the president of the European Council Charles Michel. Even a year ago such a process would have been unthinkable. There is no more than one format in which Armenia and Azerbaijan pursue their quest for peace. But options are also available in the way the two leaders can work to achieve the ultimate goal, a peace agreement that will hail a new era of lasting peace in the region. In this commentary, Dennis Sammut says there are many roads open on the way to lasting peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and all need to be explored and exploited. Developing trade relations, intensive people to people contacts, establishing diplomatic relations in stages, facilitated travel between the two countries including direct air travel –  are all important steps that can and should be taken in the process of normalising relations. Most of them can be agreed and start giving results in months not years. The process can be supported by an intensive programme of confidence building measures that will help build trust at various layers of society.
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Commentary: A historic decision leaves Ukrainians delighted, Moldovans ecstatic and Georgians grumpy

Commentary: A historic decision leaves Ukrainians delighted, Moldovans ecstatic and Georgians grumpy

the European Council which gathers the 27 EU member states and the institutions, agreed to give Ukraine and Moldova candidate status with immediate effect. It gave Georgia "a membership perspective", with candidate status in the future if they can get their act together quickly. The Ukrainians were delighted. President Zelensky described it as a victory and promised not to rest until Russia’s defeat and full membership had been secured. In Moldova, the pro European government was ecstatic. Things had moved much faster than they had anticipated. In Georgia the situation is different, and the country is somewhat grumpy. Georgians do not  like to be last, and in a sense in this process at which they were until last year at the centre, they find themselves lagging behind the other two trio countries. The government has tried to put on a brave face saying that being given a membership perspective was a victory for Georgia too. The opposition accuses the government of squandering a historic opportunity which will have long lasting impact. In many ways both are right. An EU membership perspective is important for Georgia, even if it is largely an abstract term. It consolidates the relationship. But it would have been much better for Georgia if they had been given candidate status with the others. The ball is now in the court of the Georgian politicians, and the world will be watching.
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US-Saudi Relations remain the bedrock for Gulf Security

US-Saudi Relations remain the bedrock for Gulf Security

US President Joe Biden will visit Saudi Arabia on July 15 and 16 upon the invitation of King Salman. The US president will meet with the king and his Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “to discuss areas of bilateral cooperation as well as joint efforts to address regional and global challenges.” A statement from the White House said that Biden will also attend a Summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council plus Egypt, Iraq and Jordan while in the Kingdom. “The President appreciates King Salman’s leadership and his invitation. He looks forward to this important visit to Saudi Arabia, which has been a strategic partner of the United States for nearly eight decades,” the statement read. In this commentary the state of relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia is discussed in the light of tensions between the two sides over the last years.  “Now, it appears that the two sides are ready to make up. Biden will travel to Riyadh next month, and US officials have been in and out of the Saudi capital in recent weeks, softening the ground and preparing for the visit. Biden is right in working towards a reset. US-Saudi relations remain the bedrock for Gulf security.” It adds that “when Joe Biden visits Riyadh next month he has his work cut out for him. It will be a hugely important visit to a country where personalities still count. Both sides appear ready to put the difficult last few years in their relationship behind them. This is good for both, as well as for the rest of the world.”

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Opinion: The future of the China-US-Russia triangle after Pelosi's visit to Taiwan
Since February 24, 2022, the international community's focus was concentrated entirely on the war in Ukraine and the growing Russia – West confrontation. It seemed that nothing could change the situation until the end of hostilities in Ukraine. However, on August 2 and 3, almost everyone’s attention shifted from Ukraine to Taiwan. As the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, stated her intention to visit Taiwan, up to half a million people were watching the trajectory of her plane on air flight tracking sites. The negative reaction of China, including the warning of President Xi during his conversation with President Biden that those who played with fire would be perished by it, created hype around this visit. Many were discussing the possibility of Chinese military jets closing the airspace over Taiwan and preventing Pelosi’s plane from landing in Taiwan, while some enthusiasts were even contemplating the possibility of a US-China direct military clash. As Pelosi landed in Taiwan and met with the Taiwanese President, the global social media was full of amateur assessments about the strategic victory of the US and the confirmation of the US global hegemony. However, as the dust settles down, and information noise and manipulation eventually decreases, a more serious assessment is needed to understand the real consequences of this visit.
patrickn97 Thu, 08/04/2022 - 13:52
Deployment of the EU monitoring mission to Armenia: A view from Azerbaijan

On January 23, the Council of the European Union (EU) agreed to establish a civilian monitoring mission in Armenia’s border areas in order to “ensure an environment conducive to normalization efforts between Armenia and Azerbaijan”. The deployment of the mission has caused mixed reactions in the two countries and frustrated Russia, writes Vasif Huseynov in this op-ed for commonspace.eu.

patrickn97 Thu, 01/26/2023 - 14:53
Opinion: Kazakhstan’s "Yurts of Invincibility" are more than just a humanitarian initiative for Ukraine

In early January 2023, amid the freezing temperatures and power blackouts of Bucha - the Kyiv suburb now infamous for it being the location of Russian massacres of Ukrainian civilians in early 2022 - there popped up a Kazakh yurt where residents were served free traditional Kazakh food and tea, could keep warm and could charge their electronic devices. Soon after, another yurt appeared in downtown Kyiv.

patrickn97 Tue, 01/24/2023 - 09:56
Opinion: Armenia must not use the Lachin corridor for the transportation of military goods
While Azerbaijan gets most of the blame for the ongoing crisis in the “Lachin Corridor,” the international community does not see the elephant in the room: Armenia’s shipment of weapons and illegal mining operations through this corridor intended for civilian use, writes Nurlan Mustafayev in this op-ed for commonspace.eu
dennis2020 Thu, 01/19/2023 - 08:46
Opinion: Armenia - India Relations: Time is right to develop a strategic partnership
The defeat in the 2020 Nagorno Karabakh war shocked Armenia and Armenians all around the world, and destroyed many deeply entrenched perspectives on Armenia's geo-political realities, writes Benyamin Poghosyan in this op-ed for commonspace.eu. "Armenia should establish new partnerships that will allow Yerevan to decrease its economic and military development gap with Azerbaijan while adding a new layer of deterrence against Turkey in addition to the existing strategic alliance with Russia. In this context, India is the natural choice for Armenia", he argues. All the necessary ingredients are there to boost Armenia – India relations and bring them to the level of strategic partnership. There is an urgent need to institutionalize the ties, and the first step toward that direction could be establishing an Armenia - India high-level cooperation council. It should have annual sessions with the participation of Armenian and Indian Prime Ministers. At the same time, joint strategic planning groups should be established under the council to develop concrete projects in different spheres. 
dennis2020 Tue, 01/17/2023 - 10:20
Opinion: No Peace is possible with zero trust
"If one side of the conflict, regardless of the motives and explanations, takes action to starve the civilian population of the other side, trust will not reach the zero level; it may go beyond zero. Thus, all external actors, who have been involved in the complicated task of creating some trust between Armenians and Azerbaijanis, should clearly express their position – the blockade of the Lachin corridor should be stopped immediately. At the same time, negotiations should continue to address any concerns of Azerbaijan without breaching the November 10, 2020, trilateral declaration, writes Benyamin Poghosyan in this op-ed for commonspace.eu.
dennis2020 Mon, 01/09/2023 - 10:05
Commentary: War between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 2023 is unlikely, but peace is elusive

This is a commentary prepared by the editorial team of commonspace.eu. It was first published in the electronic newsletter Karabakh Concise on 5 January 2023.

For Armenia and Azerbaijan 2023 has started pretty much as 2022 ended. The two countries remain at odds with each other, and a peace process between them appears stalled. On the ground the continued stand-off on the Lachin corridor, where Azerbaijani activists block the free flow of traffic between Armenians in Karabakh and Armenia, shows no sign of easing.

dennis2020 Fri, 01/06/2023 - 07:32
Opinion: EU mediation between Armenia and Azerbaijan is needed now more than ever
The stalemate in the process of normalising relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan has created new risks. Writing for commonspace.eu in this op-ed, Vasif Huseynov says that "there is widespread concern in the region that the sides might end up in a violent military escalation this year if they fail to sign a peace treaty and agree on a roadmap for the resolution of the remaining disputes concerning the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan and the re-opening of regional transportation links. Under these circumstances, there is a great need for the constructive intervention and active mediation of the EU, without which Baku and Yerevan are unlikely to be able to overcome the difficulties created by the Russian side", he argues.
dennis2020 Fri, 01/06/2023 - 07:17
Kazakhstan looks back at a difficult 2022, determined to pursue change and reform in 2023
For the Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan, this year has probably been the most difficult one since its independence in 1991. Yet the country has emerged from it stronger. The process of reform initiated by President Kassym Jomart Tokayev appears to be gathering momentum, despite resistance from parts of the ruling elite still associated with the country’s first president Nursultan Nazarbayev. On Thursday, 29 December, Tokayev addressed the Kazakh Senate in the capital, Astana, where he summed up the year’s results. “This year, the country has been through a lot, but we managed to overcome all difficulties,” said the President. Tokayev paid particular attention to preserving stability and security, and paving the way for the dynamic development of the state is a priority for Kazakhstan. The reforms in all spheres will be continued into the following year. In early January Kazakhstan faced an unprecedented upheaval, initially triggered by price rises, but which soon got hijacked by elements close to the previous president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who were unhappy with the reforms being implemented, and most of all with the clampdown on corruption which had started to affect them. At this point Nazarbayev still held control over several leverages of power, including as Head of the Security Council and as President of the ruling party. The disturbances were contained but at considerable human and material costs.
dennis2020 Fri, 12/30/2022 - 07:07