By Mina Muradova (03/18/2015 issue of the CACI Analyst)
The mediators in peace talks over a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict have welcomed Armenia’s decision to participate in the first-ever European Games that will be hosted by Azerbaijan this summer. At the same time, shootings along the frontline and the military rhetoric of official Baku and Yerevan continue.
Starting on June 12, Baku will host a major multi-sport event for 17 days, which will bring together over 6,000 athletes from 50 countries of the European continent.
On March 11, the Executive Committee of Armenia’s National Olympic Committee (NOCA) officially announced its final decision. The country expects to compete in sambo, shooting, judo, wrestling, boxing, and taekwondo.
Fierce tensions have existed between Azerbaijan and Armenia ever since the two countries received independence in 1991 over ownership of Nagorno-Karabakh, a landlocked region in the South Caucasus, located within Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized borders. Although the two sides signed a cease-fire agreement in 1994, the latest clashes along the frontline and military rhetoric are intensifying on both sides. Monitors say the 2014 death toll of about 60 people was the worst for 20 years, while the nature of the confrontation on the front line is becoming more dangerous due to attacks not only by snipers, but also by helicopters and artillery.
Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s Presidents Serzh Sargsyan and Ilham Aliyev met on three occasions last fall made no progress toward a lasting peace settlement. According to OSCE Chairman in office, Serbian FM Ivica Dačić “… acts of violence increased after these meetings, and the political process weakened.” While politicians are looking for diplomatic solutions, the sports community looks to make its own contribution in establishing trust between sides.
Armenia will participate in in the inaugural European Games next year, claimed Patrick Hickey, President of the European Olympic Committees (EOC) last November, when Armenia’s Olympic Committee took part in 43rd EOC General Assembly in Baku. It has taken much mediation to find a solution to allow Armenian participation in the Baku 2015 European Games.
Following a visit of Hickey with the International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach to Armenia last year, a solution have been found and the problems between the two countries will not lead to a boycott. The recent confirmation is a major coup for the EOC and the organizers less than three months before the European Games.
“We are very pleased to confirm our participation in the first European Games,” NOCA President Gagik Tsarukyan said in a statement. “We know that Armenian athletes will have the best possible facilities and support available to them at Baku 2015, helping them reach their peak performance this summer. I can say now that this was the best decision for the future of sport in our country … My Executive Board took this decision based on sporting reasons alone; it is important to keep sport independent from politics, he noted.
The U.S. Co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group James Warlick posted on Twitter: “Good news that Armenian athletes will compete in the European games in Baku. Hope Azerbaijan will welcome the decision.” The decision was also welcomed by France.
However, the decision of Armenia’s NOC has been hotly contested between the Olympic Committee chiefs and some leaders of the country’s sports federations, who have opposed the idea of participating in the games to be held in Azerbaijan from June 12-28. “There’s no need for our athletes to go to Baku,” Levon Julfalakyan, the head coach of Armenia’s Greek-Roman wrestling team said. “They will never get a fair deal for their performances in Azerbaijan.” His statement was backed by Armenia’s gymnastics head Albert Azaryan. “Regardless of our athletes’ performance they will never be given a chance to win in Baku by any means,” he said. “Armenia has a difficult relationship with Azerbaijan and the trip to Baku could become a pretty risky affair.”
Meanwhile, the organizers of the European Games have already given security guarantees for the members of Armenia’s delegation during the event. “We invite all 50 countries to take part in first European Games. We guarantee that all necessary conditions will be created. Azerbaijan will ensure security at a high level for all participants of Baku 2015,” stated Azad Rahimov, Azerbaijan’s Minister of Youth and Sport.
Azerbaijan’s military authorities also intend to take additional precautions during the events. “Azerbaijan will give a harsh response to any provocation of Armenia before and during the first European games, Vagif Dergyahly, a spokesperson of the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry told Trend on Thursday. He did not rule out that Armenia, on the eve of Baku 2015, will try to “aggravate the situation on the frontline.”
KAZAKHSTAN AND THE EEU, by Dmitry Shlapentokh
U.S. NEW SILK ROAD INITIATIVE NEEDS URGENT RENEWAL, by Richard Weitz
IS “TURKISH STREAM” A SERIOUS THREAT TO THE TRANS-CASPIAN PIPELINE?, by Juraj Beskid, Tomáš Baranec
CASA-1,000 – HIGH VOLTAGE IN CENTRAL ASIA, by Franz J. Marty
KYRGYZSTAN’S RESIGNED PROSECUTOR-GENERAL GIVES WORRYING PRESS CONFERENCE, by Arslan Sabyrbekov
MOSCOW PLEDGES TO COUNTERACT GEORGIA’S INTEGRATION WITH NATO, by Eka Janashia
ARMENIA TOUGHENS ITS STANCE AGAINST TURKEY, by Erik Davtyan
FOREIGN MINISTERS OF TURKEY, AZERBAIJAN AND TURKMENISTAN DISCUSS ENERGY AND TRANSPORTATION IN ASHGABAT, by Tavus Rejepova
By Erik Davtyan (03/04/2015 issue of the CACI Analyst)
On February 16, Armenia's President Serzh Sargsyan addressed a letter to the Speaker of Armenia's National Assembly Galust Sahakyan, informing him about his decision to recall the Armenian-Turkish protocols from the National Assembly. In the letter, the President stated that "the absence of political will, distortions of the letter and spirit of the protocols by the Turkish authorities and continuous attempts to articulate preconditions." Sargsyan also reiterated that the Turkish policy of denial and history revision was intensified on the eve of the Armenian Genocide Centennial. In 2009, Armenia and Turkey signed two protocols on the establishment of diplomatic relations and on the development of relations. However, the ratification process was halted and the prospect of new negotiations and agreements is negligible.
As Armenia prepares to commemorate the centennial of the Armenian genocide, contacts between Armenian and Turkish authorities are taking on highly negative overtones. On January 29, the State Commission on the Coordination of Events Dedicated to the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide issued a pan-Armenian declaration calling upon Turkey and other states to recognize and condemn the genocide, and declares Armenia's intention to present a package of legal claims against Turkey.
The recall of the two protocols obtained reactions from Armenian as well as Turkish high officials. Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tanju Bilgic qualified this step as an "insincere and unstable position" towards the protocols. As for Armenia's official position, Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharyan explained in an interview to Armenia's Public Television that the recall was a clear message to the international community (including Turkey), aiming to stress the unacceptability of the Turkish policy of "denial and preconditions." Taking into consideration the fact that Turkey has recently launched new initiatives regarding the 100th anniversary of the battle of Gallipoli, Kocharyan believes that the recall of the protocols was quite logical.
On the eve of the Armenian Genocide Centennial, almost all steps taken by the Armenian authorities are highly welcomed among the Armenian public. Boris Navasardyan, chairman of the Yerevan Press Club, said that the recall of the protocols is widely perceived as a "quite justified attitude." According to politologist Alexander Markarov, the protocols were de facto recalled much earlier, so this decision de jure put an end to the whole process that kicked off in 2008 in the framework of "football diplomacy".
When signing the protocols in Zürich, both Turkey and Armenia wanted to express their willingness to restore their diplomatic relations. However, after six years, the ambiguous future of the protocols does not play in Armenia's favor, especially after Sargsyan toughened Armenia's official position on the Armenian Genocide issue. The deputy director of the Caucasus Institute, Sergey Minasyan, thinks that in terms of both Armenia's foreign and domestic policy, there was no need to keeping the protocols in the National Assembly.
Experts and politicians believe that the protocols contradict the pan-Armenian declaration issued at the end of January. Edmon Marukyan, a deputy of Armenia's National Assembly, as well as the Director of the Armenian Genocide Museum & Institute Hayk Demoyan, say that the logic of the Zürich protocols did not correspond to that of the pan-Armenian declaration, so there was no doubt that President Sargsyan would take that step.
Though there are no contradictory opinions on this issue, some political parties call for a much tougher stance regarding the Zürich protocols. Giro Manoyan, a bureau member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), says that "this is a welcome step, but is not enough: it is necessary to completely neutralize and recall the signatures." Representatives of the Armenian Diaspora, which plays a key role in promoting Armenian national interests, including the international recognition of the Genocide, has always condemned any attempt to reconcile relations between Armenia and Turkey. According to the Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Aram Hamparian, "Armenia should never have signed these one-sided agreements." As for the recall of the protocols, Hamparian believes that the withdrawal "represents a step in the right direction – one that needs to be followed immediately by the next logical step of withdrawing Armenia's signature from these Ankara-inspired accords".
GYUMRI MURDERS THREATEN TO DISRUPT ARMENIA’S RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA, by Eduard Abrahamyan
SANCTIONS, ENERGY PRICES, AND RUBLE DEPRECIATION CHALLENGE CIS GOVERNMENTS, by Stephen Blank
DAGESTAN’S JIHADISTS AND HARAM TARGETING, by Emil Souleimanov
AZERBAIJAN INVESTS IN UPGRADING ITS TRANSPORT INFRASTRUCTURE, by John C.K. Daly
ARMENIAN PRESIDENT REJECTS TURKISH INVITATION TO ATTEND GALLIPOLI ANNIVERSARY, by Erik Davtyan
POLICE ARRESTED FOR OLD MURDER CASE IN GEORGIA, by Eka Janashia
KYRGYZSTAN DEBATES ELECTORAL SYSTEM REFORM, by Arslan Sabyrbekov
TAJIK PRESIDENT REVIEWS CHALLENGES IN ANNUAL ADDRESS TO PARLIAMENT, by Oleg Salimov
By Eduard Abrahamyan (02/18/2015 issue of the CACI Analyst)
Armenia’s relationship with Russia has never been simple. Although Russia has considered Armenia a reliable ally since its independence, the relationship has never transformed into a formal partnership. Russia’s policy of double standards on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue and its delivery of weaponry to Azerbaijan has gradually increased distrust in Armenian society towards Russia in recent years. A bloody incident in Gyumri on January 12, 2015, when a soldier from the deployed Russian 102nd military base killed the entire Avetisyan family in their sleep, including two children, has catalyzed a vivid debate in Armenia on the nature of the relationship to Russia.
The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst is a biweekly publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, a Joint Transatlantic Research and Policy Center affiliated with the American Foreign Policy Council, Washington DC., and the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm. For 15 years, the Analyst has brought cutting edge analysis of the region geared toward a practitioner audience.