Georgian-Armenian relations - what is ahead

Published in Politics
Friday, 03 June 2022 16:48

In 2022 Georgia and Armenia have marked the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. These relations saw several ups and downs for this turbulent for both countries period. The past three months have been marked with intensive exchange of high-profile visits between the countries.

The relatively decayed under the previous government Georgian-Armenian relations have been enlivened thanks to the efforts of Nikol Pashinyan and his government. Georgian-Armenian summits in the last December and this October held in Tbilisi and Yerevan entailed significant mutual steps for developing further bilateral trade and economic relations in the best possible way. These summits largely predetermined consecutive proactive bilateral dialogue at the level of the various agencies, which seems particularly important in the backdrop of the complicated geopolitical situation in the region. Currently bilateral trade economic relations are institutionalized through the Intergovernmental Commission on Economic Cooperation between the Republic of Armenia and Georgia.
Cross-border cooperation was also on the table of the recent talks between the parties given the sensitivity of the issue, especially after the second war in Karabakh. Some problems with regard to Georgian-Armenian border remain, despite attempts of the officials not to speak about loudly and publicly. One of the examples is village Khojorni situated on the territory of Georgia, but almost completely surrounded by Armenian territory. However, demarcation and delimitation of Georgian-Armenian border appears to be less problematic for Georgia as compared to the more difficult border dispute with Azerbaijan, largely associated with the David Gareja monastery complex.
Peaceful Neighborhood Initiative in the South Caucasus initiated by Georgian Prime-minister Irakli Garibashvili, which designs a format for a dialogue between the three nations and aims at the mutually-beneficial cooperation, was one of the subject of the high-profile discussions. Georgian party underlined its readiness to facilitate or mediate peace dialogue between Armenia and Azerbaijan. However, it appears that neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan show any significant interest in this initiative in the backdrop of mediation by far influential players such as Russia and European Union.
Nevertheless, both parties underlined aspiration of Yerevan and Tbilisi to give new impetus to the bilateral relations. Armenian officials have repeatedly highlighted that further promoting “special, good-neighborly” relations with Tbilisi is one of the priorities of the Armenian Government’s 2021-2026 action plan. Apart of the issues of regional security, the parties expressed readiness to step up bilateral cooperation in the areas of justice, human rights and public services. Both parties gave due attention to the worsening situation in Karabakh as an integral and important part of the regional security. PM Pashinyan stressed that the existing “high level of political dialogue between Armenia and Georgia” can be a foundation to further expand cooperation. 
Meanwhile, Georgia tries to keep sober balance in its relations with Armenia and Azerbaijan. Before the trip to Yerevan the new foreign minister Ilia Darchiashvili paid a visit to Baku having thereby emphasizing primacy of relations. Attitudes of Georgian citizens to Armenia and Azerbaijan differ respectively. The nationwide poll conducted by International Republican Institute this March, revealed that when answering the question: Which of these countries do you consider the most important political partners for Georgia? Turkey and Azerbaijan were named by 20% of respondents respectively, while only 7% named Armenia.
Despite optimistic public statements by Georgian and Armenian officials about deepening economic cooperation, Armenia tries to secure alternative routes of supply in evasion of the main land route through Georgia. Beginning June 15, the Armenian government plans to launch regular ferry transportation of goods across the Black Sea as an alternative to the only land road through the Upper Lars checkpoint connecting the country with Russia. The road through Upper Lars checkpoint, which connects Armenia with Russia is crucial for the Armenian economy. Armenian cargoes often end up stuck in queues for a long time due to weather conditions and limited capacity of Upper Lars. According to PM Pashinyan, Russian-Ukrainian war exacerbated these problems.

The agreement between Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia about unblocking transport communications in the region after the end of the second war in Karabakh, bred fear in Georgia that the country might be supplanted from the new transport and transit facilities in the region, and downgrade Georgia’s role as a transit country. For obvious reasons Georgia is suspiciously observing the attempts of Armenia and Turkey for comprehensive improvement of bilateral relations. The opening of their long-closed border as well as the restoration of diplomatic ties would have tremendous effects on the geopolitical picture of the region. The opening of the otherwise geographically closed region, which has been mostly dependent on Russia for infrastructure in recent decades, would open up and give Turkey a bigger stake in the region’s fate. The role of Iran cannot be downplayed as well.
Certainly, these perspectives heavily depend on the upcoming changes of the security architecture in the region which is directly linked with the consequences of the war in Ukraine.

Georgian-Armenian relations, war in Ukraine and geopolitics
Along with issues of bilateral cooperation, Georgian and Armenian officials gave due consideration to the impact of Russia’s war against Ukraine on the security architecture in the South Caucasus. This topic has acquired particular significance for the three South Caucasian states amid the continued accusations from the Ukrainian intelligence bodies that Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are negotiating with Moscow over the reexport of Russian products to international markets in the form of Georgian, Armenian and Azerbaijani goods.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Armenia and Georgia have tried in different ways to balance the need for good relations with Moscow with a desire to support Ukraine. The conflict in Ukraine directly affects Armenia and Georgia’s behavior toward Russia and the West making them to maintain a careful balance between these two important partners. A clear indication of this effort was that in difference of Georgia, Armenia voted against revoking Russia’s membership in the Council of Europe and abstained in votes suspending Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council and condemning Russia in U.N. At the same time, Armenia wants to maintain ties with the European Union (EU) and the West, but is not eager to support Ukraine because of Kyiv’s past support for Azerbaijan. As a result, Armenia has sought to signal its support for Russia without alienating the West.
Georgia's highly measured stance to the conflict in Ukraine, including refusal to impose sanctions on Russia and open the “second front,” what official Kyiv requests, are slightly different from the challenges, which Armenia and Azerbaijan are facing.
It must also be noted that imposing sanctions against Russia, which is highly likely to include significant restrictions of transportation through the Upper Larsi checkpoint – the sole land route connecting Armenia with Russia, will seriously harm both Georgian and Armenia’s economics, to say nothing about associated political complications. Outcome of the war in Ukraine is still uncertain. Had South Caucasian states entangled somehow in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, which increasingly transforms in the standoff between Russia and the West, they can easily find themselves as part of a fast-evolving wider confrontation with all afferent consequences. The Ukraine conflict gives Moscow less incentive to greenlight the normalization processes between Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan since they are pushing back against Russian influence in the area. Despite the key role it played in the 2020 war, Turkey found itself sidelined by Russia in the South Caucasus after the end of the fighting. Improving ties with Armenia represents “a chance to regain a seat at the table in regional trade and transport.
Fate of “3+3” format amid the war in Ukraine
The war in Ukraine has sidelined somehow the much-talked of “3+3 Format” declared as an instrument for establishing a lasting peace in the South Caucasus after the 44-day war in Karabakh. But letting alone the conflict in Ukraine, the format is torn apart by significant contradictions between the declared participants. This is particularly true with regard to Georgia and Armenia who have been reluctant or skeptical towards this format for their own reasons. After the first meeting in the "3+3" format on December 10, 2021 in Moscow attended by representatives of 5 countries: Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia, Turkey and Iran except of Georgia, the next meeting has not been scheduled so far. Existing and future contradictions between the participants, including refusal of Georgia to join the "3+3" format, reduces its geostrategic and geopolitical value, making the format heavily dependent on the outcome of the war in Ukraine. Consequences of the war in Ukraine will significantly influence on the attitudes of the key players such as Turkey and Russia. In the light of Georgia’s demonstrated aspiration to integrate into European and Euro-Atlantic structures, its participation in the “3 + 3” format, aimed at supplanting the West as a player from the region, appears impossible. To this effect, cooperation between Armenia and Georgia will be important in order to be ready for all possible scenarios. In this regard, the initiative of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev about interaction between Tbilisi, Baku and Yerevan in a trilateral format highlighted at the meeting with the Georgian foreign minister Ilia Darchiachvili during his visit in Baku this April, deserves attention. So far, the initiative has not been developed further, most likely because of the new cycle of Armenia-Azerbaijani tensions. When speaking about the future of “3+3” format, some Georgian experts suggested that Armenia and Georgia should come up with the “3+3+2” initiative, where “2” should be the European Union and the United States. Only time will tell whether “3+3” survive as a geopolitical project and how and whether Georgia and Armenia will benefit from it.

Conclusion
All in all, both Georgia and Armenia, which belong to the different blocs, most likely are not under the illusions of overcoming natural barriers caused by this factor. Meanwhile, due to the circumstances caused by the second war in Karabakh, one the one hand, and the ongoing war in Ukraine, on the other, political leadership of both countries are aware of the looming challenges. Therefore, the changed geopolitical realities in the South Caucasus and around, bolster Tbilisi and Yerevan to build the type of relations that would help each party retrieve maximum economic and political benefits. Rapprochement of the attitudes on the divisive issues, creating stable and trusting relationships with a higher degree of predictability, appears to be the result, which both parties could expect in the short and mid-term perspective. Achievement of this result might create a groundwork for propelling the bilateral relations at a new level.

By Zaal Anjaparidze

Zaal Anjaparidze works for International Center on Conflict and Negotiation (www.iccn.ge) as program coordinator for peace dialogue in S. Caucasus. Zeal coordinated engagement of civil society organizations, youth groups and peace journalists of the South Caucasian states in the conflict prevention and confidence building.
In 2017, he was manager of the EU-funded project in the Czech non-governmental organization People in Need (www.pin.ge). During 2005-2016, Zaal worked as senior program manager for civil society development program at Europe Foundation (www.epfound.ge). For 1994-2004, worked for the USAID international projects in Georgia (Сhemonics International, the Urban Institute, Barents Group), the Caucasian Institute for Peace Democracy and Development (www.cippd.org) and editor-in-chief of "GEORGIA TODAY" weekly (www.georgiatoday.ge).
Since 1997 to date, Zaal Anjaparidze has been a Georgian contributor and analyst for Jamestown Foundation (www.jamestown.org). Mr. Anjaparidze writes extensively about major events and trends in Georgia and Caucasus for the various national, regional and international editions and think tanks.

 

David Zalkaliani has hosted his Armenian counterpart

Published in Politics
Wednesday, 30 March 2022 11:35

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, David Zalkaliani met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia, Ararat Mirzoyan, who is paying a working visit to Tbilisi. The Ministers reviewed the current agenda of bilateral cooperation in various fields, as well as the situation in the region.
They positively assessed the dynamics of high-level contacts, which contribute to further rapprochement and expansion of trade and economic ties between the two countries. between the two countries. In this regard, the Ministers welcomed the regular nature of holding economic commissions between the countries. The conversation focused on the initiative of the Prime Minister of Georgia to ensure lasting peace and stability in the South Caucasus.
David Zalkaliani briefed his Armenian counterpart on the dire humanitarian and security environment in the occupied regions of Georgia.
The sides drew attention to the fact that this year marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Georgia and Armenia and stressed the importance of this date.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia

Prime Minister of Georgia Meets His Armenian Colleague

Published in Politics
Monday, 20 December 2021 17:13

Interaction between our people has a long history, similar to the political and economic relations existing between Georgia and Armenia. It was announced by Irakli Garibashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia at a face to face meeting with Nikol Pashinyan, Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia in Tbilisi today.

The Head of Government of Georgia stressed the significance of the visit paid by his Armenian colleague in relation with the Inter-Governmental Economic Cooperation Commission, thereby noting that this format was resumed after a gap of several years with a personal engagement of Nikol Pashinyan, which again evidences the productive cooperation advanced to the highest - Prime Ministerial - level.

It was also noted at the meeting that the Inter-Governmental Commission facilitates the advancement of economic and political ties between Georgia and Armenia.

Dignitaries focused their discussions on the current situation in the region and significance of joint efforts in addressing the current challenges.

Irakli Garibashvili noted that Peaceful Neighbourhood Initiative voiced at the General Assembly of the United Nations (UNGA) is aimed at the stimulation of peace and stability in the region, as democratic development, strong public institutions, open and transparent governance, economic progress can only be achieved in the conditions of peace and regional stability.

Face to face meeting of the Georgian and Armenian Prime Ministers was held at the Government Administration prior to the meeting of the Inter-Governmental Economic Cooperation Council.

Press Service of the Government Administration

Prime Minister’s meeting with Armenian Chief of Police

Published in Justice
Thursday, 09 December 2021 12:59

Today, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili met with Major General Vahe Ghazaryan, Chief of Police of the Republic of Armenia, as part of the latter's official visit to Georgia.
The meeting focused on the cooperation between the two countries, notably the productive interaction between the law enforcements of Georgia and Armenia, also partnership in the fight against transnational crime and other security-related challenges.
The conversation revolved around the Georgian Prime Minister's successful mediation resulting in the release of 15 Armenian citizens and the handover of important maps of mined territories to the Azerbaijani side. The Head of Government expressed readiness for continuing active cooperation and emphasized Georgia's support for dialogue to fostering long-term peace and stability in the region.
The meetings singled out the long history of friendly and neighborly relations between the two nations and prospects of expanding the partnership even further.
The meeting at the Administration of the Government was attended by Georgia's Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri.

Press Service of the Government Administration 

Armenian President Armen Sarkissian arrives in Tbilisi

Published in Politics
Thursday, 15 April 2021 14:34

The President of the Republic of Armenia, Armen Sarkissian, arrived today in the Georgian capital Tbilisi with an official visit.

Georgian presidential administration reports that Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani, Head of Presidential Administration Natia Sulava, and Georgian Ambassador to Armenia Giorgi Saganelidze welcomed Armenian President at the Tbilisi International Airport.

The official welcoming ceremony of Armenian President Armen Sarkissian and his spouse Nune Sarkissian will be held at the Orbeliani Palace.

Georgian and Armenian Presidents will have face-to-face and expanded meetings and make a joint statement for the media. Georgian Parliament Speaker Archil Talakvadze will also meet the Armenian President.

Armen Sarkissian plans to tour the Armenian Cathedral within the framework of his official visit.

Armenian President Armen Sarkissian to visit Georgia on April 15

Published in Politics
Wednesday, 14 April 2021 13:59

The President of the Republic of Armenia, Armen Sarkissian, will pay an official visit to Georgia tomorrow, on April 15, Georgian presidential administration reports.

The official welcoming ceremony of Armenian President Armen Sarkissian and his spouse Nune Sarkissian will be held at the Orbeliani Palace.

Georgian president Salome Zurabishvili and Armenian President will have face-to-face and expanded meetings and make a joint statement for the media. Georgian Parliament Speaker Archil Talakvadze will also meet the Armenian President.

Armen Sarkissian plans to tour the Armenian Cathedral within the framework of his official visit.

Georgian and Armenian Foreign Ministers have once again exchanged views on COVID-19 pandemic situation

Published in Politics
Tuesday, 09 June 2020 16:03

Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani spoke over the phone with his Armenian counterpart, Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan. The Armenian Minister expressed his gratitude for the Georgian government’s active communication with Armenia.

The two ministers exchanged information on coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak situation and on actions taken by the Georgian and Armenian governments to prevent its further spread.

On behalf of the Georgian Prime Minister, David Zalkaliani once again offered assistance to the Armenian side in the fight against the pandemic.

Speaking on behalf of the Armenian Prime Minister, Zohrab Mnatsakanyan expressed his appreciation regarding the offer. He said that he highly values the Georgian people’s support in these difficult times. The two ministers agreed to continue active communication, including through the active involvement of sectoral agencies.

Exchanging information on security issues, the parties underlined that regional and global security taken on an increasingly meaningful focus during the pandemic.

Conversations also included issues of cooperation in bilateral and multilateral formats, including within the Eastern Partnership

Special note was taken of the special importance of Eastern Partnership for the countries involved in it. The Ministers said that they look forward to exchanging high-level visits once the pandemic is over. Zohrab Mnatsakanyan invited David Zalkaliani for a visit to Armenia.

REGARDING THE REPORTING IN THE GEORGIAN MEDIA ABOUT THE PROTESTS BY THE ARMENIAN GROUPS AND THE EVENT HELD BY THE TURKISH EMBASSY

Published in Society
Tuesday, 30 April 2019 15:34

On 24 April 2019, a group of Armenians held a protest at the outside of the Embassy as they have done for couple of years on every 24th of April. As every year, in their protests they demanded the Turkish Government to acknowledge the events of 1915 as “genocide”. Further, similar to the Armenian diaspora’s rhetoric in other countries, during their chants, speeches and slogans, they voiced threats against territorial integrity of Turkey and insulted the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

On the same day, Turkish Embassy organized a concert by the Turkish children and a small exhibition of their paintings with the theme of World peace and friendship on the occasion of the 23rd of April which is celebrated as the international day of children in Turkey.

During the Embassy activity, World children’s songs were also broadcasted. Among these songs there were also 2 Armenian songs as well as Turkish, Azeri, Russian, English, German and French children songs.

Before the Embassy event, a reporter of the Georgian-Armenian media requested to have an interview with me. Here is the link of that interview:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=198&v=LdwgXjdVcHE

In that interview, I mentioned a message that I shared in social media and referred to the legacy of late Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink who was assassinated in 2007. As also will be seen from the Aliq media interview, I have stressed that the message of the children’s festivity was peace and a call to give all children of this region a perspective for peace. Interestingly, my words in the Aliq media interview were not reflected in the Georgian media.

Therefore, I present you the link and the aforementioned text of my message on the social media below.

I sincerely hope that Georgian public opinion will have the chance to read this message through your publication.

Message in social media:

“I want to share two speeches by Hrant Dink below the text. They are in Turkish. Here is a summary:

He says Turks and Armenians are each other’s medicine.

He says both sides need to try to understand each other’s pride and pain.

He calls for Armenian diaspora not to get chained by the word of “Genocide”, while he, as an Armenian felt the pain the loss of his people. He tells Turks to try to understand the trauma of Armenians.

He reminds the horrible deaths on both sides caused by imperialism of Great Power politics.
His strong, wise and valuable message and legacy should be respected.

He was assassinated.

As were 32 Turkish diplomats and their family members from 1973- 1984 in Los Angeles, Vienna, Paris, Beirut, Vatican, Madrid, Belgrade, Ottawa, Den Haag, Athens, Sydney, Boston, Lizbon, Brussels, Teheran by ASALA & JCAG for so called revenge of a so called genocide.

I defend the view that it was not a genocide. It was a fratricide, it was a deportation in WW1 that led to deaths of thousands, the memory of victims should be remembered.

M. Philips Price, the author of
“War and revolution in Asiatic Russia”, published in 1918 , concluded in his memoirs of his time in the Caucasus as the correspondent of the Manchester Guardian :

“ I now see clearly that the guilt of the war atrocities upon civilian populations cannot be put down to any one combatant…The more one dispassionately looks at the facts, and collects the stories told by sufferers of all races and creeds on the spot, as I have done in the course of 18 months, the more it becomes clear that it is impossible to charge any one government with the crime.”

I mourn for all the deaths, Armenian, Turkish, Kurdish who found themselves in the midst of a war which was not of their making.

I feel for all those families who had to leave the lands where their forefathers had lived. That includes millions of Muslims- Georgians, Circassian, Turks, Albanians, Crimean Tatars who were deported or driven out from their ancestral lands to Anatolia in 19th-20th century.

I mourn for 32 Turkish diplomats.

But I hope Turkish and Armenian children will one day celebrate peace together and learn to respect and understand each other’s pain and pride, as Hrant Dink had called for. I fully share his view that we must not allow this painful memory to be exploited by others.

We have to teach our children to protect what’s theirs while respecting the others. We have to teach empathy not hate. We have to leave them a vision for future and not an obsession with their past. They must not forget, but first they need to learn the whole story, devoid of propaganda. Perhaps it is also not too late for our generation as well.

That is why I became a diplomat, anyway.

Stay in peace.

https://youtu.be/O7vFJkLrmmw

https://youtu.be/lY3PXk6i2OU”

 

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