Monday, December 26, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Week 12-18 Dec.: Never enough

Apparently, the claim of 200 violations of the ceasefire in the period 4-10 December, according to the Azerbaijan Ministry of Defence, or 11 000 in one year (Nagorno Karabakh MD) are not enough.
Another Ministry of Defence, the Russian one, quotes Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Grigory Karazin, before the 18th Session of the Geneva Discussions: "[...] safety in the Transcaucasia region. There, it's a new situation, and there's no escape, may our partners in Geneva like it or not. The only alternative to the negotiation process that takes into account the new political and legal relations in the region can only be a new war. I hope that is aware everywhere, including in Tbilisi."

What 's the new situation?
The recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia by the Russian Federation or there's something more, that can be traced in the Armenian fears?
The fear to be in the front line in case of an attack against Iran, for example. Perhaps not only, if this is also not enough.
So, the low intensity conflict over Karabakh has now a potential twin, or more, because such an escalation in a volatile region like South Caucasus is totally unpredictable.

First of all there's the issue of the Russian military base in Gyumri, which relies on Iran as a transit area for supplies. What if they may happen to be cut? Georgia would be the only alternative. But how, predictably without an agreement between Tbilisi and Moscow?
The threat of a strike against Iran (or Syria?) has already consequences. Russia is strengthening its military presence in Caucasus, on the Black Sea, on the Caspian Sea. Just in case.

What if the case from in posse becomes in esse?
May be, from the same fear of possible conflicts, stems the police build up on another border, the one between Armenia and Georgia.
So it's claimed by Armenia now which states that "A few days ago four more police stations have been established in Samtskhe-Javakheti (just imagine: in villages, in immediate proximity to the Georgian-Armenian border, police stations have opened with a 9-13-people staff)" (, allegedly a measure against the Armenian minority in Georgia. What if it's true but it's a preemptive measure against a possible war?

The only question is: which war?
Nagorno Karabakh, which now clearly means a potential inter-state war, Armenia/Azerbaijan, and not a secessionist conflict, or something not generated in the region, but swallowing it?
Never enough?!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Week 5-11 Dec.: Ipse dixit

The way out was found in South Ossetia.
On the 10th an agreement was signed between Alla Dzhoeva and Eduard Kokoity.
Quite interesting in the document, Alla Dzhoeva is defined as "the leader of the opposition".If she won the election, she's not the leader of the opposition.

For sure she represent the opposition to Eduard Kokoity. But he's no longer the president. He had to resign, and she had to accept new elections.
According to point 1.1 of the agreement Alla Dzhoeva pledges to "Recognize the decision of the Parliament of ROS on the convening of a new election of the President of the Republic of South Ossetia, March 25, 2012."

He resigned, but he didn't give up... few manoeuvring before leaving, to armour his future.
Some supporters of Alla Dzhoeva will not like it. But so far this exit strategy is working. Tension has been defused and somehow violations had to be faced in their consequences, and no violence spread in the street of Tshkhinvali. Kokoity had pledged in the agreement, point 2.3. to guarantee with regard to their political opinion, the security and immunity to A. Dzhioeva and her supporters who participated in street actions on the Theatre Square. Ipse dixit, or I'd better say, sic subscriptum.

The acting President Vadim Brovtsev will lead the "country" till March.
Let's see how Mr. Kokoity will accept this step back. For sure, he had to sign an agreement Russia guarantees for, but there's no hope to have a reasonable additional gentlemen agreement from his side, to give up all his privileges and to stop pulling strings...

Russia is no longer in trouble with the "Snow revolution" of South Ossetia, now it has to cope with its own so called "white revolution".
Is there a more pleasant thing to Georgian president Saakashvili than to see Putin contested? On Dec. 12 the Georgian presidency issued the following statement:
"We express our sympathy to the Russian people who are today fighting the same injustice the victim of which is not only the Russian society but also the occupied regions of Georgia. XXI century has no room for regimes that try to topple the choice of liberty of its own people and neighboring states."
Ipse dixit.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Week 28th Nov.-4th Dec.: Looking for an exit strategy

The distressing mess of South Ossetian so called "Presidential elections" goes on.
Is it going to be a never ending story till 25 March 2012, when new elections are supposed to be held?
Or a violent twist will eventually kick Eduard Kokoiy out of the presidential chair before then?

Last week, after it was made public by the "Central Election Commission" that Alla Dzhioeva might have won with 58,86% votes, the Supreme Court, chaired by Kokoity's man Atzamaz Bichekov, decleared the vote not valid and fixed new elections for next year. Four more months of Kokoity, something that voters and Bibilov and Dzhioeva and the Kremlin aren't for sure happy about.

Dzhioeva laid her claim to the Supreme Court as well, and today Bichekov declared that her claim will be processed, in due time.
But meanwhile her supporters keep on protesting. And as she seems to have fallen sick, Anatoly Barankevich is playing a more important role in going on with official meetings and negotiations.

Moscow sent Sergey Vinokurov to untie the knot. Before his arrival, Dzioeva held a meeting in the Russian Embassy in Tskhinvali, and it was her first political meeting after she had proclaimed herself the new president.
From the pages of Kommersant' she pledged loyalty to Moscow, and stressed to be Russian, by passport and in her soul.
It all makes more clear that this allegedly "snow revolution" is not against Russia, but against Kokoity. And that the exit strategy passes through his departure and a new resolution of the Supreme Court, may be with a new chairperson.

Dzhoeva and Barankevich have been so far not radical but firm. They are not going to be persuaded to give up that easily, even if Alla would be allowed to run for presidency next March.

An even less easy exit strategy must be found for Karabakh, not to find a political agreement, that seems right now totally out of reach, but to halt the escalation of violence.
Religious leaders from Armenia and Azerbaijan took the field... Inshallah (& for God's sake!)!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Week 21-27 Nov.: A letter of protest. Or more.

A tense week in the region of South Caucasus.

The results of the -so called- Presidential elections in South Ossetia are still under dispute.
One thing is for sure: the great looser is (ex) President Kokoity. "His" candidate failed and his suggestion that a woman cannot be a President in South Caucasus might only have helped Alla Jioyeva to gain more votes.
Not to mention the open support of the partially already de-legitimized Dmitry Medvedev to candidate Anatoly Bibilov.

Waiting for the South Ossetian knot to be untied, let's turn to the other fronts of tension.
Iran-Azerbaijan relations were recently complicated by a crossing accident. Akbar Gasanpur, a 20-year- old soldier, was killed at the border between the two States, presumably after having tried to cross unproperly, last month. An Iranian letter of protest followed.

And again, last week, a plot, allegedly generated in some conservative circles of Iran, brought to death an Azerbaijani journalist, Rafig Tagi. He was stabbed by two assailants and lately died in hospital. Grand Ayatollah Fazel Lankarani last month called for his death for a critical article he had written about Iran Government.
An investigation will follow.
Iran has already officially denied any involvement, but still such rumours won't help mutual relations and perceptions.

And talking about bad mutual relations, Azerbaijani-Armenian ones cannot simply be ignored.
Daily claims of violation of the ceasefire went on for all the week, as in the last three months, almost.
The alarming stage of low intensity conflict is consolidating, and as such it is not sustainable.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

In Venice

University Ca' Foscari, "Caucaso e Asia Centrale vent'anni dopo il crollo dell'URSS"

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday, November 7, 2011

Week 31 Oct.-6 Nov.: The need of enlightenment

There are few words as pleasant as enlightenment.
There are few people pleasant as enlightened ones.
And there are few places where enlightened people are needed as the Caucasus.

It's deep dark between Armenia, Nagorno Karabakh, Azerbaijan.
It's actually worse than darkness, it's, as suggested before, a low intensity conflict.
The last casualty was buried on the 4th, in Ganja. And this is what the Ministry of Defence of Azerbaijan reported for the month of October: 64 violation of the ceasefire, 3 killed, 3 wounded. It's definetely a war bulletin.

The Minsk Group co-chairs Ambassadors Bernard Fassier of France, Robert Bradtke of the United States, and Igor Popov of the Russian Federation and Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk (Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office) presented their annual report, stating that "Co-Chairs also reiterated that there is no military solution and that political will by the sides is essential for them to make the difficult decisions required to move beyond the unacceptable status quo and achieve peace." (
With a bit of enlightenment...

A light is shining, on the other side, at the end of the tunnel of Russian accession to WTO.
Ten days after USA ok, on the 21st October Europe gave its green light.
And the pressing on Georgia grew more and more.
During this week, apparently, and agreement was achieved, with the relief of the parties, and partners.
But before commenting it, let's wait for the last stages of accession.
And let's see how pragmatic and how enlightened it is.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Week 24-30 Oct.: Integration in the "Eurasia Union", a relative concept

The last week of October was marked by an intense activity in the field of EU-South Caucasus relations.
Both the Council and the Commission had their staff in the region, in the persons of the Special Representative and the EC director for Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus, and Central Asia, Gunnar Wiegand.

The last reassured Armenian counterpart that the free-trade deal signed with Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, and Tajikistan in the framework of CIS system will not hinder a possible Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area with EU. This is in line with what Vladimir Putin suggested, in his well know article/manifesto "A new integration project for Eurasia: the future in making".

The point is he meaning of the concept of "integration".
In EU wording, integration means a common environment, or - recalling EU commissioner for Taxation and Custom Union Algiras Shemeta's speach ( convergence of legislation and procedures.
In the expectation of many observers and citizens of South Caucasus, EU integration means membership. Being integrated in EU would mean being a EU State.
In fact, membership implies integration, but not necessary vice versa.

It is a bit puzzling to understand what Putin means for integration. A part of the article published by Izvestija is dedicated to a comparison between the Eurasia project and the EU one. There are of course references to the Soviet legacy. The Soviet Union was, by the way, not an integrated system, but a single system.
So, in a scale from "a single system" to "reinforced agreements between states", where is the Eurasia Union located? And where the South Caucasus in the Eurasia Union?

Describing this Union, Putin defines it as a "supernational association" and an open project with unified standards and regulations for goods and services. It sounds like a pragmatic economic plan to coordinate and integrate different economies on the basis of a topic agenda.

Will this project attract the attention of the Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan?
For Georgia, ça va sans dire, no.
Armenia and Azerbaijan will probably decide step by step.
A lot will depend on how much this "Eurasia Union" is a feasible project.
And on what "integration" means.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Week 17-23 Oct.: Press the refresh button

It's weeks, if not two full months, that on daily basis Azerbaijani authorities blame "Armenians" of violaions of the cease-fire.
This week, in connection with military exercises in Karabakh, it was claimed a massive violation of 260 episodes dated back to the previous days.
Minsk Group mission is keeping the situation under observation, but clearly all these allegations, may they be proved to be baseless or not, are the evidence that something is going on.
If the exchange of fire is indeed daily and to mentioned extent, it means that the cease-fire is no longer working and that the situation is turning from a "frozen" conflict to a low intensity one.

In such a case, it could be the right moment to re-discuss the terms of the cease-fire and include in a new negotiation provisions about separation of forces and de-militarized areas. Due to conflicting regional interests, most probably talking about an international monitoring mission is rather premature. Anyway, the present tools to prevent an escalation of the conflict appear right now not enough, and it's high time to press the refresh button before it's really too late.

On the opposite, the cease-fire keeps working in Georgian disputed territories. Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism is effective. A positive example which shouldn't be ruled out for the Karabakh case, with all the needed variants.
On the 21st the most shaky IPRM - the Ossetian-Georgian one - took place and
"The participants discussed recent incidents and circumstances of detentions that took place at or close to the Administrative Boundary Line. Safety measures of agricultural workers in the adjacent areas were discussed in detail, as well as methods of facilitating freedom of movement. The participants touched upon issues of a humanitarian nature, such as the implementation of water and gas projects in the region." (

Refresh button for the Georgian opposition, as well?
After the failure of Alasania in being a popular alternative to Saakashvili, another name may emerge. And as in the case of Alasania, he's winning the attention of international media probably much more than of national ones. So far Bidzina Ivanishvili is gaining spaces in the domestic media in connection with his negotiations with opposition leaders (and the tense relations with the Labour Party). He is referred to as the billionaire, or the tycoon by Rustavi2. Not a promising start.
If he hopes to win the hearts and minds of Georgians by next year elections, he will need to do much more than just being returned his Georgian citizenship.

Monday, October 17, 2011

In Bishkek

The Central Asian Studies Institute (CASI) of American University of Central Asia, first annual international conference, "Twenty Years of Central Asian Independence: Shared Past, Separate

Monday, October 10, 2011

Week 3-9 Oct.: One step too far

XVII Session of the Geneva International Discussions, diplomatic visits and "presidential" revivals: and a bit above the lines.

As for the first, it was the last session with the participation of who was the engine of the Discussions, from the very beginning, the Special Representative for Crisis in Georgia appointed in 2008, Pierre Morel.
His successor, Philippe Lefort inherits a not easy task. The second working group is practically stuck and not all the parties are actively attending to its work. Moreover, the statement by the Georgian side is very assertive. It gives the impression that Tbilisi is really trying to push Russia in the corner. The references to the "terrorist acts undertaken by the Russian special services on the territory"( is somehow disturbing in the wording. The allegation is so severe that - before a proper investigation - no final assessment should be formulated.

Georgia found some encouragement by the words of French President Sarkozy, who toured the region. Welcome like a national hero, for having brooked the cease-fire, he held a speech in Liberty Square. Not all his statements may have met the expectations of his hosts, but one sentence immediately echoed everywhere: that Georgia "must be free to express its aspiration to move towards the European Union and to one day join it" and “As far as I am concerned, when I am in Tbilisi, I feel like I am in Europe.” Words with a different shade than the once pronounced usually by Brussels officials who usually refer to integration and not to membership. Words who will remain well impressed in the mind of the Georgian public and that are to create a lot of expectations.
In the meanwhile, Ankvab visited for the first time the Kremlin in his official role of new "President" of Abkhazia.

In Armenia, Levon Ter Petrosyan is in the streets again. A city of tents, which recalls the similar - unsuccessful - initiative undertaken more or less with the same modalities and with similar aims by Georgian opposition in 2009. Or by himself in 2008, but when it was to protest again election alleged frauds. And it ended up very badly.
A revival? with the claims of Kocharyan that he may go back to politics and run for presidency, it looks like a revival not of 2008, but of 1998.
I think that the point is not who will manage to get more votes, but how to drag Armenians to the ballot boxes, with the presidential mandate permanently bouncing among the same people...
Kocharyan suggests there' s a strong demand for his commitment. Well, it sound like a bold comment...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

In Moscow


Институт этнологии и антропологии РАН (Москва)
Франко-Российский исследовательский центр (Москва)
Российский государственный гуманитарный университет (Москва)
Ассоциация по изучению национальностей (Нью-Йорк)

Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology RAN (Moscow)
Centre d’études franco-russe (Moscow)
Russian State University for the Humanities (Moscow)
Association for the Study of Nationalities (New-York)

Friday, September 23, 2011

The unspoken words of infrastructures

Much of human communication is nonverbal. People understand each other without talking, just decoding postures, gestures, clothing and more. Much of the communication between countries is silent, as well. It goes through infrastructures.
By their nature, infrastructures require substantial investments and planning in the medium-long term. It means that they are the test of the strategic choices of a country, not just in the energy sector, but in everything concerning the crossing of goods, people and communications, integration: railways, bridges, roads, canals, antennas and telecommunications networks, pipelines, hydroelectric plants.

Moscow-Sukhumi, by train
The railway that runs from Gagra, Sukhumi, Ochamchire and Gali district to Zugdidi, on to Tbilisi, is not working from ages. In 2003, Putin and Shevardnadze discussed the possibility of reactivating the Sochi-Sukhumi- Zugdidi branch, within the framework of the Process of Sochi to solve the Abkhazian-Georgian frozen conflict. The conflict would have started anew right after - in May 2008 - an additional group of Russian peacekeepers had rehabilitated the line Ochamchire-Sukhumi. After the war, the railway line has been the subject of further rehabilitation carried out by employees of the Russian railways, four of whom died in an accident last February. On 30 June the line Moscow-Sochi-Sukhumi started its service, with the train No 75 which runs a previously national route, now "international".
The broken and crumbling bridge of Shamgona, built by German prisoners, which joins Mingrelia and Abkhazia, is nothing but a rusty walkway. When it’s said to "sever ties" with the past ...

Many holes and one tunnel
A useless railway bridge and a bumpy road, the one that starts from the Ruki bridge over the river Enguri, the only officially crossing point the Abkhazian-Georgian "border", and passes through Gali district, inhabited by Mingrelian: Abkhazia seems to have made his choice of economic integration. But not Georgia: during the works of modernization of the East-West Georgian highway in November 2009, President Saakashvili stated that the new motorway would arrive to Sukhumi. From the Gali road, full of holes and cracks on the asphalt that worsen from year to year, are supposed to pass the 250 000 displaced people returning to the legitimate possession? A project that for the moment remains on paper.
On the other side, what is emerging from paper is another very significant project, which is also tied to an infrastructure that played an important role in the 2008 conflict, the Roki Tunnel. The tunnel, approximately 4 km long, passes beneath the Greater Caucasus mountain range and allows the passage from Russia (North Ossetia-Alania) to South Ossetia. The exact time of the crossing of Russian troops (around 23.00, August 7th according to the reconstruction of Georgian authorities, after 14.00, August 08th, according to the Russian ones) was a matter of discussion, whether the Russian intervention in Georgian-Ossetian clashes of 2008 was offensive or defensive in nature. Now the Russian government is pushing for a renewal of the tunnel, with works scheduled for 2012. The issue is delicate because on the Roki tunnel depend the supplies of South Ossetia, and its traffic, levied, is a relevant sources of revenue.

Basic Services
Not everything in South Ossetia, however, depends exclusively on the Roki tunnel. Water and gas system was born as integrated with the Georgian one. After the war especially the Akhalgori district, which until 2008 fell under the sovereignty of Tbilisi, was often deprived of these essential services. OSCE, which until the war had its own mission in the area, tried its best to have the two networks restored to full capacity. In addition to the OSCE, the Red Cross has been active on the issue of access to water. In July it started a program of modernization of the sewer around Tskhinvali. But the main concern is always Akhalgori. In June, the Lithuanian OSCE Chairmanship launched the Nikosi project. The project, agreed in the framework of the Geneva Discussions, aims to ensure access to water on both sides of the ceasefire line (http://www.

While OSCE tries to implement humanitarian projects that bring together, Tskhinvali starts projects with the aim to settle the division, and right there, in Akhalgori. The district, which passed after the war under the de facto sovereignty of Tskhinvali, did not receive until last July Ossetian television channels. On the 14th July a repeater was inaugurated. Located at 2500 meters it provides coverage to the district and make accessible Russian and Ossetian broadcast channels. The signal also reaches Gori, Mskheta and the heights of Tbilisi. Information warfare is one of the most important, and it is worth remembering that Tbilisi launched a satellite television Kavkaz1, in Russian, which reached the North Caucasus. Its broadcast was suspended because of the interruption of satellite service. According to the Georgian side, the French satellite operator was forced to cut the supply contract under Russian pressure. The channel started to broadcast in January with the name of PIK (Perviy Informatsionniy Kavkazsky).


Georgian information points to the North, while its new power station heads to the South. On September 09th, President Saakashvili visited the construction of hydroelectric plant Paravani (Akhalkalaki) that - once in service, in 2013 - should be able to sell electricity to Turkey during summer. The plant is one of three planned by the Georgian-Turkish agreement of last February, which followed a previous contract (November 2010) guaranteeing the Turkish Kolin Construction Company the construction of a network of stations on the river Tekhuri which should produce 105.7 megawatts.
While Georgia pushes its energy potential in the regional context, Azerbaijan tries to optimize its own. And the potential of the latter, as known, are hydrocarbons. At the end of the month the country will receive the visit of British Minister for Energy and Climate Changes, Charles Hendry. The visit could be the seal of the statements on the exploitation of the new field of gas (estimated potential of 500 square meters) of Shafag-Asiman. England has its share in the investment. Parallel to new exploitations, the race for export routes remains open. This is a separate chapter in the complex world of hydrocarbons. The allegedly eternal competition between Nabucco, the European project, and South Stream, the Russian project - one or the other? One and the other? – seems to be lead by the logic of the first passes the post. An assertive Gazprom would like to conclude with a signature in Sochi, September 16th, that would open the way to the birth of southern twin of North Stream which would ensure the transit of Caucasian/Caspian hydrocarbons through Russia.

One is missing
In the regional projects and counter-projects, Armenia is noted for its absence. Dependent on wheel and rail routes through Georgia, tied to energy supplies from Iran, its isolation increases to the extent that others are integrated. This process is so flagrant to cause concern to some analysts as if it was not a consequence of the political process, but a strategy developed by the Turkish and Azerbaijani leadership to reduce the country to be more submissive. Surely hydrocarbon market is a playfield of political games, in the Caucasus as elsewhere. But especially when projects involve third actors, it is difficult to make them bend to the needs of a single party. A reading of this kind by Armenian experts reveals how deep encirclement psychosis went, and thus how threatening may sound the voices of infrastructures to the landlocked Republic of Armenia.

(Article, in Italian,

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Week 5-11 Sept.: The ball rolls...

Some times ago there were much speculations about what was going to happen with the EU Special Representatives.
After the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty, some suggested that as the position of Special Representative was not foreseen, they would all disappear. Others claimed that they would exist, as long as no all countries they were in charge of had an EU delegation. Others mentioned that a regional coordinator for some area was needed. Others quoted the US system, thus recommending to keep their position.

After all these speculations and hesitations, it seems that for now the Special Representatives (SR) have not found yet a proper replacer in the European External Action Service (EEAS). Still, a rotation of some of them is unavoidable. So Peter Semneby and Pierre Morel step back from their positions of Special Representative for the South Caucasus, the former, and Special Representative for the Crisis in Georgia, the latter. The two mandates have been bestowed on one person, Philippe Lefort.

In the notes of the EEAS his career his so summed up "Philippe Lefort is a French diplomat of more than 20 years' experience. He has devoted large parts of his career to the Caucasus and Russia, among other things as French Ambassador in Georgia (2004-2007) and as Deputy Head of Mission at the French Embassy in Russia (2007-2010). Since 2010, he has been the Head of Continental Europe General Directorate at the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs. On 1 September 2011, Ambassador Lefort started his duties as new EUSR for the South Caucasus."

It makes sense, somehow, to have two mandates focused on one region to be covered by one person. Indirectly, hopefully this will help the SR for the Crisis in Georgia to have a full picture of the impact of the protracted cease-fire at regional level and to sense how local actors feel about it.
At the beginning of the week, Philippe Lefort, who will be based in Brussels, made his first mission to the region. He met Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, the Georgian Minister of Foreign Affaires Grigol Vashadze (President Michail Saakashvili was in Poland, attending the World Economic Forum).
He also met EU colleagues deployed in the region, like the new EUMM head of Mission, Andrzej Tyszkiewicz.
No visits to Tskhinvali and Sukhumi, which will probably take place in the framework of the Co-Chairs' pre-Geneva Discussions tour to the region. A cautious step, and politically correct.

Summertime is over, the ball rolls again. And anew.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Week 29h August - 04th September: You’ve made your bed, now you must lie in it!

13 November is going to be elections and referendum day in Tskhinvali.
Presidential elections. After all the manoeuvring, it's clear that Eduard Kokoity is not going to try any trick to be re-elected. It would be his third mandate, and it's against constitutional provisions.
While elections process in Abkhazia went on quite smoothly, it's clear that the situation in South Ossetia is different. It's even clearer that South Ossetia is different.
According to unconfirmed rumours, a group consisting of officials from the Russian President’s administration, Federal Security Service, Foreign Intelligence Service, Ministry of Defense, Foreign Ministry, Ministry of Regional Development and administration of the Russian government shortlisted three names: Dmitry
Medoev, Zurab Kokoev, Anatoly Bibilov. The latter is more likely to be one of the candidates. (, Kommersant)

But it's South Ossetia, and to many the region means first of all the power of the Tadeev clan. And Anatolij Tadeev, wrestler and successful businessman has just come back home. He was welcomed by the explosion of a Neva car. He suffered no injuries. The same cannot be said about Alksander Bel'shakov, ex chief of the South Ossetian presidential administration, found dead. Investigations will follow.

It's a long way to November.
South Ossetia is a self proclaimed Republic. Russia recognized it.
You’ve made your bed, now you must lie in it...

From a wrestler to another. What's in the mind of Gagik Kolyai Tsarukyan?
With Armenia more and more in elections mood, the oligarch may feel confident enough to leave Sargsyan and try another combination, if not to run alone. The party has invested money (as he is not in shortage...) to re-define itself and be more credible. Doubtfully he's the kind to win the hearts and minds of Armenians.
As for the "opposition", apparently the dialogue between the Armenian National Congress (ANC) and the government fell apart. Incompatible positions or the ANC started to sense that the general public may not distinguish one old President from the other if they both sit at the same table?

Now what? What's the next smart step to take not to lose the what has been gained in terms of visibility and credibility during spring?
Another tough confrontation? What if it fails to mobilize people, who may happen to be more concerned about inflation and increasing prices?

You’ve made your bed, now you must lie in it!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Week 22-28 August: Elections in Abkhazia

Election results in Abkhazia:
55% to Ankvab, sharp majority at first round, 21% to Sergey Shamba, 20% to Raul Khajimba. These results include the votes of Abkhazians who voted abroad, that is to say in Moscow and in Karachaevo-Circassia.

While few would have bet on the success of Khajimba, many would have had on Shamba. Khajimba was unsuccessful in Presidential Elections 2004 as well, while Shamba gained consensus as Minister of Foreign affaires. As such, he became known and – within the limits of the illegitimacy of his position – somehow popular among representatives of the international community for his moderation. Electoral outputs seem to reflect a sort of disappointment for his grey performance as Prime Minister, a position he covers from February 2010.

The vote puts an end to an electoral campaign which was assessed as competitive and fair, in line with the commitments the candidate agreed on at the end of July, upon the initiative of Khajimba. Still on the elections day, in Sukhumi a certain number of speznas were deployed, as a preventive measure. A pair of episodes unveiled what lies under the surface of fairness and order, rising up the less reassuring face of the “Republic”. Some supporters of Shamba organized an outdoor screening of a video interview with Tengiz Kitovani, in which Ankvab was accused to be a traitor who spied on behalf of Georgia militias during the war 1992-1994. The episode was followed by a close-door meeting which had the scope to prevent political confrontation from escalating, like it had happened in 2004, when Presidential results were close to cause an inner conflict. During the election campaign, Shamba occurred to have had a car accident, and some cast a shadow on this episode as well.

There's no recognition of the institutional role of Ankvab by the international community and by Tbilisi, where elections in Abkhazia are obviously considered illegitimate. It is interesting, on the other hand, to give the floor to the newly-elected President on his relationship with the State of Georgia, and the negotiations that affect them, as he himself described them in the interview “Abkhazia needs German order and billions of roubles” ( "I will not tie our relations with Georgia to the fact that Mikhail Saakashvili may or may not step down from Presidency. What is important is the policy that the State will express. We are even now ready to sign with Georgia a peace, a non use force agreement. This is our main task, to live in peace, in a good neighborhood. We don’t have aggressive plans and we are committed to somehow ensure a safe and normal life to our citizens, first of all to those who live in the border district of Gali. [...] What contacts do we have with Georgia? Our team had just returned from the Geneva session, and I'm not here to say that we have moved in some direction, but there is a dialogue. Geneva is important for us, because it is the square from which we turn to the outside world. It might be an ineffective way out, but it's a place where we can express our opinions. "

Full Article, "Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso",

Monday, August 22, 2011

Week 15-21 August: A question of time

It's time to celebrate anniversaries... from now on till the end of the year, the 20th birthday of the the Soviet dis-Union will be remembered. August is the month of the so called failed coup in Moscow. Then most post Soviet States will mark their independence day.
With one eye turned to the past, the other one should be turned to the future. Is it possible?

Both eyes are wide open in Sukhumi, where the first post independence+partial recognition President is going to be elected. An episode of defamation (?) has been played against Ankvab which poisoned to a certain extent the pre-election period. Allegedly, a document made public accuses him to have been spying for Tbilisi during the war in the early 90ies. Meanwhile Shamba had a minor car accident.
So far it seems that no one can make at the first round. But it's just a question of time to check if polls really mirror voters' preferences. Elections are scheduled for the 26th.
Apart from pre-election dirty tricks, the transfer of power (or legitimation of the present ruling elite) will most probably be peaceful.

Going back to the memories of the last two decades, no cases of peaceful transfer of power were recorded in Georgia as universally recognized. And the bad trend is not improving. Again now, polarization prevails. Ex parliamentary Speaker, now opposition figure, Nino Burjanadze's husband has been sentenced to five years and six months in jail. The verdict of a Court always deserves respect. Still, whatever, however, whenever, whoever, personal confrontation seems always to be on the A list in Tbilisi.

In Yerevan the 5th round of the (somehow self declared) official opposition and the authorities took place. The opposition is taking distance from the most extremist fringes of its own base, now that it's sitting with the majority, and that it's clear that no spring revolution will take place in Armenia, and not just because it's August. Unless the crisis really strikes badly after the hot summer everybody is experiencing.
Dialogue should always be welcomed, but as the Armenian National Congress has built its present identity as an alternative to Sargsyan's power, will it be able to deliver a message of consistency? Isn't it locked in negotiations, now?

A question of time for Azerbaijan, as well.
During the Global Policy Forum, Yaroslavl 7-8 Sept, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Turkish President Abdullah Gül planned to dedicate some time to the discussion of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. The topic, hot on the agenda of the former, has definitely a regional dimension, but for Baku has a very special domestic one, as well.
No one expects big surprise by any meeting any more. But, who knows, it may be a question of time.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Monday, August 8, 2011

Week 1-7 August: Who's who?

Or who's WTO?
Georgia is, Russia not, Swiss mediates.

Three years passed since war erupted in Tskhinvali district and invasion started in western Georgia.
Then recognition, political stalemate and so far incompatible solutions, proposed by Georgia and Russia:
- Non use of force vs recognition (how to write a non use of force agreement with authorities who are not recognized as legitimate?);
- Returnees vs security (and demography...);
- Political will vs propaganda (and domestic consensus);
- Internationalization vs "spheres of influence";
And so on and on and on.
So may the Geneva Discussions last forever, and so EUMM?

Apparently yes.
What cannot last forever is the process of access to WTO. And Russia is waiting. WTO is waiting. And none of them likes to be kept waiting.
One obstacle was the Russia-Bielorus'-Kazakhstan agreement. But it seems not to be an issue any longer.
The other obstacle is Georgia's possible veto. In view of the international recognition of its border, it's a legitimate claim.
And, unless this will have the counter-effect to push more states towards recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which doesn't happen to be the case, it puts Georgia in the position to be the one who can tip the scale.

Medvedev, interviewed on the 5th talked mildly but firmly about this issue:
"Georgia has a position on Russia’s WTO accession. We respect that position as we respect the stance of any other sovereign state, as long as that position is in line with the goals set out in the WTO’s charter. Trade, trade preferences, customs regimes… we are ready to discuss it all. The imports of wine and mineral water? We will discuss anything. But the problem is something else. In essence, our colleagues in Georgia are trying to force on us a new edition of the political problem under the guise of WTO accession. I am referring to entry points, control over the traffic of goods, then they will want to get the EU involved… Our position on this is clear: if you want information about the traffic of goods, including transit through Abkhazia and South Ossetia, we will provide it via a modern electronic database. I have agreed to the suggestions made by the Swiss president regarding this and I recently discussed it with President Obama. We are ready to implement the model that Switzerland has proposed to us. However, if they try to change current political realities, serving it as a prerequisite for Russia’s WTO accession, we will not fall for it. WTO accession is not too high a price to pay here."
(full interview

Three rounds of negotiation took place in Switzerland.
A conciliatory result there could open the floor to more flexible positions in other fields.
Three years, no humanitarian issues measure agreed.
Whatever may shake this condition, should be welcome.

No shakes are welcome, on the contrary, between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Three violations of ceasefire claimed by Azerbaijan in three days. Disturbing allegations of a toy bomb targeted against children.
So, in the end, who's doing what?
Without a neutral monitor, it's hard to assess.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Week 25-31 July: Do ut des

There's always at least one reason why things are the way they are.
And the reason is quite seldom a matter of principle.

Let's start with the meeting of Ilia II and Kirill. The Moscow Patriarcate is not recognizing the scism of the Sukhumi and Tskhinvali ones. Still, it's not ignoring the issue.
But if Sukhumi and Tskhinvali would ever be recognized as independent State churches, this would trigger Georgian recognition of the Ukrainian church.
So, not recognition in exchange of not recognition. Fair enough, someone would say.

And talking about Sukhumi: it's a hot August, for politics.
Elections are approaching and the three candidates - Sergey Shamba, Raul Khadjimba, Alexander Ankvab - have signed a charter for free and fair elections. The charter was proposed by the Forum for the Popular Union of Abkhazia, whose candidate is Khadjimba, in exchange of? Well, visibility, consensus... usual patterns in electoral campaign.
A gentlemen agreement to refrain from bad propaganda of to be stick to the best possible fair play would have been more elegant, probably... and less ambiguous as an assessment or a hint of the potential quality of elections, by the way.
The three tandems (presidential candidate+his vice president) are: Sergey Shamba+Shamil Adzimba; Alexander Ankvab+Mikhail Logua; Raul Khadjimba+Svetlana Dzhrgenija Ardzimba.
One woman, in exchange of her surname, being the widow of the first de facto President.

In Armenia, as well, rumours about elections are intensifying. And thus, elections or not, preparations are ongoing.
President Sargsyan may concede early parliamentary elections in exchange of what?
A democratic trump card (I called elections when asked, I made them be free and fair) to play during presidential elections campaign?
A shared responsibility- assuming that more opposition members might win parliamentary seats - in case of "phase 2" of Nagorno Karabakh talks?

But is there going to be a "phase 2" in Nagorno Karabakh talks?
Is it a card that Medvedev is considering to play for his presidential campaign? (Look: I am the man who solves decades-protracted conflicts, with force, when needed, with diplomacy, when possible)?

Nothing happens by chance.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Week 18-24 July: The Black Wave

To a different extent, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan feel European.
Being European doesn't just mean to hope in membership in the EU, or in integration in the EU economic and social sphere, but share the processes that run across Europe.
Today painful awareness, time of sorrow, sense of powerlessness are spreading among those shocked Europeans who had been feeling uneasy for ages. All those who were concerned, hearing the propaganda of hate, seeing a model of social and cultural under-development replacing principles of enlightenment, humanity, trust in progress.

After the collapse of the big hopes of the previous century, petty glocalization and fears took the lead in many peoples' identities, turning them back to a mean conservatism whose main aim is to push back societies to what they had been eras ago, if ever.
A black wave floods Europe, bringing back a failed model.
What happened in Norway could have happened in Hungary, in Russia, or wherever the dreadful neo-con/neo-nazi movements are rooting (are rooted, indeed). Actually, what is surprising is that happened in Norway, not that it happened. For ages all the symptoms were ignored if not encouraged for short term political gains, in many countries.
It's high time to take a big breath and step back, for right wing, nationalist movements.

Does all this affect South Caucasus. Is the black wave touching its shores?
Somehow, yes. Independence has so far been coupled by an aggressive nationalism, often labelled by observers as a reaction to the Soviet period.
Well, 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the reaction should be exhausted and a more proactive and pragmatical approach to the re-organization of societies should be in progress. Nationalism so far led to the inability to start up virtuous spirals of state building and resulted in compromised territorial integrity, fragmentation of the corpus of citizens and limits in sovereignty, in regional isolation and poor performances in foreign policy at regional level.

It's the mechanism that antagonizes persons in Europe: rejection of differences, fears, search for an escaping goat.
In 2012 parliamentary elections will be held in Armenia and in Georgia. In 2013 Presidential elections in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia. A couple of years to reverse this self-destructive trend and submit to electors a brave new proposal.
Will anybody be so brave to draw a parallel, to declare the countries sick and in need to be cured of patriotisms that lead to mutual exclusions and to hate, extremism, amnesia of a common past? Will anybody voice their concern about a path that is leading nowhere?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Week 11-17 July: Красота спасет мир. Or may be not.

Summer, sun, holidays.
Everybody wants to enjoy warmth&light, after a long winter, before another long one.
Youngsters pack their backpacks and check on websites or on the Holy Book, the Lonely Planet, wild, enjoyable, affordable places.

Since the Holy Book of backpackers released an edition on Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, the South Caucasus faced an increased number of budget travellers.
Many of them go hiking on the mountains, from Kazbegi to Aragats, spend some days in the characteristics Tbilisi downtown, mix with locals in Yerevan pubs and clubs, visit old Baku.
And then again into the wild, via marshrutka uphill, downhill, to monasteries, ruins, rivers, villages, thermal springs.

Tourists are fascinated by hospitality, variety (three countries, three alphabets, three languages, three religions...), the outstanding nature (and here again variety: from exotic flowers and palms to 5000 metres picks), unrecognized states... some of them, looking for an "adventurous" holiday, do their best to reach Karabakh, Abkhazia, South Ossetia.
You meet them in restaurants, questioning each other if with the Karabakh visa in the passport there will be problems upon entering Azerbaijan, or whether it would be better to pass via Iran to Nakhchivan and then...
There's one of the few places where all these political issues are just intriguing, and where the South Caucasus is nothing but a wonderful, united region, worthy to be travelled all over, up and down: a traveller's mind.

Summer festivals in cities, like the Golden Apricot International Festival in Yerevan, remind of the culture and of the art, both traditional and post-soviet, and of the existence of an intelligentija which doesn't enjoy the visibility it most probably deserves. Opened by a jazz concert in the sqaure in front of Moskva cinema, the Festival ends today, after having guested stars and intellectuals.

In this period of the year, in the bloom of tourist season, a refreshing breath of normality blows through the region.
Not that you need tourists for that, but somehow their presence reduces the perception of isolation. The diasporas come back, depopulated houses have their windows opened again.
It's the nice feeling that indeed, quoting the much inflated Dostojevskij's words, beauty will save the world.
Or may be not.

Monday, July 4, 2011


@ Yerevan
International Conference 15 Years of Achievements:
Celebrating the 15th Anniversary of Iran and the Caucasus,

BRILL Academic Publishers

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Week 20-26 June: "Xождениe в народ"?

A long series of betrayed hopes.
That's the only way to describe the mediation over Karabakh.
And it's sad to say, for the # time, "predictably, no agreement was reached". It's sad, frustrating and false.
Because every single failed meeting doesn't leave the situation the way it was before. No-decisions have as many consequences as decisions, and it's just an illusion to think that the status quo lasts forever unchanged.

At the beginning, 23 YEARS AGO, the path chosen was the military solution. Its consequences were dramatic and unacceptable. Displacement, isolation, nonrecognition, hate and regional instability.
Another military solution would have just the same consequences.

Then, 17 YEARS AGO, a political solution was tried. Just to wrap up all the possible settlements taken into consideration: the Curpus model, the Chechen Variant, the Praga Process, the "Common State", the asymmetric confederation and the Transcaucasian Confederation, the Paris Principles, the Andorra Variant, and more recently the Sochi and Kazan Russian sponsored initiatives, the last of which resulted in a joint statement.
In a nutshell its text says that the parties agreed that they will agree. Better than the opposite. BTW, everybody knows that the opposite means war.
And then all the meticulous work of filing of the Basic Principles would turn in nothing but wasted time.

In the meanwhile war&hate propaganda made the communities affected by the NK issue unable to accept any compromise. Inter-community confidence is extremely low and no serious measure is taken to reverse this condition which, itself, can prove to be an insurmountable hindrance to reach a peace. The consensus to Presidents over concessions is at stake and this most probably impacts their flexibility in negotiations. They are well aware of the radicalism widespread in the public opinion.
On the other end, who else if not the Presidents? any lower level meeting wouldn't be considered effective.

Why not, by the way?
It's clear that this stalemate is doomed to last long and the political solution is still very remote. In the meanwhile it will be helpful to try the Social Solutions.
Wise and smart initiatives were activated and facilitated. It's worthy to invest more on these, because no paper signed (if ever...) will prevent people from hating and potentially attacking each other.
People to people and CBM should become the standard good practice, together with common projects about security and de-escalation of tensions (similar to IPRMs and hotlines, to quote the Georgia sample), technical cross-communities activities and media coverage of successful co-operations.

Peace and compromises should be welcome, not imposed.
This must be felt with urgency.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Week 13-19 June: Spot the differences

In the end, after denials and counter-denials, it seems that, yes, Vanuatu recognizes Abkhazia.
Vanuatu's clumsy, weird, queer recognition has - most surely heedlessly - set a precedent. For the first time the tandem Abkhazia-South Ossetia was set apart. All previous recognitions had affected both simultaneously.
Somehow this episode reflects what's actually going on. The two de factos are different, although the shared path of the last three years caused a mis-perception about their alleged parallelism.

It's a matter of population, resources, and why not? thou in a contest of illegality - for most of the international community - a matter of rule of law and internal sovereignty.
The death of "President" Bagapsh compels Sukhumi to hold early presidential elections. Next week the list of candidates will be drawn, but one assessment can already be made: there are the requisites for genuinely competitive elections, meaning that more than one potential candidate have sound reasons to hope for presidency. Acting president and Prime Minister can both have "Great Expectations".

The scenario is completely different in South Ossetia. Elections are scheduled for November. In the next five months anything can happen, if the last weeks are just a preview. Gasseyev's initiative to collect signatures to support a third term of "President" Kokoity ended into nothing. The "Supreme Court" ruled out its conformity to Constitutional provisions and... the "Parliament" had special, uninvited guests.
There are contradictory reports of an armed group entering the Parliament on the 15th. Rule of law doesn't seem to be on the A list of practices of Tskhinvali, once more.

So close, so far away.
And so close but still so far away are the words of Azerbaijani propaganda about Karabakh. Although an exchange of fire was reported on the 17th, it was not followed by the outcry of outrage, if not a threat of war, as it used to be some time ago. Tension eased a little bit, but everything is still on the plate.
So far, one can spot a difference, but only in words.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Week 6-12 June: Basic Principles

Welcome developments in Armenia. Between the ruling party and "radical" opposition flexibility replaces polarization.
Basic principles of good governance, indeed.
Why now?

Levon Ter Petrosyan might have realized that his consensus and his ability to capitalize discontent are not enough to pursue the goal of removing the current leadership. For both opposition and majority, what happened in Georgia might have been food for thoughts. Embarrassing and de-legitimizing events which won't ever be encouraged, but - quite the opposite - discourage support. A path leading to the opposite direction of integration into EU, NATO, international diplomacy or whatever.
Aware of his weakness, he sought a way to maximize what he had gained so far. Being considered the counterpart of the President could be not that bad, for someone who scored 20% at the Presidential elections in 2008.

Serzh Sargsyan displayed once again his stability. He didn't lose his temper or allowed himself to make stupid mistakes like a violent repression of the opposition but, on the opposite, from the firm standpoint of someone who's ruling and wants to keep ruling for another mandate, tabled some measures which immediately met the international support (a proper place for oppositions' protests, amnesty, inquiry on 03/2008 events) and re-assure many Armenian voters about the moderate politics of the current leadership. Moreover he knows very well that the responsibilities of what happened in March 2008 fall first and foremost on then outgoing President Kocharyan's shoulders, and he may be interested in discrediting him. Already then, back to 2008, he dropped a couple of statements assessing that it was compulsory for him to fully agree with previous President's crisis management.

A good example of rational choices.
Something which was apparently missing in Georgia, with predictable results. Strong antagonizing is not paying back, internationally and domestically.
These basic principles may be needed also in view of other Basic Principles... those that ought to be signed in Kazan 06/25.
If - it would be better to say "IF"- whatever substantial is to be agreed AND signed AND then implemented about Karabakh, there cannot be much room for dissent. Sargsyan and Aliev will need an extremely high rate of consensus to make the civil society accept some sort of compromise. Unless they are ready to face a strong backlash in terms of popularity, if not social unrest.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Week 30 May-5 June: The Ambassadors

Henry James in his novel The Ambassador might not have thought how weird the life of the diplomatic corps can be .
For the Abkhazian diplomats, first of all. Only partially recognized, Sukhumi had a week marked by ups and downs: the recognition by the Republic of Vanuatu, the loss of its President, Sergey Bagapsh.
Sergey Bagapsh was at his second term, he was the de facto President when Abkhazia was recognized as independent by - then - four states. The acting President is the Vice President, ex Prime Minister, Aleksander Ankvab. Sukhumi has now three months to organize and held Presidential elections. Ankvab could be one of the contenders, as well as the present Prime Minister Sergey Shamba. Most probably the Bagapsh circle will start an inner negotiation to present the most hopeful winning tandem, to compete against the two other most influential candidates of 2009, Beslan Butba and Raul Khadzhimba. On the occasion of his visit of condolence, Vladimir Putin was photographed with Ankvab and Shamba, due to their institutional roles.

As for recognition, Vanuatu is as puzzling as Nauru's precedent. What are these partners for? Is that just a display of weakness, to be unable to be recognized by countries that could play a more significant role in Abkhazian international development? Or is it done partially on purpose? A remote partner is a weak partner, a no alternative.
To Sukhumi diplomats to decide if the recognition is enough for itself.

Georgian, Armenian, Azerbaijani ambassadors in Rome were all busy to welcome their Heads of States, invited by the Italian one, Giorgio Napolitano, to celebrate 150 years of Italian unification on the occasion of the Republic day, 2nd of June. Beyond the official celebrations, it was a good chance to practice diplomacy.
Micheil Saakashvili held a meeting with US Vice President Joe Biden, together with a rich diplomatic delegation: the Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Vera Kobalia, the Deputy Foreign Minister Tornike Gorgdadze, the Secretary of National Security Council Giga Bokeria. That is to say: business, foreign policy and...? The future president? For now, let's say security.

Ilham Aliev met other members of the Eastern Partnership, in particular Moldavians.
As for Armenian diplomacy, a presidential decree appointed the new Armenian Ambassador to Canada.
Ambassadors, ambassadors and ambassadors.
Alas to Henri James and his dark comedy. Life can be more than that.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sorry, too busy again

Monday, May 23, 2011

Week 16-22 May: No limits

"The Parliament of Georgia,
taking into consideration the colonial politics of the Russian Empire towards Circassians during the Russian-Caucasian war (1763-1864)...
So starts the draft resolution adopted by the Georgian Parliament in its plenary sitting. So Georgia is going to be the first country in the world to recognize the Circassian genocide. The reason for this recognition, in the words pronounced by the Chairman of the Committee on Diaspora and Caucasus Issues Nugzar Tsiklauri, seems far from being the purest human pity for what happened to Circassians two/one and half century ago: "Georgia and Tbilisi has always been the intellectual as well as political center of the Caucasus region. We would manage to return the leader’s function to Georgia in the region. Now is the moment of great Caucasus solidarity and consensus and solving the above-mentioned issue will contribute to a new political derivation”. (

So, if human rights violations have no time and space limits, so has not Georgian ambition, at least at regional level. Not by chance the text of the draft resolution is available in Russian from the web site of the Parliament. Doubtfully Russian is normally the language used for Georgian parliamentary resolutions.
The plenary session was held during the same week in which the Russian State Duma lower house was working on a special statement on counteracting terrorism and extremism, after a warning by the Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev about the danger of high-profile terrorist attacks in the North Caucasus, theater of more than 150 terrorist attacks from the beginning of the year.
An issue that doesn't need a new alleged hegemonic competition, but - urgently - a limit.

No limits for Armenian-Azeri confrontations. A mass brawl between some members of the two communities, outside Moscow, resulted in one killed, 7 injured (gunshot).
Hate knows no territorial limits.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Week 9-15 May: Winners&Losers

Azerbaijani singers won Eurovision, a highly popular (and highly politicized) competition.
So, next year Eurovision will be held in Baku. Speculations have already started about Armenian participation, for such a case.

In the same week Azerbaijan failed to win EU PA appreciation for its HR protections (EU PA resolution, 12 May).
The Parliamentary Assembly criticized the repression of the opposition. Among others, Eynulla Fatullayev is still in jail although ECHR has already ruled out the legitimacy of his detention.
HR protection/democracy represent the missing ring in the chain of Azerbaijani good relations with OSCE, EU, CoE. Perhaps, not the only ring. YAP party - that is to say the entire ruling elite of the country - complained to OSCE for the allegedly planned settlement of Armenian families in Nagorno-Karabakh. Let's say that HR/democracy are the benchmark for the Government flexibility to meet the international expectation, as much as Nagorno-Karabakh is for Azerbaijan's ones.
Frustrated expectations, so far, in both cases. All losers?

Talking about Parliaments, Armenia, and OSCE, it's worthy to recall the meeting between the Special Representative of the OSCE PA on Migration of the Parliament of the Netherlands Kathleen Ferrier and Hovik Abrahamyan, chairman of Armenian National Assembly. The first has to prepare a report on migration in Armenia, this summer. Waiting for the report to be issued, it cannot be forgotten the tragic situation of the losers among losers: Armenian women victim of human trafficking. Some measures were taken in the past, but there's room for improvement to stop this national shame.

And again talking about OSCE and international commitments in South Caucasus, Georgia and its breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia hosted the co-Chairs of the Geneva Discussions. Next session will be June the 7th and the UN, OSCE, EU chairmanship travelled to the region for negotiations with the parties. UN chairman, Antti Turunen, has won his battle to have his position, and that of his team, armoured. After months of uncertainty and dire tensions among UN member States (a couple in particular...) his mandate has been fully confirmed. This should legitimize and stabilize the chairmanship.
The format of the Geneva Discussions seems itself legitimate and stable, after more than two years of regular sessions. Still, on the 09 May Georgian Prime Minister mentioned a possible "enlargement of the negotiations", during his trip to Istanbul.

Who wants to win what?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Week 2-8 May: The internal enemy

"Azerbaijan continues to escalate the situation with its repetitive statements that are below any standards of civilized dialogue", so Serzh Sargsyan on the 4th of May.
It's not to hard to find a mirror statement addressed against Armenia in the Azerbaijani press.
Allegedly enemies number one are for Armenia Azerbaijan, threatening its peace, for Azerbaijan Armenia, which prevents the first from exercising its sovereignty on Karabakh, for Georgia Russia, which is accused to do the same in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

This is a description of the situations on the ground, undeniably ignoring the role played by Sukhumi, Tskhinvali, Stepanakert.
But are really these pieces of territory the source of shortcomings in the exercise of sovereignty? Don't the three countries have a worst internal enemy, which may erode their economic, institutional, political, social, cultural bases to the point of no return, where they fail as States? This enemy doesn't know occupation, boundary lines. It's pervading, hard to stop, it mines the very roots of a modern State. It's called corruption.

Transparency International, in its just released European Neighbourhood Policy: Monitoring Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia anti-corruption commitments 2010, notes that "corruption is a poison to any reform process and is corrosive to efficiency and equality in public and private life" (, Armenia, p. 7. Following quotations are from the three reports).
The reports -Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan- cover three fields: justice, civil service, GRECO commitments. The overall picture is not encouraging, with Georgia doing generally best.
For all the three sectors it is analysed how things should be according to the legislation and how they are in practice, displaying how corruption affects rule of law, which itself is the backbone of a modern State. Where rule of law is deficient, its foes gain ground, that is to say privileges and abuses.

And that's how some procedures connected to the work of judges are described in the Armenia Report: "despite some progress in establishing a judiciary school, the appointment and promotion of judges continues in many cases to be based on patronage, kinship and personal contacts rather than on merit. (p.11)" with the foreseeable results that some of them won't be too devoted to the cause of justice. This may be one of the reasons why the justice systems has to face situations like the ones so described: "In many of the observed cases, judges manifested a prosecutorial bias. The report says that the perception that judges “walk hand in hand” with prosecutors undermines the impartiality of judges and the judiciary in general (p.16)", or "cases are very often delayed. The main reason is an expected gain, mainly in the form of a bribe to speed up the trial process. (p.20)"

As for Azerbaijan, its performances are improving. There's an ongoing anti-corruption campaign promoted by the President. Actually, a "campaign" is somehow not the right word to describe what's needed against corruption. A campaign is usually a short time special measure to accomplish a task, meet a deadline, prepare an event. Eradication of corruption needs short, middle and long terms measures, a change of cultural paradigm if not a re-frame of some segment of society.

Georgia's corruption, as emerges from the Report, seems more dependant on politics than strictly on money: "Promotion and rewarding/bonuses are thinly regulated and generally politicized. Political influences is evident when filling newly vacant position after reorganizations.(p. 22)". Political loyalty has a price, and it's where power and corruption meet to ensure continuity to the first. It's the well known process of abuse of its position by the ruling elite, and it's described in the report: "Practical enforcement of the regulations on separating the official state and party duties and activities is problematic. Misuse of administrative resources by the ruling party is consistently documented. State funded events are used for political agitation and high state officials routinely accompany candidates/are present at campaign-related events and meetings, while not on leave, and using state vehicles and security for transportation. (p.23)."

Caucasus Analytical Digest dedicated its last issue (n. 26, 26 April, to corruption in Georgia. Underling the relevance of the connection between sovereignty and corruption it is stressed that "[...] Saakashvili’s project of building a strong state would not tolerate the existence of corruption that undermines the legitimacy of the ruling regime and works to distort the political system. The key element of Saakashvili’s state building project was fighting corruption [...]"
(Alexander Kupatadze, Similar Events, Different Outcomes: Accounting for Diverging Corruption Patterns in Post-Revolution Georgia and Ukraine, p. 3).

Good point, if it's both in laws and in practices.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Week 25-30 April: Guests, at home

As last week post was devoted to guests coming from abroad, this week it's worthy to remind that guests sometimes aren't foreigners.

Is Musavat a political party of Azerbaijan or an unwelcome guest in the country?
Its offices were raided and the leader of its youth wing expelled from University, together with another Musavat activist.
Who's afraid of Musavat? It's not a terrorist association, it doesn't pose a threat to the ruling elite, it simply seems to have turned into a guest, after having been a part of Azerbaijani history for more than 100 years.

On the contrary, Poti had a special guest, warmly welcomed.
President Saakashvili visited the small town to celebrate the installation of a new radar. He picked up the chance to convoy his vision of Poti and its area in the future: "Port of Poti would become a main gait from the countries of Northern China and Middle Asian Countries in the direction of Europe. Poti will become a 100 percent employment city and we would even have deficiency in finding cadres [...]. Our aim is to activate Poti International airport by 2012. It will be an airport that would be able to operate in any weather conditions. [...] We are assuming that in 2012 more than two million tourists will visit Batumi and places nearby. Poti will also cover Mestia, which will become the most famous and successful skiing resorts minimum in Eastern Europe. Poti airport will also cover Anaklia that is on 15 km drive from here. A road will be constructed from Poti to Anaklia as well and Anaklia will be the most developed sea resort in Georgia and in 6 countries of black-sea region." (
What seems alien here is Poti itself, the way it is now.

From Georgia to Armenia.
And the trend is exactly this, not only on the route of import, but also on the path of reforms. Armenia sounds very interested in Georgia experience. Its own way, for sure.
"Armenian way" has proved to be a good remedy against bloody confrontation, so far. After the "deadline" posed by Levon Ter-Petrosyan, 2 out of 3 requests were met by President Sargsyan. Who could go so far as to meet also the third one (release of political prisoners of 2008) and keep the door open, to quote Ter-Petrosyan.
What's behind this new phase? Sargsyan in his first mandate proved to be a firm and stable president, his level of alert towards opposition may be low. Ter-Petrosyan tried his best to ride the wave of revolution, which proved to be an hazard/ a miscalculation. Now he's drawing a new strategy, that may put him at odds with the expectations of a part of his potential electorate.
For many, he may turn from a leader to a guest.

There are a lot of speculation about parliamentary elections in 2012, now that Prosperous Armenia made public that it will run alone.
Who knows, Sargsyan in long term may find convenient to meet even a radical request like early elections, under the pretest of a fragmentation of the winning bloc of 2008. Early parliamentary elections AND early presidential election in 2012. After all, he wouldn't be the only president in CIS countries to try and avoid 2013 to have his mandate renewed.
Unlikely, but not impossible.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Week 18-24 April: Guests

In these days Catholics welcome guests for Easter.
South Caucasus welcomes guests for many reasons.

Coucil of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg visited Georgia. In the last two years he played a positive role in sustaining the security sector in the country, being involved in post-conflict episodes of escalation of tension and in reviewing - like on the occasion of the most recent visit - justice reforms.

The security sectors includes both international and national security, that is to say military, police, judicial and penal systems. Georgia scored well known and broadly appreciated successes in police reforms. Still, the security system in the whole suffers.
Internationally, due to the unsolved conflicts with the breakaway regions and because of tensions with Russia.
Domestically, due to the law rate of independence of the judicial power and to the shortcomings in the penitentiary system. In general, human rights violations are a matter of concern.

Hammarberg's four day visit is connected to the planned criminal code reform and the information gathered will flow into a report, to be released this summer.

Sukhumi and Tskhinvali host Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who hasn't paid a visit to them since 2008.

And while Russia sends the echelon of its diplomatic corps to the two Republics it recognized, USA is sending Tina Kaidanow, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs to Baku, where - again - a belligerent rhetoric seems to gain ground.
And - again - there are reports of ceasefire violations. According to the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry there were some exchanges of fire in two different locations, on the 22nd.

During Easter, people wish each other peace. It's not exactly what echoes in Lavrov's words: "We don't rule out military provocations from Georgia, because anything can be expected from the current regime in Tbilisi; so we will spare no efforts to reliably protect the South Ossetian border and to be ready if someone will again wish to commit the crime of August, 2008".

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Too busy this week ;-)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Week 04-10 April: C/O Oppositions

A key concept of democracy is real competition and alternation to power.
The political trend in Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan goes in the opposite direction, with a shift of power within the majority or majority factions… or no shift at all.
Oppositions, especially historical ones, that hardly ever accessed the power in the last 20 (up to 90) years, are marginalized, often either unknown either unpopular.

This is particularly true in Azerbaijan, where continuity of power makes its political system look like a monarchy legitimized by periodical elections.
In March historical oppositions – Musavat and Popular Front – held a common meeting in Nardaran, a place characterized by strong Islamic/patriarchal traditions. At the end of the month in the district of Fountan square protesters confronted police, a scene due to be repeated two days later, on the so called Day of Anger. Results: massive arrests, oppositions’ worsened relations with Ministry of Internal Affairs and with presidential administration.
Baku Mayor didn’t allow a further meeting (Islamic Party) for the 8th, and on the 16th tensions may newly raise on the occasion of another planned action.
According to the Minister of Internal Affairs the majority of the population fully supports the President and his Government. Still, due to the extreme polarizing of positions, worrying episodes are occurring in different layers of the civil society. In Djalilabad a teenager – son of an opposition activist – killed another one, perpetrator of the harassment he had been the victim of.

In Armenia the press suffers from the amendments of the law on “Defamation and Insult”, while political landscape becomes more and more complex. Opposition is fragmented, composed by various parties, including ex majority party Armenian Revolutionary Federation, which had/has/will have strained relations with the Armenian National Congress. The latter twinned its 17 March event with a new demonstration, on Friday, basically a week after Heritage’s leader Raffi Hovanisian ended his hunger strike. Notwithstanding the support Heritage ensured to Levon Ter-Petrosyan before last presidential elections, now the two parties have very different positions.

In Georgia opposition keeps its tradition to have very strict ties with the international community. Sometimes an external observer may sense that Georgian opposition invests more on its popularity abroad than at home.
On the 7th eight “allied” parties met NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia, James Appathurai. While it makes sense, of course, to have their voice heard and their positions legitimized by international interlocutors, it should be kept in mind that the international community is not almighty. And, for sure, none of its members - powerful as it might be - enjoys the right to vote in Georgia.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Week 28th March-03rd April: Sovereignty and Paradoxes

According to the Georgian Law on Occupied Territories, 23 Oct. 2008, article 2, Russia is occupying:
a) Territory of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia;
b) Tskhinvali region (territory of the former Autonomous Republic of South Ossetia);
c) Waters in the Black Sea: territorial inland waters and sea waters of Georgia, their floor and resources, located in the aquatic territory of the Black Sea, along the state border with the Russian Federation, to the South of the Psou river, up to the administrative border at the estuary of the Engury River, to which the sovereign right of Georgia is extended; also the sea zones: the neighboring zone, the special economic zone and the continental trail where, in compliance with the legislation of Georgia and international law, namely the UN Convention on Maritime Law (1982), Georgia has fiscal, sanitary, emigration and customs rights in the neighboring zone and the sovereign right and jurisdiction in the special economic zone and the continental trail;
d) The air space over the territories stipulated in Paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of this Clause.

Now there’s a new statistics about who’s living in point a. Sukhumi released the 2011 preliminary census, assessing a total population of 214 000 inhabitants, 64 478 of whom live in the Capital (plus 12 000 in its rural area), 39 342 in Gagra, 37 143 in Gudauta, 30 437 in Gali, 25 235 in Ochamchire, 18 146 in Gulripshi, 16 000 in Tkvarcheli (= tot. 242 781?).

Who are these 242 781/214 000 citizens? Abkhazians or Georgians under occupation? For the International community, save Russia-Nauru-Venezuela-Nicaragua, they are citizens of Abkhazia, may they be Russian passport holders. With an exception: the village of Aibga. If the Law on Occupation states in clear letters where are the borders between Georgia and the Russian Federation. On the contrary the borders between Abkhazia and Russia are a matter of dispute for the village of Aibga. A mixed commission Sukhumi-Moscow held its second meeting in Moscow to clarify the issue of sovereignty over an area of 169Kmq. A non-State with problems of territorial integrity? It sounds a bit a paradox.

But it’s not a unique case. Nagorno-Karabakh as well – which is universally unrecognized, save by some unrecognized/partially recognized States – has not only territorial claims but also a weird inner gerarchy in what it believes to be its territory. The recent OSCE mission entitled its report “Report of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs' Field Assessment Mission to the Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh” . Fair enough, Zangilan, Gubadii, Lachin, Kelbajar, Agdam, Fizuli, Jabrail were not part of the Autonomous Region of NK.

Now, the point is that the whole territory which now falls under the "sovereignty" of Stepanakert, is going to be connected via direct flight to Yerevan… which officially never recognized its existence. As for Georgia in point d. of the Law on Occupation, Azerbaijan protests the violation of its air space, assumed to cover NK, as long a sit doesn’t recognize it.

The first passenger of the first flight, scheduled for May, should be the Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan who coming from NK, in absence of recognition, may be considered an Azerbaijani born citizen, as his predecessor Robert Kocharyan.

Sovereignty, non recognition and paradoxes!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Week 21-27 March: Wisdom or Mourning

I entered Liberty Square as a proud citizen to fulfill my political, civil, and constitutional rights […]” So Raffi Hovannissian, the charismatic, pragmatic, experienced chairman of Heritage Party (HP) explained why he had started a hunger strike in Liberty Square, in Yerevan.
What happened: on the 13th March, in the midst of the international storm, when already voices were whispering about the “Mubarakization” of Armenia, the HP, parliamentary firm but not radical opposition, convened a plenary session. The resolution adopted enlist an ambitious plan of State building to end oligarcs’ crystallizing power over society that is creeping in both socio-economic and political spheres and that may eventually lead to a point of polarization where only a sharp break is foreseeable. A brave act of wisdom versus tardy crocodile mourning?
(Full text of the HP resolution/13 March,

After the adoption of the resolution, Raffi Hovannisian started his hunger strike. At his tenth day of “civil fasting” or “political fasting” he received the visits of Hovik Abrahamyan, speaker of the National Assembly, the vice speaker Samvel Balasanyan, the head of the Republican faction Galust Sahakyan and others MPs.
Years ago I had a long and in depth exchange with Raffi Hovannisian about democracy and Armenian needs and priorities. I was positively impressed by his intellectual honesty, realism and uncompromising civil firm belief. Plus his political skills which are, by the way, broadly recognized: it should be recalled that recently Grigory Karazin has paid him a visit, and it doesn’t happen so frequently to see the Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs sitting with opposition leaders in a friendly country.
He’s definitely a resource for Armenia, and hopefully a fruitful one.

On the other side of the forever-closed border it’s again time for mourning a soldier. On the 23rd the deputy head of the press service of Azerbaijani Defense Ministry reported about a new cease fire violation which caused the death of Samir Agayev, born 1986, deployed near the village of Ashagi Abdulrahmanli, Fizuli region. There is indeed the need to replace the contact line between the two forces with a no-weapon zone. Otherwise there might be no way to prevent an escalation.

The Co-Chairs of the Minsk group released the “Executive Summary of the "Report of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs' Field Assessment Mission to the Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh", urging a much necessary improvement of the situation on the ground (full text,
Again, wisdom vs mourning?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Week 14-20 March: What’s new?

Once upon the time there were three Empires. One was ruled by the Ottoman Sultan, one by the Russian Czar, one by the Persian Shah. The three Empires had been regional powers for centuries, and they fought each other over the supremacy in the South Caucasus. Parallel powers with parallel problems of poor modernization and socio-political crystallization which eventually turned them from predators into preys.
At the beginning of the XX century they made their last effort of modernization through reforms, becoming constitutional monarchies: the Sultanate in 1908 reintroduce the Constitution, the then Petersburg court in 1905 adopted its first one, while the Peacock’s throne in 1906. In the 20ies and 30ies they carried out harsh processes of modernization, secularization, industrialization to catch up with those external actors that had threatened them seriously – in terms of statehood and sovereignty – during and after the First World War. Thus, again parallel but deeply divided, the backbone of Eurasia searched its new identity and world’s role as Republics.

At the beginning of the XXI century the three States heirs of the Empires found themselves in the backlash of some of the processes they had started during the XX century. Significantly, forced secularization was put at question, with different degrees.

As they still move on, their path may be a bit less parallel than before. Indeed, there seems to be room for cooperation, or tangential routes. Russia and Turkey may have buried the war axe, and –still pragmatically and cautiously – to have assessed each other as possibly reliable partners.

A big Turkish delegation headed by Prime Minister Erdoğan accompanied by seven members of the Government and 200 businessmen visited Moscow last week. Russia will build the first Turkish nuclear power plant, and discussions were held concerning South Stream and Samsun-Ceyan oil pipeline. For Ankara, Eurasia may be le plan B from 2013.

And for the South Caucasus? If the gear moves, the cogs must find a proper place, in order not to crash/not to make the rotating wheels crash.

This concerns Georgia, set between Black Sea Russia and Black Sea Turkey, with two of its Autonomous Republics -Ajara in the South and breakaway Abkhazia in the North- highly economically dependant of Turkey or Russia. Well, Abkhazia much more than just that…
While Baku welcomes the cooperation, Yerevan protested the gift presented during the meeting at the Kremlin: a copy of the Moscow Treaty that definitely harmed Armenian interests.

Armenian interests are a matter of dispute. In the midst of a new wave of political crisis/revolutions, Levon Ter Petrosyan brought again Yerevanits in the streets. Is he still a leader? He had his chance, used it and exhausted it. But he still looks visionary enough to be a leader, probably due to the lack of a new one, as well.
Do Armenians need a new leader? The square appeared ready for something more than Ter Petrosyan can give.

Still, a square never hosts an entire country.
So, no matter how many persons protest, they will never fully represent the whole people’s will and many Armenians may feel much more at ease with continuity than with change.

One wonders if the Government feels at ease, as well.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Week 7-13 March: A question of time

An old dictum suggests that something works when the right person is in the right place at the right time.
It seems to be time again for revolutions (color/flower/colorless/flowerless), the place is the Arab Muslim world, and the persons, peoples. Or some of them. Perhaps, few of them, compared to the total population. But still, this new wave of anti-authoritarianism gave hope to some activists and observers that time has come to change what they feel needs to be changed in Azerbaijan as well.

It sounds very unlikely that a (color) revolution will take place in Azerbaijan. Albeit the Umma vibrates with some of the notes coming from North Africa, none of the Turkish Muslim countries seems deeply affected by what’s going on, apart from human sympathy. Azerbaijan in particular is already where the crowd prevented Egypt from going: in Azerbaijan the Republic has already been transformed into a kind of electoral monarchy. Not the right time, probably, for a rebellious contamination. Had this all happened in 2002, with a sick Heydar Aliev and a not yet popular Ilham waiting for succession, there would have been room for spreading the infection. Time expired for that.

The first victim of revolutions, coups, uprising is always rule of law. This makes all these phenomena, whenever, wherever, whoever, at least the very second best. Not to mention the human dramas they all imply. Every case is specific, and generalizations are really out of place. Still, rule of law is so difficult to be established, so important, that it is definitely one of the main pillar for any society to function properly. Once – or regularly – broken, societies become very unstable. A successful turn down of regime through the square may lead to the mis-perception that the square is indeed a proper place for political confrontation. And used again and again. Kyrgyzstan is trying to avoid this process. In Georgia, on the contrary, radical opposition is claiming revolution to be unavoidable.

Are the Azerbaijan government or the Georgian one really threatened by the young activists of the Great People’s day or by Nino Burjanadze and Levan Gachechiladze?
No. They are not.

Still, there’s something going on. Guys somewhere get shot, arms are spreading.
The international crisis hasn’t eased its grip, economic distribution is not working.
Powers crystallised, the ruling classes are turning into a reservoir, unable to react properly and to perform efficiently their mandates. Internal struggles mine their stability (in the end, where does Nino Burjanadze come from?)

So the light of the full moon that could shine in the darkness of the east (and not just South Caucasus) may not be the smiling faces of pro-democracy supporters holding roses in their hands, but “the third eye of Shiva the destroyer”.

It’ high time to be cautious, and still fast and reasonable.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Week 28 Feb.- 06 Mar.: To each his own

On the 4th the XV Session of the Geneva International Discussions (GD) took place, on the 5th President Medvedev dedicated the whole day to two guests who are not guesting each other… President Sargsyan and President Aliev.

In Geneva, Giedrius Čekuolis is the newly arrived co-Chair, representing OSCE now that Lithuania took over OSCE chairmanship from Kazakhstan. GD location and format are stable from more than two years, which can already be assessed as a success. The date for the next session is June, 7.
While in Geneva conflict solution (working group 1) and humanitarian issues (working group 2) are addressed, the grassroots problems, trans-administrative lines incidents find their proper fora in the IPRMs, the Incidents Prevention ans Response Mechanisms. Now that both IPRMs – in Gali and Ergneti – work, with the Ergneti one having resumed its activities after a long pause of more than one year, the GD can focus fully on the political aspects, just reviewing periodically the situation on the ground.

This division of work between GD and its own creatures, IPRMs, is well mirrored in the lines of the official press communiqué issued last Friday by the GD Co-Chairmanship:
In Working Group I, the participants reviewed the security situation on the ground, which remains relatively calm. They continued their discussions on the key issues of non-use of force and international security arrangements and on best practices and cooperation, in particular in the field of confidence-building.

In Working Group II, participants reviewed the issues related to the humanitarian situation, including the supply of water and gas, the facilitation of returns and other durable solutions, and property-related issues. Participants also took part in an information session dedicated to the “end of displacement”. "

This is exactly what is missing on the NK front line: a properly working IPRM. This is felt, needed, even evoked, somehow, in the joined statement of the three Presidents after their meeting in Sochi:

After the discussions on the practical implementation of the trilateral Declaration adopted on October 27, 2010 in Astrakhan, in addition to the steps specified in the above mentioned Declaration, the Presidents agreed to take the following confidence building measures:
1. To conclude in the shortest possible period of time the exchange of the prisoners of war,
2. To strive to solve all contentious issues through peaceful means and to conduct along the cease-fire line an investigation with the participation of the parties under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs and with the assistance of the Special Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office regarding probable incidents.” (

A hot line plus quick reaction teams with a mixed staff with an investigative/facilitating mandate, able to cross the cease fire line, plus a regular IPRM, would relieve the tripartite meetings (the last was the eighth one) from dealing with day-to-day minor violations and would allow the meeting, held at presidential level, to concentrate on the political settlement of the conflict. It is itself an extremely tough task.

A clear message was delivered by Russia with the choice of the location of the meeting: Sochi. Plus, during the day, the party was involved in skiing, enjoying the Sochi tourist resort. So, it sounds clear and in bold letters that the huge investment over there mustn’t be shadowed by wars around…

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Week 21-27 Feb.: The Trojan horse, déposè

Again about wars and wars’ strategies… Can a prolonged conflict be annoying? And two? And Three?
Wars are tragic, dramatic and – when they are never ending – really too much. Actually they are too much from the very beginning.

So, after having gained all the possible attention on its warmonger approach to the conflict solution of the protracted Nagorno Karabakh conflict, Azerbaijan devoted the 26th Feb. to the commemoration of the Xocalı massacre.
The tragic event left on the memory of the Azerbaijani nation a flood of blood, and an opaque (beyond the official version) reconstruction of what happened. While the Armenian side from the very beginning denied responsibilities (, few voices in Azerbaijan claimed the need for further investigations and disclosed unspeakable hypothesis. One of them, Elmar Hüseynov, was killed in 2005. Another one, Eynulla Fatullayev, is still in prison (

The present is in the midst of history and its narration, and the future in the choices to be made.
So, much ado about nothing or is really Azerbaijan on the warpath? The very last words of the Minister of Foreign Affairs suggest that no, there is still room for negotiation.
Without needing to go back to sophisticated strategies such as the Trojan horse, for sure after so much war propaganda, in case of conflict Azerbaijan would have pulled on itself all the blame. And it is not desirable.
Negotiation should be carried out at presidential level. This sounds very promising, somehow. Still, according to the amendment of article 11 of the Azerbaijani Constitution any alteration of the State borders should be approved via referendum, and not via referendum or presidential decree, as it was stated before 2002. Harder and harder…

What about a Georgian Trojan horse?
The National Security Concept to be approved by Georgian lawmakers specifies that “Georgia realizes necessity of deepening and developing relations with brotherly people living in the North Caucasus,
It is totally reasonable for a country to devote its efforts to have good relations with its immediate neighbours. At the same time a regional approach can be very tricky. Russia is facing tremendous costs in coping with North Caucasus. Just to give the update list of casualties among law enforcement agents and militants: 12. Feb. Ingushetia, 2; 15 Feb. Chechnya, 2; 19 Feb. Kabardino/Balkaria, 4; 22 Feb. Kabardino Balkaria, 3; 26 Feb. Chechnya, 3; 27 Feb. Chechnya, 3.

An overreaction to a Trojan horse, or an even slightly perceived one, is not totally unpredictable.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

“Twenty Years After: 1991 in Retrospect”

Dear readers,

this week and the following one the blog won't be updated as I am in India for the International Seminar on “Twenty Years After: 1991 in Retrospect”, MAKAIAS, Kolkata, February 15- 17, 2011.

(and, of course, on a short holiday...)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Week 31 Jan. – 06 Feb.: Every morning is already the future

On the 2nd of February Elmar Məmmədyarov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, was interviewed by RT. Questioned about the Nagorno Karabakh issue, the Minister expressed the need to increase the region's prevedibility.
Two casualties in three days, in January, on the contact line should remind that the expression “frozen conflict” doesn’t mean that there’s no any process in flux. Nothing can hibernate a human community, that is to say, frozen means – at the very best – a creeping movement.

The Minister mentioned four UN resolutions, EUPA’, PACE’, OSCE’s ones … all international organizations expressed their support for Azerbaijan, because of the principle of territorial integrity. The point is that no one of the three parties involved – Azerbaijan, Armenia, de facto Nagorno-Karabakh – is addressing one of the main issues: how to face the necessary sacrifice to find an exit strategy to the impasse.

Military specialists in Azerbaijan will analyse every now and then the feasibility of military re-conquest, not mentioning the little detail of how to cope with the day after. A military victory wouldn't for sure help to win the hearts of Karabakhis, who from almost twenty years rule the country, having created a separate State and developed their own identity.

The original sin, for all the three ruling classes, was to allow nationalism (or ultra-nationalism) to become one with patriotism. Due to this mystification of what means loving the homeland, the public opinions are now used to the radical positions and whoever might try – as an act of patriotism – to negotiate a reasonable, thou painful, solution, would be taken for a traitor.
If such a condition was critical ten years ago, it’s worse now, when entire new generations are growing up without any memory of peaceful co-habitation. A future of mutual exclusion has already begun.

An unwelcome future has already begun in Georgia as well. At the end of January Georgian authorities lamented and condemned the deployment of short-range ballistic missiles, Tochka-U (SS-21 Scarab B) and other offensive weapons in breakaway South Ossetia, accusing Russia to be preparing an attack. Be as it might be in Russia’s Government’s mind, for sure South Ossetia with a depressed economy, rotten infrastructures, poor resources and a total population comparable to an average small town is most probably on its way to become a little more than a military site, needed to control the situation in South Caucasus but perhaps even more in the North.

The urgency of prevedibility is felt much more in North Caucasus, where the death’s list must be updated almost every day.