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.
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.
June 3 marks the 100th day of Russia's special military operation in Ukraine. The following is a review of key events of the 100-day conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
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On 2 June, the Committee of Permanent Representatives in the European Union (COREPER II) agreed to the sixth package of sanctions, proposed by the Extraordinary European Council on 30 May.
This sanctions package includes:
- Sanctions against members of the security and military apparatus, notably linked to the Bucha massacres, entities in the industrial and technological sector linked to Russian aggression, oligarchs, Russian propaganda actors and their family members.
- The ban on oil imports from Russia by sea. This ban, combined with national decisions by Germany and Poland, will reduce Russian oil imports by 92% by the end of the year.
- It will be complemented as soon as possible by a ban on oil imports from Russia by pipeline.
- The disconnection from the Swift system of three Russian banks, including Sberbank, and one Belarusian bank.
- The extension of export bans to Russia, including on chemicals and high-tech goods.
- A ban on the provision of services to the Russian oil sector.
- A ban on three Russian media outlets involved in the dissemination of propaganda.
- A ban on consultancy services for Russian operators.
This package of sanctions will be adopted by the Council by written procedure with a view to its publication tomorrow in the Official Journal of the EU.
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European Commission proposes rules on freezing and confiscating assets of oligarchs and other criminals violating restrictive measuresThursday, 26 May 2022 12:16
On 25 May, the European Commission proposed the inclusion of violations of EU restrictive measures in the EU’s list of crimes, in light of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. This will allow to set a common basic standard on criminal offences and penalties across the EU.
The Commission has also proposed new strengthened rules on asset recovery and confiscation, which would also facilitate the implementation of EU restrictive measures. The proposal would modernise EU asset recovery rules, in particular by expanding the powers of Asset Recovery Offices to quickly trace and identify the assets of individuals and entities subject to EU restrictive measures. These powers would also apply to criminally derived assets, including through the urgent freezing of assets where there is a risk that assets may disappear.
“EU sanctions must be respected and those trying to go around them punished. The violation of EU sanctions is a serious crime and must come with serious consequences, said Věra Jourová, the European Commission’s Vice-President for Values and Transparency. “As a Union we stand up for our values and we must make those who keep Putin’s war machine running pay the price.”
The proposals have been put forward as part of the ‘Freeze and Seize’ Task Force, set up by the European Commission in March. So far, Member States have reported frozen assets worth €9.89 billion and blocked €196 billion worth of transactions. On 11 April, Europol, jointly with Member States, Eurojust and Frontex, launched Operation Oscar to support financial and criminal investigations targeting criminal assets owned by individuals and legal entities covered by EU sanctions.
Once the EU Member States agree on the Commission’s initiative to extend the list of EU crimes, the Commission will present a legislative proposal based on the accompanying Communication and Annex.
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The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is calling on international donors to help repair the damage to the Chernobyl nuclear plant caused by Russia’s reckless actions.
The bank, which has been at the forefront of efforts to rebuild Chernobyl, says it will need at least €100 million to do so.
“Russia’s military occupation of Chernobyl has thrown into uncertainty decades of international cooperation in helping make safe the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident,” says the EBRD.
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National promotional banks and institutions from EU member states and the European Investment Bank on 6 May launched the €2 billion ‘Quick Response — Care for Ukrainian Refugees in Europe’ initiative. The joint initiative aims to provide immediate relief this year for refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine and to promote the integration of Ukrainian refugees in EU Member States.
The initiative was launched in Paris by five European national promotional banks and institutions, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Association of Long-Term Investors (ELTI). The participants in the initiative will contribute directly or indirectly through their respective general programmes along with regional and local communities to provide housing for refugees and support their integration into local communities. The initiative could also finance education, healthcare and infrastructure needs and has a target of at least €2 billion of financial support this year.
The urgent support initiative in Europe is a first step as the group considers further measures to help Member States deal with the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The five national promotional institutions involved are:
- Bank Gospodarstwa Krajowego (BGK — Poland)
- Groupe Caisse des Dépôts (CDC — France)
- Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP — Italy)
- Instituto de Crédito Oficial (ICO — Spain)
- Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW — Germany)
ELTI is the European association of public national promotional banks and financial institutions gathering 31 members all over Europe.
The European Investment Bank is the long-term lending institution of the European Union owned by its Member States. It makes long-term finance available for sound investment in order to contribute towards EU policy goals.
The pan-European support initiative for Ukraine will provide loans, grants, equity investment and guarantees for eligible projects and develop innovative financing structures for public and private infrastructure, municipalities as well as private enterprises of different sizes.
Source: EU NEIGHBOURS east
International NGOs Urge International community to Enact International Law for Peace to End Wars in UkraineFriday, 06 May 2022 13:21
Organizations from all over the world gathered at the “International Conference on the Restoration of Peace in Ukraine” hosted by international peace NGO, HWPL and Business Woman Magazine
As Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues for more than 50 days, the international community is seeking and proposing ways to end the war from various angles.
At 11am (GMT+0) On April 21, 2022, Ukraine branch of Heavenly Culture World Peace Restoration of Light (HWPL) and Business Woman Magazine co-hosted <International Conference on the Restoration of Peace in Ukraine> online in attendance with around 500 participants in 15 countries. The conference was held to share the results of humanitarian aid and call for collaborative efforts by the international community to restore peace in Ukraine.
HWPL is a Korea-based international peace NGO associated with the UN ECOSOC and the UN DGC. Since 2013, HWPL has carried out various peace activities for global peace and cessation of war. As a representative example, HWPL announced the Declaration of Peace and Cessation of War (DPCW) in 2016 to enact international law for peace and received 'DPCW support signatures' from 176 countries worldwide.
The Business Woman Magazine, the co-host of the event, was founded in 2014 and is headquartered in Ukraine, with 30 overseas branches in 30 countries. The magazine introduces business cases of women entrepreneurs worldwide and is certified as the only Ukrainian international magazine by the European Parliament and the European Commission.
At the conference, leaders from all walks of life in Ukraine in a state of war, professors, and journalists cooperating with HWPL, made presentations accusing the inhumane realities of the current war. It included Maryna Popatenko, Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports of Ukraine who gave a speech on the topic of “The current situation in Ukraine and requests for international community support,” and Hanna Krysiuk, founder of the international magazine "Business Woman", Professor Rommel Santos Diaz, and journalist Igor Shevyrov.
HWPL introduced the ongoing refugee assistance projects of its partner organizations, International assistance headquarters for Ukrainians, NGO “Poruch”, Charitable Foundation “SWAN”, Women's Union of Ukraine, and encouraged attendees to raise funds for humanitarian aid.
Prof. Rommel Santos Diaz, President of the Dominican Federalist Foundation and Professor of international law at the Universidad INCE said, "HWPL has discovered the document that best complements the charter of the United Nations. Also with the charter of the Organization of American States (OAS), and the OAS’s Statute of International Court is the Declaration of Peace and Cessation of War (DPCW)" and he announced the value of DPCW as "A transcendental document that, at this time, would exert a very positive influence as a foundation for the search for solutions in Ukraine."
“I would like to emphasize that there are now about 8 million young people left in Ukraine, of whom 2 million have become internally displaced, many are in hostilities, many have lost their homes, many have lost their jobs, businesses and forced to suspend their studies. They all need special attention and support.,” said Maryna Popatenko who is Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports of Ukraine.
“Right after the outbreak of the war, HWPL condemned Russia’s invasion, which resulted in countless civilian casualties, and urged it to uphold the principles of international law through an official statement,” said Maria Zakharchenko, coordinator of HWPL’s Ukraine branch. She added, “Through this event, HWPL shared humanitarian support and campaign activities to restore peace in Ukraine and will continue to carry out peace activities with the spirit of DPCW. We expect more attention and aid from the international community to support the Ukrainian people.
HWPL emphasized the need for international support for Ukrainian citizens as the war became protracted. HWPL has created an introduction page for fundraising information for partner organizations, which can be found at https://www.facebook.com/ngo.HWPL.cis/.
Meanwhile, HWPL Ukraine branch sent groceries such as macaroni to help the students of HWPL Peace Education suffering from food shortages from April 1st. -The goods were provided by the raising funds from HWPL members in other countries. As a result, about 300 people -including faculty and staff- of the schools located in Kherson and Donetsk Provinces received the relief supplies.
MOSCOW, May 5 (Xinhua) -- The Russian military announced Wednesday that it will open a humanitarian corridor for civilian evacuation from Azovstal plant. The Russian defense minister said any NATO vehicle with weapons is considered "legitimate target for destruction."
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The Council of Europe Committee of Ministers has adopted a decision on the agenda item “Council of Europe and Conflict in Georgia”
The Council of Europe Committee of Ministers adopted its ninth decision on the agenda item “Council of Europe and Conflict in Georgia” on 4 May 2022.
The decision of the Committee of Ministers establishes the responsibility of the Russian Federation for the grave situation in Georgia’s occupied regions as the State exercising effective control over those regions. The document welcomes the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case Georgia v. Russia that established the responsibility of the Russian Federation for grave human rights violations during the period of occupation of the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia following the August 2008 war, as the State exercising effective control over those regions
The Committee of Ministers also welcomes the decision of the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to issue an arrest warrant application for the war crimes committed in the context of the August 2008 armed conflict in Georgia, and calls on the Russian Federation to execute the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case Georgia v. Russia as well as to co-operate with the Office of prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.
The Committee of Ministers expresses deep concern over the death of Genadi Bestaev, calls for removal of any obstacles to ending impunity in cases concerning the murder of ethnic Georgians in the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia and recalls the “Otkhozaria-Tatunashvili List” adopted by the Parliament of Georgia, and the national restrictive measures decided on by the Georgian Government against those responsible for grave human rights abuses in the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia.
The Decision reiterates the call to the Russian Federation as the State exercising effective control: to immediately release Irakli Bebua, Mamuka Chkhikvadze and all other illegal detainees; to create conditions for the voluntary, safe and dignified return of all IDPs and refugees; calls for ensuring that the Council of Europe monitoring bodies are granted access to the Georgian regions concerned.
The document highlights the importance of engagement of the Commissioner for Human Rights and the Secretary General in monitoring the human righst situation in the Russian-occupied regions of Georgia.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia welcomes yet another decision of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers on the conflict in Georgia and thanks the CoE Member States for firm support and cooperation.
MFA of Georgia
As the Russia-Ukraine conflict rages into the third month with no sign of truce any time soon, the entire European continent is bearing the brunt of the crisis. #GLOBALink
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