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.

Commentary: War returns to the Caucasus for one day leaving hundreds of casualties, but the prospects for peace remain
War returned to the Caucasus for one day this week, claiming hundreds of lives, displacing more people, and denting further the prospects for peace. Every time blood is spilt, regardless of any justification, the wounds of the past open again, and this time is no exception.  Whilst Baku appears to have achieved its objective of frustrating the decades-long Armenian political project in Karabakh, the situation on the ground remains fluid. Tens of thousands of civilians are now caught in the epicentre of a difficult and painful political transition that will see Nagorno-Karabakh re-integrated back into Azerbaijan. How this process will work out is not clear at all, and every step is fraught with risks. So far Baku has shown its stick. Now it needs to show its carrot. Following this week’s events, some said that the peace process is dead. This needs not be the case. In fact in their speeches in the last hours both President Aliyev and Prime Minister Pashinyan reiterated their commitment to the peace agenda. In the coming weeks and months Armenia and Azerbaijan need to remain focused on the one objective of signing a peace agreement. Without it the chance of more deadly violence in future will be much higher. The international community too must keep this as its top agenda in the region. The journey has not become easier in the last days, but the road remains open. The journey now needs to be finished.
dennis2020 Thu, 09/21/2023 - 14:38
Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: Armenian and Azerbaijani experts and analysts should articulate a common vision for the future of the Karabakh Armenians

Opinion: Armenian and Azerbaijani experts and analysts should articulate a common vision for the future of the Karabakh Armenians

In this op-ed for commonspace.eu, Onnik James Krikorian says that as the topic of the future of the Armenians of Karabakh within Azerbaijan becomes more urgent, it is now time for Armenian and Azerbaijani analysts and political scientists to elaborate potential models for integration in unison. Though Baku says it already has a plan, no details are known or even if it exists at all. And even if it does, then Armenian and Azerbaijani civil society could have suggestions and recommendations. "If they want, of course, but they should. Otherwise such models could be determined without their input and imposed from above or outside regardless of the potential consequences", he adds. 
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Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: Armenian and Azerbaijani experts and analysts should articulate a common vision for the future of the Karabakh Armenians

Opinion: Armenian and Azerbaijani experts and analysts should articulate a common vision for the future of the Karabakh Armenians

In this op-ed for commonspace.eu, Onnik James Krikorian says that as the topic of the future of the Armenians of Karabakh within Azerbaijan becomes more urgent, it is now time for Armenian and Azerbaijani analysts and political scientists to elaborate potential models for integration in unison. Though Baku says it already has a plan, no details are known or even if it exists at all. And even if it does, then Armenian and Azerbaijani civil society could have suggestions and recommendations. "If they want, of course, but they should. Otherwise such models could be determined without their input and imposed from above or outside regardless of the potential consequences", he adds. 
Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: Russia has no interest in peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan

Opinion: Russia has no interest in peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan

The territorial conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has never been a purely inter-state matter between the two countries. Since the beginning of the conflict in its post-Soviet period, neighboring big powers like Russia and Iran sought to manipulate the conflict and use it as an instrument for their parochial regional interests. It is a well-documented fact that Armenia succeeded to occupy the Azerbaijani territories thanks to military and political support of Russia. Likewise, it was thanks to the Russian support that Armenia was able to consolidate its control over the Karabakh region and adjacent Azerbaijani districts. The conflict has always been a critical tool for Russia to exert influence on Azerbaijan and keep Armenia under control.
Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: Avoiding another war in Karabakh

Opinion: Avoiding another war in Karabakh

"It seems that talks over the future of Nagorno Karabakh have reached an impasse. Azerbaijan claims there will be no Nagorno Karabakh inside Azerbaijan, and Armenians should live as ordinary Azerbaijani citizens. At the same time, those who do not want to accept this option should leave. Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh categorically reject this option, meanwhile stating that they will not leave their homeland", says Benyamin Poghosyan in this op-ed for commonspace.eu "Currently, it is challenging to offer an option that may more or less satisfy both Azerbaijan and NKR. However, one thing is clear: new large-scale war in Nagorno Karabakh will make long-term peace and stability in the South Caucasus a pipe dream. Thus, all actors interested in a stable region should message Azerbaijan that a new war against Nagorno Karabakh is not the best option to move forward. Otherwise, the region will plunge into another decade of instability, destruction, and human suffering", Poghosyan argues 
Sochi Summit exposes limits of Russian-Turkish entente
Turkish President, Recip Tayip Erdogan visited Sochi on Monday, 4 September, to meet Russian president Vladimir Putin. Erdogan had sought this meeting for some time, hoping that in a face-to-face encounter he could persuade his Russian counterpart to restore the so called Black Sea Grain Deal, which enabled Ukraine to export its grain products to international markets safely, despite the ongoing war with Russia. "Erdogan failed in this primary mission", writes commonspace.eu political editor in a comment "There were of course other issues under discussion in Sochi - both related to bilateral relations, as well as issues concerning the international and regional situation. There were no new breakthroughs, no new agreements signed, nor new initiatives announced, except for one related to the supply of Russian grain to African countries via Turkey, a side issue of the main Grain Deal.  In many ways, Sochi showed the limits of the Turkish-Russian entente. It has always been built on mutual convenience as both sides try to show the world that they are independent players in a complex international system. But Russian hopes to lure Turkey away from NATO have failed miserably. Russian disappointment at Turkey's overt support for Ukraine in military as well as political spheres, is a sore point for President Putin. The Russians have also learnt that the Turks drive a hard bargain when it comes to economic issues. Reeling under heavy western sanctions the Russians need to keep the Turks on board, but the cost is high. For Turkiye too the limits of the friendship with Russia are obvious. Opinions differ on a range of issues - from the South Caucasus to Syria to Central Asia. Turkiye has tried to lure Russia into negotiations with Ukraine. Moscow politely but firmly said no. For Turkiye the war raging in the Black Sea poses a huge threat. All its efforts so far to stop it have failed, and Sochi has not brought this objective any nearer. After Sochi, Turkiye will once more have to evaluate how to position itself in the war for its long term interests. For the moment the Turkish Russian relations, which are of huge consequences for the security of the Black Sea region, remain at face value, good. But Sochi has shown signs of cracks on a number of issue, cracks that polite words and expressions of friendship in the press conference following the Summit, failed to hide."
dennis2020 Tue, 09/05/2023 - 09:49
Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: A "Summer School" in Georgia shows the value of people to people contacts

Opinion: A "Summer School" in Georgia shows the value of people to people contacts

Georgia has long been an obvious choice for hosting most Track II initiatives that bring Armenians and Azerbaijanis together on neutral ground. Despite this, however, it rarely gets the credit it deserves for doing so. Bordering both Armenia and Azerbaijan, not only is it perfectly situated geographically, keeping travel and accommodation costs lower, but it also keeps such initiatives in the region.
Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: The future of the Armenia-Azerbaijan peace process hinges on the Agdam-Khankandi road

Opinion: The future of the Armenia-Azerbaijan peace process hinges on the Agdam-Khankandi road

The stalemate that surrounds the progress of various humanitarian convoys that seek to supply the Armenian population in Nagorno-Karabakh aptly symbolizes the situation at the moment in the Armenia-Azerbaijan peace process, writes Vasif Husseynov is this op-ed for commonspace.eu. "Azerbaijan relies on the international law and hopes that the principle of territorial integrity will eventually prevail over all other counterclaims. At the same time, Azerbaijan takes measures to ensure that the local Armenians will have alternative for humanitarian supplies if they indeed face the threat of starvation. The dispatch of humanitarian cargo and declaring Baku’s readiness to provide more is the manifestation of this policy. For many observers in the region and as proposed by the Azerbaijani government, the only exit from the present deadlock in Karabakh looks like to be the opening of both Agdam and Lachin roads at the same time. It might create necessary conditions for the supplies of humanitarian aid to the local population and help Baku and Yerevan to proceed with the peace treaty negotiations", he argues.
Türkiye's Evolving South Caucasus Policy under Re-Elected Erdoğan
The South Caucasus has consistently occupied a pivotal position within Turkish foreign policy. This significance has been underscored by Türkiye's deepening influence in the region, a trend that has gained momentum especially in the wake of the Second Karabakh War. With the recent re-election of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to the Presidency of the country, it is certain that Ankara will continue its active engagement in the South Caucasus. However, a nuanced analysis is imperative to fully grasp the multi-pronged approach that Türkiye has adopted in its dealings with this region. This strategy involves complex engagements with Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia, offering a perspective through which the intricate web of geopolitical challenges can be unraveled. In this op-ed for commonspace.eu, Simona Scotti says that "this dynamic foreign policy stance also underscores the significance of the South Caucasus in extending Turkish influence to Central Asia.  In recent years, the growing importance of this region has garnered significant attention, not only for Türkiye but also for Europe. Situated at the crossroads of continents, Central Asia has emerged as a hub of economic potential, strategic significance, and cultural exchange. Türkiye, with its historical ties and shared Turkic heritage, recognizes the value of strengthening its relations with Central Asian countries. Consequently, the South Caucasus assumes a pivotal role in Türkiye's efforts to foster deeper diplomatic, economic, and cultural connections with Central Asia, ultimately benefiting both Türkiye and Europe by promoting regional cooperation and diversification of partnerships."
dennis2020 Thu, 08/31/2023 - 04:56
Opinion: Forthcoming municipal elections in Armenia may pose a first test for a peace agreement with Azerbaijan
Delays in signing an Armenia-Azerbaijan peace agreement open the prospects that the process may be derailed as a result of domestic politics. Next month, Yerevan will go to the polls to indirectly elect a new mayor. The parliamentary opposition is boycotting the vote, and a large number of voters remain apathetic or undecided, but the vote can still be seen as demonstrative enough ahead of the 2026 national parliamentary elections. In this op-ed for commonspace.eu, Onnik James Krikorian argues that Pashinyan foes are already attempting to turn the 17 September 2023 vote into a ‘referendum’ on Armenia-Azerbaijan talks and former de facto State Minister of Karabakh Ruben Vardanyan has called for the same. If Karabakh does dominate the campaign trail, and if Pashinyan’s Civil Contract can emerge victorious with no major abuse of administrative resources recorded, then there would hardly be any political reason not to sign a peace agreement in the nearest future. But if the government were to lose City Hall as 2025 and 2026 approaches, then that would look even less certain. For now, that does not appear likely, but what happens next month could greatly influence Pashinyan’s options in the weeks, months, and years ahead.
dennis2020 Mon, 08/28/2023 - 05:19
Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: The difficult world of building confidence between Armenians and Azerbaijanis

Opinion: The difficult world of building confidence between Armenians and Azerbaijanis

"Confidence-building measures are a necessary element in any strategy to end conflicts", writes Benyamin Poghosyan in this op-ed for commonspace.eu. Whilst there have been instances of confidence-building measures in the context of the Karabakh conflict for decades, the post-2020 confidence-building measures differ from the pre-war process. "The participants are more realistic in their expectations and assessments of the situation, understanding that no miracles are possible and that any solution requires painful decisions, especially from the Armenian side. A country cannot lose the war and hope for a solution to satisfy all its expectations and desires. However, this understanding also does not mean that in the post-2020 war period, those Armenians involved in confidence-building measures were ready to accept any solution to the conflict. They seek a difficult balance between being realistic and avoiding putting themselves into “echo-chamber”, situations while not rejecting their core beliefs on the acceptable ways of conflict settlement."
Bridging the divide: the need for unbiased reporting in the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict

"Today, the media in both Armenia and Azerbaijan, and also among those niche market publications based abroad that report on the region, amplify the negative and nearly always ignore any positive developments or glimmers of hope," writes Onnik James Krikorian in this op-ed for commonspace.eu. "The masses in both countries have already turned off from such coverage.

patrickn97 Tue, 08/08/2023 - 07:39
Analysis: an overview of the war economy in Yemen
For many Yemenis, the continuous years of war have created a country without any clear destination. The country is grappling with overall economic collapse and millions are in need of emergency aid. In a country where major decisions are taken by external rather than local actors, weakness in the economy provided a ripe opportunity for actors to gain leverage and benefit from creating a war economy.
patrickn97 Tue, 08/15/2023 - 08:33
Editor's choice
Analysis
Briefing: intensive diplomatic efforts around the Armenia-Azerbaijan peace process

Briefing: intensive diplomatic efforts around the Armenia-Azerbaijan peace process

Intense diplomatic efforts over the last month are a good reflection of a sustained determination on the part of Armenia and Azerbaijan to bring their decades-old conflict to an end, and sign a peace agreement, writes commonspace.eu. Meetings between president Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan and prime minister Nikol Pashinyan of Armenia were held in Brussels on 15 May, with the mediation of EU Council president Charles Michel. The three leaders met again on 1 June in Chisinau, this time also with the participation of French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Aliyev and Pashinyan met, together with president Putin of Russia, in Moscow on 25 May. And on 4 June the leaders of both Armenia and Azerbaijan were in Ankara for the inauguration of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s new term in office, where they also met informally. The next formal meeting is now set to be held in July in Brussels. A lot is also going on behind the scenes with European and American envoys travelling in the region.
Analysis: Landmine contamination in Azerbaijan’s Aghdam region prevents tens of thousands of displaced persons from returning to their homes
The dust of war from the decades-long conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has started to settle, and although peace remains elusive, there is hope across the region for a better future. No-one has waited for this moment more than the hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis who were displaced by the First Karabakh War in the early 1990s.
Maximiliaan va… Tue, 05/30/2023 - 09:12
Editor's choice
Analysis
Briefing: Pashinyan ready to sign, not everyone in Stepanakert is happy, Baku hopeful but keeping up pressure

Briefing: Pashinyan ready to sign, not everyone in Stepanakert is happy, Baku hopeful but keeping up pressure

As Armenia and Azerbaijan edge closer to signing an agreement ending decades of conflict between them, the future of the Armenian population in Nagorno-Karabakh remains one of the most crucial outstanding issues, writes commonspace.eu. Intense discussions and negotiations have been ongoing throughout May, with meetings in Washington, Brussels and Moscow involving the leaders of the two countries, their foreign ministers, and other senior officials. In a lengthy press conference on 22 May, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said that he wants to reach an agreement "as soon as possible". The international community's perception of the negotiations is that Armenia and Azerbaijan should, without reservations, recognise each other's territorial integrity of 29,800 square kilometers and 86,600 square kilometers, respectively, said Pashinyan.
Chained to the dead? Turkmenistan’s energy and connectivity partnership with Russia

"In the new realities of Central Asia, Turkmenistan is and will be a pivotal player in regional energy and connectivity politics," writes Mahammad Mammadov for commonspace.eu. "It gives Ashgabat many opportunities to build linkages to different power centers and increase its clout in regional affairs. So far, Berdimuhamedov’s government has pursued an “engaged neutrality” policy to reap the benefits of regional openings while maintaining regime security at home."

patrickn97 Mon, 03/20/2023 - 06:56
Editor's choice
Analysis
Kazakhstan looks back at a difficult 2022, determined to pursue change and reform in 2023

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.
Editor's choice
Analysis
Under the Pall of War: Implications of Russia's Invasion of Ukraine for Peace Processes in the South Caucasus

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.
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. 
Editor's choice
Analysis
Analysis: Russia's "Wagner group" poses a threat to peace and security in the Sahel

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.
Editor's choice
Analysis
Analysis: Origins of the Houthi supremacist ideology

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.
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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. 
Editor's choice
Editorial
Editorial: the end-game in Karabakh

Editorial: the end-game in Karabakh

Another summit between Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan, and Azerbaijani president, Ilham Aliyev will take place later this month in Brussels, facilitated by the president of the European Council Charles Michel. The region is currently abuzz with diplomatic activity as the international community urges the sides to bring their negotiations to a successful conclusion. At the end of June in Washington DC the foreign ministers of the two countries met under the auspices of US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken. A read out of the meeting indicates that progress was made but substantial disagreements on key issues, such as the future of the Armenian community of Nagorno-Karabakh, remain also. It is likely that some tough discussions will take place over the summer. Time is now against those who want a peaceful solution. The momentum for peace in Baku and Yerevan is already fragile, and unless a breakthrough can be registered, even maintaining this momentum will become very difficult. The summer brings with it several challenges. Reducing incidents on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border and in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone most surely now be a priority. Serious negotiations should not be taking place with violence in the background. Instead building up the momentum for peace through various track 1.5 and track 2 initiatives is hugely important.
Editor's choice
Editorial
Editorial: the next few weeks will define the South Caucasus for a decade

Editorial: the next few weeks will define the South Caucasus for a decade

In the chancelleries of Europe diplomats are preparing to go on their annual summer holidays. There are a number of files they would like to neatly close before they do so. The South Caucasus is one of them, writes commonspace.eu in this editorial. "Hard luck. There is no chance that any of the major issues facing the region can be brought to a conclusion yet, and it promises to be a long summer full of surprises. But on a number of issues an end game is approaching. The region is in one of those defining moments which everyone agrees will have a deep and long term impact on the future. People are hoping for the best, but worried about the worst. First, there is Georgia. By October, it should be clear if the country will get candidate status for EU membership, a hugely symbolic step that would make the possibility of Georgia becoming an EU member state within a decade a reality for the first time [...] Then there is the business of war or peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Both sides appear not convinced its going to be either one or the other. The foreign ministers of the two countries are meeting in Washington this week under the watchful eye of Antony Blinken. They may register progress, but it is unlikely to be enough."
Editor's choice
Editorial
Editorial: Baku and Stepanakert need to talk; now is the time for Azerbaijan to show magnanimity and generosity

Editorial: Baku and Stepanakert need to talk; now is the time for Azerbaijan to show magnanimity and generosity

"The question that remains unanswered is if there are Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh who are determined enough not to want to live in an Azerbaijani state that they will resist violently. Such thinking may exist, probably only amongst marginal groups, but nothing will come out of it unless it is abetted by the Government of Armenia, and/or by Russia, or in a less tangible way by radical groups within the Armenian diaspora. The latter can provide some money and possibly some human resources, but do not have the logistical capacity necessary for anything more than isolated incidents," writes commonspace.eu in this editorial. "Whilst a detailed future vision for Karabakh may have to wait until the negotiations are more advanced, now is the time for Baku to send positive signals. By tightening the noose around Nagorno-Karabakh Azerbaijan has forced the issue, so time is no longer on its side." 
Editorial: the European Union’s footprint in the Gulf remains faded

This editorial was first published in our newsletter Arabia Concise. If you would like to subscribe to Arabia Concise, or any other of our newsletter, please click here.

patrickn97 Tue, 06/20/2023 - 12:55
Editor's choice
Editorial
Editorial: Give Georgia EU candidate status before the end of the year

Editorial: Give Georgia EU candidate status before the end of the year

"These are difficult times for Georgia, for Europe, and for the whole world. Yet from every crisis, an opportunity arises. The Ukraine crisis has created conditions that open Georgia’s door for EU membership. Regardless of the rather unorthodox path this endeavour has taken, future generations of both Georgians and Europeans will look back at this historic moment, and say that the right thing was done," writes commonspace.eu in this editorial. "But before that, there is much work to be done. Candidate status will only be the beginning of a long, laborious and difficult process. And as a priority, the EU needs to develop a much more sophisticated communication strategy for dealing with Georgia and the Georgian people. It's useless preaching values or stating hard truths unless you can explain them in the way that your audience can understand them. Those that wanted to drive a wedge between Georgia and the EU have played on this weakness. If Georgia becomes a candidate country, dealing with this issue will become easier to deliver, even if achieving the objective will still be difficult."
Editorial: China moves in where angels fear to tread
It seems as if you cannot be respected as a superpower unless you burn your fingers trying to pacify Afghanistan, writes commonspace.eu in this editorial. The British in the heyday of the Raj, tried it in the 19th century; the Soviets tried it at the peak of their power in the 20th century, and the Americans had a go at a time when they were the only superpower, in the early 21st century. Now it seems it's China’s turn, and of course it is being done the Chinese way. There are no armies swarming across the Khyber Pass, nor forward military bases established across Central Asia. Instead, the Chinese are using their time tested tool – the Belt and Road Initiative. The first announcement came on 8 May following the 4th round of the Pakistan-China Strategic Dialogue in Islamabad with the participation of Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang and his Pakistani counterpart Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. In essence, the two sides agreed that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a part of the Belt and Road Initiative, will be extended into Afghanistan. At that meeting it was also agreed that both sides will “continue their humanitarian and economic assistance for the Afghan people and enhance development cooperation in Afghanistan”.
patrickn97 Tue, 05/30/2023 - 12:44
Editorial: Saudi Arabia injects new energy into a moribund Arab League
Following last week's Arab League summit in Jeddah, "it is expected that Saudi Arabia will continue to use its year-long chairmanship of the Arab League to reshape the institution, and more broadly to reconfigure pan Arab-affairs, of course with Saudi Arabia at the helm," writes commonspace.eu in this editorial. "For it is this new ambition of the Kingdom to become a leading regional and global player that has defined the summit, and will define its chairmanship of the Arab League over the next year." The summit formally healed some of the divisions of the last decade. Syria’s President Bashar al Assad attended, marking the full return of Syria into the Arab fold. There was a lot of talk of a new era of peace in the Middle East, and even Iran was now perceived as more of a partner rather than an enemy. Yet the summit gathered whilst a few miles away, across the waters of the Red Sea from Jeddah, a bloody civil war raged on in Sudan.
patrickn97 Tue, 05/23/2023 - 12:51
Editor's choice
Editorial
Editorial: light at the end of the tunnel for Armenia and Azerbaijan

Editorial: light at the end of the tunnel for Armenia and Azerbaijan

The European Union continues to play an instrumental part in helping Armenia and Azerbaijan to narrow the differences between them and move closer to signing a peace agreement normalising relations, writes commonspace.eu in this editorial.  On Sunday (14 May), European Council president Charles Michel, hosted Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in Brussels for several hours of talks which Michel described as being “frank, open and result-oriented” and “focused on progress on the path towards Armenia-Azerbaijan normalization.” Michel said that “the leaders shared a common willingness for a South Caucasus at peace. I commend their respective efforts. Together, we reviewed all issues on our agenda.” commonspace.eu political editor commenting on the results of the 14 May Brussels meeting said that clearly the negotiations have reached a decisive stage. This is now not a discussion on abstract principles but on tangible and practical issues that will have an impact on the lives of Armenians and Azerbaijanis across the region.
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Editorial: Armenia-Azerbaijan talks are down to the nitty-gritty

Editorial: Armenia-Azerbaijan talks are down to the nitty-gritty

After months of diplomacy by e-mail, Armenia and Azerbaijan met in Washington DC in the first week of May for negotiations led by the foreign ministers of the two countries, with the United States providing facilitation and support, writes commonspace.eu in this editorial. The presence of US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, at the opening of the talks, raised expectations that the talks may be conclusive. They were not, but enough progress was made for Blinken to return for the closing session, telling his guests that the US appreciated that the last bit of any negotiating process was going to be the most difficult. "The temptation to draw out the ongoing situation for many more months, with the hope that time is on their side, has big risks. Unplanned incidents still have the capacity to escalate quickly and spiral out of control, feeding on the existing level of mistrust. The violence between Armenia and Azerbaijan reported this morning (11 May) is a case in point. So in many ways this is the moment of truth, even if some would argue that we have been here before. Somehow however this time it feels different, even if the nitty-gritty problems have not gone away," they add.
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Editorial: the moment of truth

Editorial: the moment of truth

"The signing of an agreement – it is still not clear if it will be called a Peace Agreement, or something else – will certainly not mean that all issues between Armenia and Azerbaijan are resolved," writes commonspace.eu in this editorial. "There is also much that still needs to be done to build enough trust and confidence for any agreement to not simply be a piece of paper. But an agreement will certainly be the sign of the end of an era of war and hostilities which has also poisoned the atmosphere between the two neighbouring nations." The foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan, accompanied by large delegations, were in Washington this week for face to face negotiations on the future relations between their countries. After a hiatus of several months, during which contact was relegated to exchange of emails, the two sides, with some US prodding, on Monday engaged in what many consider to be the most detailed exercise yet in trying to chart the future relations between the two countries.
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Interview
Samantha Smith's Group: the global volunteer movement uniting Ukrainians and Russians through English

Samantha Smith's Group: the global volunteer movement uniting Ukrainians and Russians through English

On 24 February 2022, in the town of Kostyantynivka in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk oblast, Anastasiia woke up at 4am to the sound of explosions. Not in her town, but about 30km away. When the first explosion hit she did not understand what was going on, but once the second explosion hit she rushed to her parents’ room and told them that the war had started. Originally conceived as a protest, Samantha Smith’s Group has evolved into a herculean effort run by a tight-knit, principled and dedicated group of individuals committed to making a very genuine difference to Ukrainians whose lives have been turned upside down by Russia’s invasion of their country. However, although the teachers come from all over the world, from Canada to New Zealand, from the UK to Costa Rica, as well as Ukraine and Belarus, the majority of volunteers teaching English to Ukrainians in Samantha Smith’s Group are actually from Russia.
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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."
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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 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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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 returns to the Caucasus for one day leaving hundreds of casualties, but the prospects for peace remain
War returned to the Caucasus for one day this week, claiming hundreds of lives, displacing more people, and denting further the prospects for peace. Every time blood is spilt, regardless of any justification, the wounds of the past open again, and this time is no exception.  Whilst Baku appears to have achieved its objective of frustrating the decades-long Armenian political project in Karabakh, the situation on the ground remains fluid. Tens of thousands of civilians are now caught in the epicentre of a difficult and painful political transition that will see Nagorno-Karabakh re-integrated back into Azerbaijan. How this process will work out is not clear at all, and every step is fraught with risks. So far Baku has shown its stick. Now it needs to show its carrot. Following this week’s events, some said that the peace process is dead. This needs not be the case. In fact in their speeches in the last hours both President Aliyev and Prime Minister Pashinyan reiterated their commitment to the peace agenda. In the coming weeks and months Armenia and Azerbaijan need to remain focused on the one objective of signing a peace agreement. Without it the chance of more deadly violence in future will be much higher. The international community too must keep this as its top agenda in the region. The journey has not become easier in the last days, but the road remains open. The journey now needs to be finished.
dennis2020 Thu, 09/21/2023 - 14:38
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Commentary: A restless summer in the South Caucasus can be the harbinger of a difficult autumn

Commentary: A restless summer in the South Caucasus can be the harbinger of a difficult autumn

Despite the sweltering heat, officials in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia appeared to have taken little if any vacations this summer. The usual exodus to the beaches, or to cool mountain resorts, sometimes stretching from mid-July to mid-September, simply did not happen. In one capital, one observer commented that officials were at their desks throughout the summer. An air of uncertainty prevailed over the region. Low-intensity border clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan threatened the fragile peace process. More dead and injured were added to the long list of victims of this conflict. Azerbaijan’s decision to assert its control over the Lachin corridor that connects the Armenian population of Karabakh to Armenia created hardships for the Karabakh Armenians, who on their part refuse to be supplied through alternative Azerbaijani routes. Inside Karabakh the political turmoil finally ended the fate of the de facto president, Arayik Harutyunyan, who resigned this week, adding to the instability. A meeting of the UN Security Council on 16 August discussed the Lachin issue. Concern was expressed by UNSC members, and most called on Azerbaijan to restore unhindered movement across the Lachin Corridor. But there was no consensus on a resolution, or even a Statement. In Georgia, summer ended as it started, with a permanent stand-off between the governing “Georgian Dream” party and the fractured opposition. The issue of whether or not Georgia will get EU candidate status before the end of the year continued to dominate the political discourse. Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili, whose constitutional powers are mostly ceremonial, defied government advice and travelled to Europe at the beginning of September for talks with European leaders, who rolled out the red carpet to her. But in Tbilisi, the governing party started impeachment proceedings against her. They are likely to fail because the government is not able to muster the necessary votes needed in the parliament. Some simply dismiss the summer shenanigans as part of the usual South Caucasus political fare. Unfortunately, there is more to it than that, and the restless summer may be the harbinger of a very difficult autumn.
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Commentary: Step by step

Commentary: Step by step

On Saturday, 15 July, the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan once again met in Brussels, under the auspices of the president of the European Council Charles Michel, to discuss the future of the relations between their two countries after years of war and conflict. Those who hoped for a dramatic breakthrough in the past in the process of Armenia - Azerbaijan normalisation, may have been disappointed at how slow the process moved. Yet progress is being made, and yesterday, speaking after the meeting in Brussels, European Council president Charles Michel summed it up, saying "We are going through one of the most comprehensive and vigorous stages of negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan". Those who still think that peace is a "moment" are mistaken. It is a process that needs to develop step by step. The meeting in Brussels this weekend was certainly a step in the right direction.
Di Maio arrives in the Gulf on first trip as special envoy of the EU for the GCC
European Union diplomacy is often criticised for not giving enough attention to the countries of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC). In a signal that things are about to change, in June it appointed its first Special Representative for the region. The EU has a number of these Special Representatives, know as EUSRs, usually dealing with regions or topics that cannot be addressed through the bilateral delegations that the EU has in most countries of the world. But the announcement that the EU was going to appoint former Italian Prime Minister, Luigi Di Maio, as its first EUSR for the Gulf countries came as a bit of a surprise. Too senior, some said; too much political baggage from his time in Italian politics, said others. But after a brief moment of hesitation the 27 member states finally agreed Di Maio's candidature. This week he finally arrived in the Gulf on his first visit in this role, ahead of an important EU-GCC foreign ministers meeting expected to take place in Oman in October. “I think that the world is changing and there are new partnerships to build,” Di Maio said during an interview on Thursday with the Saudi newspaper Arab News, that touched on topics ranging from the Russia-Ukraine conflict to the economic empowerment of women and young people in the Kingdom.
dennis2020 Fri, 07/14/2023 - 06:22
Commentary: EU reaches out to Central Asia’s “Cinderella”
"Whilst this week’s EU-Tajikistan meeting can be dismissed as another piece of EU bureaucracy at play, for Tajikistan this mechanism is also a lifeline to the wider world," writes commonspace.eu in this commentary. "Tajikistan has a lot of potential, in terms of natural resources, tourism and connectivity which remains untapped. It has in the last couple of years made various overtures to the EU indicating a willingness to engage more. It is right that this week the EU has sent a message that it is interested too." Following an EU-Tajikistan meeting on Monday (26 June), a statement said that “the participants reviewed their cooperation, including economic and trade relations, issues related to the security of energy supply, and connectivity both within Central Asia and between Central Asia and Europe. The two sides assessed progress in implementing the outcomes of both the EU-Central Asia Sustainable Connectivity Conference, and the EU-Central Asia Economic Forum [...] During their discussions, the two sides also touched on matters of regional and international interest, including the situation in Afghanistan and Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. The EU encouraged Tajikistan’s engagement with Central Asia’s neighbouring countries and welcomed its constructive role for broader cooperation within the Central Asia region and beyond.”
patrickn97 Wed, 06/28/2023 - 10:11
Commentary: preventing and countering violent extremism in the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict

"Increasingly, the benefits in combining the spheres of traditional conflict resolution practices with preventing and countering violent extremism are clear and already in place elsewhere," writes Onnik James Krikorian for commonspace.eu.

patrickn97 Tue, 06/20/2023 - 07:32
Commentary: Kazakhstan throws a lavish party in honour of multilateralism
"Such big jamborees as the Astana International Forum happen often, and are – more often than not – considered as talking shops with limited results. They are usually a part of a branding exercise by countries that can afford them. Most participants forget about them the moment they leave, and the impact beyond that is often negligible," writes commonspace.eu in this commentary. However, "the Astana International Forum marks the emergence of a new Kazakhstan on the international stage. This year’s event was the first. Future forums will be a good gauge for how this new Kazakhstan is performing." Writing for a blog on Al Jazeera on the eve of the opening of the forum, Kazakh Deputy Prime Minister, Serik Zhumangarin described the Astana International Forum as “a global event aimed at renewing the culture of multilateralism”, and said that it was a part of Kazakhstan’s multi-vector foreign policy which seeks to engage countries in the north, south, east and west.
patrickn97 Tue, 06/13/2023 - 12:32
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Commentary: is this the end of the love affair between Georgia and the United States?

Commentary: is this the end of the love affair between Georgia and the United States?

The imposition of US sanctions against four Georgian judges now makes the rift between the US and Georgian governments formal, writes commonspace.eu in this commentary. "It will have consequences, and both sides have much to lose. The GD government may decide to drift further away from the US. Given that any relations with Moscow remain, in Georgian domestic political terms, toxic, its room for manoeuvre is limited. That does not mean that most Georgians want their country to become a US client state either. But it is unlikely that Georgian nationalist sensibilities are going to be disturbed by the fact that Judge Maisuradze and company cannot travel to the US. But there are always things the GD government can do, some without too much attention in the public eye, to further erode US influence. Weakening the two pillars of US engagement with Georgia is now likely to become a GD priority."
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Commentary: a fundamental question defines the position of different protagonists over the future of Karabakh

Commentary: a fundamental question defines the position of different protagonists over the future of Karabakh

A fundamental question defines the position of different protagonists over the future of Karabakh, writes commonspace.eu in this commentary. "A lot of the issues in Armenia-Azerbaijan relations can be managed easily with a little bit of imagination and good will. The future of Karabakh remains a real stumbling block." But if Armenia and Azerbaijan fail to reach a peace agreement before the window of opportunity closes and are soon back at the Kremlin's mercy, "they will only have themselves to blame". The world watches on as Armenia and Azerbaijan hug each other and promise peace with each other one day, and exchange threats, insults and gunfire the next. International observers are concerned, bemused, or, very often, bored by this situation. Concerns about the imminent start of a new Armenia-Azerbaijan war are exaggerated. At the moment neither side needs a war, wants it, or even more importantly, can afford it, whether it be politically, financially or socially.
Commentary: Yemen is where the resilience of the Iran-Saudi deal will be tested
Developments in Yemen over the last days do not augur well for the 10 March Iran-Saudi Arabia normalisation deal, writes commonspace.eu in this commentary, writing that "it is in Yemen where the biggest test for the resilience of the Beijing agreement will come, sooner rather than later." On 10 March in Beijing, Iran and Saudi Arabia together with China signed an agreement that amongst other things provides for the restoration of diplomatic relations between Tehran and Riyadh. The agreement has many other provisions, and remains confidential, but it is widely understood that it contains provisions for lessening tensions in the region and taking the heat out of some hotspots where the two regional powers continue to look each other in the eye. Yemen invariably is at the top of the agenda.
patrickn97 Tue, 03/28/2023 - 12:37
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Commentary
Saudi-Iran agreement: Welcome to the age of pragmatism

Saudi-Iran agreement: Welcome to the age of pragmatism

On Friday (10 March), it was announced in Beijing that with the mediation of China, Iran and Saudi Arabia had agreed to end decades of hostility, re-establish diplomatic relations that had been broken in 2016, re-open embassies in their respective capitals within two months, and work towards resolving all disputes between them through dialogue. The diplomatic world appeared taken by surprise, both by the Iranian-Saudi reconciliation, as well as by China’s involvement. The sight of a Sunni Kingdom, a Shia revolutionary republic, and a Communist state cosying together was somewhat unsettling for some. Many rushed to welcome the deal, others, especially among the chattering classes in Washington, rushed to criticise it. Diplomatic contacts have been ongoing between Tehran and Riyadh for some time, held mainly in Baghdad and Muscat with Iraqi and Omani facilitation. After the UAE normalised relations with Iran some months ago, it was assumed that sooner or later Saudi Arabia will follow. But the timing and context of the deal announced in Beijing last week remains a very significant development, with wide-ranging consequences. It also appears to herald a new age of pragmatism in international relations, with considerable implications.

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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
Commentary: War returns to the Caucasus for one day leaving hundreds of casualties, but the prospects for peace remain
War returned to the Caucasus for one day this week, claiming hundreds of lives, displacing more people, and denting further the prospects for peace. Every time blood is spilt, regardless of any justification, the wounds of the past open again, and this time is no exception.  Whilst Baku appears to have achieved its objective of frustrating the decades-long Armenian political project in Karabakh, the situation on the ground remains fluid. Tens of thousands of civilians are now caught in the epicentre of a difficult and painful political transition that will see Nagorno-Karabakh re-integrated back into Azerbaijan. How this process will work out is not clear at all, and every step is fraught with risks. So far Baku has shown its stick. Now it needs to show its carrot. Following this week’s events, some said that the peace process is dead. This needs not be the case. In fact in their speeches in the last hours both President Aliyev and Prime Minister Pashinyan reiterated their commitment to the peace agenda. In the coming weeks and months Armenia and Azerbaijan need to remain focused on the one objective of signing a peace agreement. Without it the chance of more deadly violence in future will be much higher. The international community too must keep this as its top agenda in the region. The journey has not become easier in the last days, but the road remains open. The journey now needs to be finished.
dennis2020 Thu, 09/21/2023 - 14:38
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Opinion
Opinion: Armenian and Azerbaijani experts and analysts should articulate a common vision for the future of the Karabakh Armenians

Opinion: Armenian and Azerbaijani experts and analysts should articulate a common vision for the future of the Karabakh Armenians

In this op-ed for commonspace.eu, Onnik James Krikorian says that as the topic of the future of the Armenians of Karabakh within Azerbaijan becomes more urgent, it is now time for Armenian and Azerbaijani analysts and political scientists to elaborate potential models for integration in unison. Though Baku says it already has a plan, no details are known or even if it exists at all. And even if it does, then Armenian and Azerbaijani civil society could have suggestions and recommendations. "If they want, of course, but they should. Otherwise such models could be determined without their input and imposed from above or outside regardless of the potential consequences", he adds. 
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Opinion
Opinion: Russia has no interest in peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan

Opinion: Russia has no interest in peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan

The territorial conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has never been a purely inter-state matter between the two countries. Since the beginning of the conflict in its post-Soviet period, neighboring big powers like Russia and Iran sought to manipulate the conflict and use it as an instrument for their parochial regional interests. It is a well-documented fact that Armenia succeeded to occupy the Azerbaijani territories thanks to military and political support of Russia. Likewise, it was thanks to the Russian support that Armenia was able to consolidate its control over the Karabakh region and adjacent Azerbaijani districts. The conflict has always been a critical tool for Russia to exert influence on Azerbaijan and keep Armenia under control.
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Opinion
Opinion: Avoiding another war in Karabakh

Opinion: Avoiding another war in Karabakh

"It seems that talks over the future of Nagorno Karabakh have reached an impasse. Azerbaijan claims there will be no Nagorno Karabakh inside Azerbaijan, and Armenians should live as ordinary Azerbaijani citizens. At the same time, those who do not want to accept this option should leave. Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh categorically reject this option, meanwhile stating that they will not leave their homeland", says Benyamin Poghosyan in this op-ed for commonspace.eu "Currently, it is challenging to offer an option that may more or less satisfy both Azerbaijan and NKR. However, one thing is clear: new large-scale war in Nagorno Karabakh will make long-term peace and stability in the South Caucasus a pipe dream. Thus, all actors interested in a stable region should message Azerbaijan that a new war against Nagorno Karabakh is not the best option to move forward. Otherwise, the region will plunge into another decade of instability, destruction, and human suffering", Poghosyan argues 
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Commentary: A restless summer in the South Caucasus can be the harbinger of a difficult autumn

Commentary: A restless summer in the South Caucasus can be the harbinger of a difficult autumn

Despite the sweltering heat, officials in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia appeared to have taken little if any vacations this summer. The usual exodus to the beaches, or to cool mountain resorts, sometimes stretching from mid-July to mid-September, simply did not happen. In one capital, one observer commented that officials were at their desks throughout the summer. An air of uncertainty prevailed over the region. Low-intensity border clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan threatened the fragile peace process. More dead and injured were added to the long list of victims of this conflict. Azerbaijan’s decision to assert its control over the Lachin corridor that connects the Armenian population of Karabakh to Armenia created hardships for the Karabakh Armenians, who on their part refuse to be supplied through alternative Azerbaijani routes. Inside Karabakh the political turmoil finally ended the fate of the de facto president, Arayik Harutyunyan, who resigned this week, adding to the instability. A meeting of the UN Security Council on 16 August discussed the Lachin issue. Concern was expressed by UNSC members, and most called on Azerbaijan to restore unhindered movement across the Lachin Corridor. But there was no consensus on a resolution, or even a Statement. In Georgia, summer ended as it started, with a permanent stand-off between the governing “Georgian Dream” party and the fractured opposition. The issue of whether or not Georgia will get EU candidate status before the end of the year continued to dominate the political discourse. Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili, whose constitutional powers are mostly ceremonial, defied government advice and travelled to Europe at the beginning of September for talks with European leaders, who rolled out the red carpet to her. But in Tbilisi, the governing party started impeachment proceedings against her. They are likely to fail because the government is not able to muster the necessary votes needed in the parliament. Some simply dismiss the summer shenanigans as part of the usual South Caucasus political fare. Unfortunately, there is more to it than that, and the restless summer may be the harbinger of a very difficult autumn.
Sochi Summit exposes limits of Russian-Turkish entente
Turkish President, Recip Tayip Erdogan visited Sochi on Monday, 4 September, to meet Russian president Vladimir Putin. Erdogan had sought this meeting for some time, hoping that in a face-to-face encounter he could persuade his Russian counterpart to restore the so called Black Sea Grain Deal, which enabled Ukraine to export its grain products to international markets safely, despite the ongoing war with Russia. "Erdogan failed in this primary mission", writes commonspace.eu political editor in a comment "There were of course other issues under discussion in Sochi - both related to bilateral relations, as well as issues concerning the international and regional situation. There were no new breakthroughs, no new agreements signed, nor new initiatives announced, except for one related to the supply of Russian grain to African countries via Turkey, a side issue of the main Grain Deal.  In many ways, Sochi showed the limits of the Turkish-Russian entente. It has always been built on mutual convenience as both sides try to show the world that they are independent players in a complex international system. But Russian hopes to lure Turkey away from NATO have failed miserably. Russian disappointment at Turkey's overt support for Ukraine in military as well as political spheres, is a sore point for President Putin. The Russians have also learnt that the Turks drive a hard bargain when it comes to economic issues. Reeling under heavy western sanctions the Russians need to keep the Turks on board, but the cost is high. For Turkiye too the limits of the friendship with Russia are obvious. Opinions differ on a range of issues - from the South Caucasus to Syria to Central Asia. Turkiye has tried to lure Russia into negotiations with Ukraine. Moscow politely but firmly said no. For Turkiye the war raging in the Black Sea poses a huge threat. All its efforts so far to stop it have failed, and Sochi has not brought this objective any nearer. After Sochi, Turkiye will once more have to evaluate how to position itself in the war for its long term interests. For the moment the Turkish Russian relations, which are of huge consequences for the security of the Black Sea region, remain at face value, good. But Sochi has shown signs of cracks on a number of issue, cracks that polite words and expressions of friendship in the press conference following the Summit, failed to hide."
dennis2020 Tue, 09/05/2023 - 09:49
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