New political patterns within the South Caucasus

Developments within the South Caucasus proceed to race forward of Europe’s understanding of them. By the time an occasion has been seen, acknowledged, digested, and interpreted (whether or not appropriately or incorrectly), different occasions have adopted in a wave that necessitates the revision of any understanding already reached. What is important is the power to acknowledge new patterns, moderately than to mission outdated patterns upon new occasions. The current article evaluations developments for the reason that starting of October, to be able to make sense of this example that’s unfolding, and which is new once more almost each day.

The most unmistakable, certainly maybe probably the most extensively commented, improvement at first of this month was Iran’s demonstrative army workouts on the border with Azerbaijan the place the newly de-occupied territories are situated. Iran had by no means held such workouts after they had been occupied by Armenian armed forces. Why now?

One motive is that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is sad with the outcomes of the Second Karabakh War. One results of the struggle, for instance, is the closure of Iran’s drug-trafficking route by way of the previously occupied territories and Armenia to Europe. According to the ninth level of the November 10, 2020, ceasefire accord agreed between Azerbaijan and Armenia by way of Russian mediation, “The Border Guard Service of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) shall be responsible for overseeing [such] transport connections.” Absent Russian connivance, such a presence would positively shut that main IRGC drug-smuggling route.

This drug commerce is also the rationale why Iran opposes the creation of the Zangezur hall between Nakhchivan and the physique of Azerbaijan correct. The presence of Russian forces on the Armenia-Iran border would likewise threaten a complete cut-off of this main route by way of Armenia, by which the IRGC has smuggled medication to Europe for 30 years. The earnings from this drug commerce have gone, amongst different locations, to the financing of terrorist organizations and teams in different international locations that the IRGC controls. Hezbollah, for instance, has already shifted its drug smuggling to a route utilizing the vital Lebanese diaspora in West Africa.

Iran additionally pretends that its displeasure issues Azeri cooperation with Israel; nonetheless, that’s an excuse, as a result of it’s actually about Turkey. The Lebanese Shi’ite scholar Sheikh Subhi Tufayli has mentioned, in a broadcast interview, that the brand new Iranian overseas minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian informed him that Iran needs “to sever Turkey’s ties with the rest of Turkish states” and due to this fact helps the Armenians “so that there is a barrier in front of Turkey.” Tehran cynically manipulates the Israel problem within the South Caucasus because it does in all places else.

In addition, in keeping with Zahid Oruj, a member of the Milli Mejlis (Azerbaijani National Assembly), greater than 25 Iranian banks and 400 firms used the Armenian-occupied territories to evade worldwide sanctions.

Yet the unfreezing of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan continues. At the start of October, the pinnacle of Armenia’s Security Council declared his nation’s readiness “to move forward and begin the process of demarcation and delimitation” of the border with Azerbaijan, “mediated by Russia.” In early October, the 2 international locations agreed to open one another’s airspace for civilian flights operationally. Indeed, the primary flight from Azerbaijan correct to Nakhchivan befell, by coincidence, on the very day after Iran introduced the closure of its personal airspace to Azeri plane.

In a associated improvement, Georgia is changing into a number one mediator between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Its prime minister, Irakli Garibashvili, has met with Armenia’s prime minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev a number of instances. At the opening of the UN General Assembly classes in New York on the finish of September. Garibashvili proposed his “Peaceful Neighborhood Initiative” (PNI) with a “3+2” format (the three South Caucasus international locations plus the EU and US). This seems as an non-exclusive different to the “Six-way Platform” (with Iran, Russia, and Turkey as an alternative of the US and EU; additionally referred to as “3+3”), which has not but acquired very far.

According to Garibashvili, the PNI could be designed to keep in mind “regional issues of common interest with our US and EU partners” within the “implementation of practical solutions” by way of “dialogue and confidence-building.” This characterization implies that it’s supposed not solely, and even primarily, as an intergovernmental or transgovernmental discussion board (because the idea of the six-way platform seems to be). Rather, the PNI would complement different boards, together with the vital trilateral consultations amongst Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia, insofar as these could proceed within the face of repeated Armenian hesitations.

Red Cross jeeps move by way of roads separating Azxeri and Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The final new developments that should be seen are parallel on the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The filings on the ICJ, by Armenia towards Azerbaijan and by Azerbaijan towards Armenia, just about the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), and a number of the fees that they include, have acquired a good quantity of publicity.

For instance, Azerbaijan states that Armenia violates CERD by “refus[ing] to provide comprehensive and accurate maps of the hundreds of thousands of landmines it planted in Azerbaijan’s territory.” Armenia is diminished to arguing that it has no obligation handy over maps of minefields that it laid within the Azeri territories that it occupied for 30 years. Yet Armenia’s refusal to take action is stopping 700,000 Azeris, ethnically cleansed by the armed forces of the Republic of Armenia (as established in 2015 by the European Court of Human Rights), from returning to the place their houses used to face.

The ICJ circumstances will take years to listen to and resolve; however, they are going to be of elementary significance. By distinction, the developments at PACE are more likely to have important results sooner, but they’ve been comparatively missed. PACE has issued a report (rapporteur, Paul Gavan) specializing in the humanitarian penalties of the battle. Notably, it “recommends that Armenia and Azerbaijan allow UNESCO unlimited access to all cultural heritage sites in both countries to assess the damage and assess the steps necessary to safeguard what remains.”

Such an even-handed approach will overcome the inordinate publicity given to the alleged shelling of a cathedral in Shusha by Azeri forces through the struggle, and stability it by a listing of Armenian destruction of Azeri cultural heritage, starting with the destruction of 16 out of 17 mosques in Shusha and the “re-branding” of the seventeenth as “Persian” (with Iranian architectural participation). There is photographic proof of different mosques elsewhere having been reworked into pigsties. It is important that UNESCO ought to be allowed to doc these and different violations of the legislation of occupation by Armenian armed forces, in addition to any by the Azeri aspect. Only then will the monetary prices of the destruction be capable of be decided. One could anticipate that these monetary questions may even ultimately reach worldwide courts.

To summarize the latest developments: Iran is a loser and is being nasty about it. Georgia is making constructive makes an attempt to enrich current multilateral initiatives with an approach to conflict-resolution that is still, nonetheless, to be additional laid out in public statements. And warfare within the South Caucasus is being transformed to lawfare. To paraphrase the well-known misquotation of Winston Churchill, at the very least “law, law is better than war, war.” (The appropriate unique citation is, “Meeting jaw to jaw is better than war.”)