Top stories in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia from January 29-February 2, 2024
Friday, February 2, Azerbaijan. "De facto peace has already been established between Azerbaijan and Armenia" - Ilham Aliyev
● Azerbaijan celebrates Youth Day today, a tradition observed in the country since 1997.
● “De facto peace has already been established between Azerbaijan and Armenia, with a peaceful situation prevailing on the border of the two countries for several months,” stated Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev during a meeting with Secretary-General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Martin Chungong. Read more here
● There are plans in Azerbaijan to reduce the term of military service, albeit not for free. “Currently, the term of service is 1.5 years or one year for those with higher education. It is possible to reduce this term by paying a certain amount to the budget,” mentioned MP Elnur Allahverdiyev during a parliamentary session.
● Buses are set to commence services from Lachin to the nearby villages of Zabukh, Zerti, and Garykakh, as announced by the Azerbaijani Transport Ministry.
●Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping Company (ASCO) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development have signed a loan agreement. The EBRD approved a $60 million loan to ASCO for the purchase of two dry-cargo carriers as early as last December.
Friday, February 2, Armenia. "If we will based on the idea of reunification of Karabakh with Armenia, we will have war and never peace," Nikol Pashinyan
● “If Armenia’s state policy is based on the Declaration of Independence and reunification of Karabakh with Armenia, we will have war and never peace,” said Nikol Pashinyan.
● Yerevan’s Council of Elders is considering the removal of some opposition members, including former mayor Hayk Marutyan, from their positions. The matter will be discussed at an extraordinary session on February 5.
● Nikol Pashinyan embarked on a working visit to Almaty, where he will chair a meeting of the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council today.
● Ani Gevorgyan, the sister-in-law of the Armenian Parliament Speaker, has been arrested for 2 months, accused of contributing to the abuse of office. A total of seven people have been submitted to the court for arrest in this case.
● In Armenia, drivers will receive a 20% discount when paying fines for traffic violations if the notices are sent to their email addresses. This initiative aims to promote paper-saving practices.
Friday, February 2, Georgia. Nika Gvaramia calls for opposition unity ahead of parliamentary elections
●Chairman of the Georgian Dream parliamentary faction, Mamuka Mdinaradze, once again commended the founder of the ruling party and the country’s informal leader: “History has never witnessed a philanthropy on the scale of [Bidzina] Ivanishvili’s contributions.”
● “The bloc I’m talking about would have a chance to garner more votes than the United National Movement,” said Nika Gvaramia, founder of the opposition TV channel Mtavari Arkhi. He advocates for a united opposition front – “the union of all with all” – in the upcoming parliamentary elections this year.
● The National Film Center delegation representing Georgia at the Berlin Film Festival, already unprecedentedly large, has now expanded to 34 members, as reported by Publica. This contrasts with past events where only 4-6 representatives from Center attended. For comparison, this year’s Berlin Film Fair will have 9 representatives from the Estonian Film Institute, 5 from the Czech Film Fund, and 8 from the National Film Center of France.
● The ruling party neither confirms nor denies the reports about Georgian Dream having terminated cooperation with Israeli political technologist Moshe Klughaft, hired ahead of the 2024 parliamentary elections.
● Two more Georgian fighters, Zura Tsiklauri and Gocha Zhvania, have lost their lives in Ukraine, as announced by the Georgian Legion. They had been part of the Georgian Legion since 2014.
● Georgian footballer Giorgi Chakvetadze has been bought out by the British club Watford. He had been playing for the club on a one-year loan until now.
Thursday, February 1, Armenia. The second meeting between the deputy prime ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan took place
● The second meeting between the deputy prime ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan took place. The Armenian Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigoryan’s office refuted earlier reports in Azerbaijani media that minefield maps had been handed over transferred to Azerbaijan during the meeting.
● Following searches in the Ministry of Economy of Armenia and several residences, 7 individuals, including one official, have been detained on charges of fraud and abuse of power. Former Deputy Minister Ani Ispiryan, who was recently removed from her post, is among those detained.
● “Prague supports Armenia on its path to Europe,” said the Czech parliament speaker.
● In Armenia, 303 people are reported missing after the fighting in 2020-2022, according to the Red Cross delegation.
● The Russian Foreign Ministry commented on Yerevan’s proposed “non-aggression pact” for the first time. Moscow considers the earliest resumption of trilateral agreements as the best guarantee for stability and sustainable peace in the South Caucasus, said spokesperson Maria Zakharova.
● A statue of the goddess Anahit from the British Museum’s collection (pictured) will be exhibited in Yerevan for the first time in September.
Thursday, February 1, Azerbaijan.
●The sixth meeting between the commissions of Azerbaijan and Armenia on the delimitation of the state border and border security issues was held, chaired by Azerbaijani Deputy Prime Minister Shahin Mustafayev and Armenian Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigoryan.
● “Instead of commenting on issues based on Armenian fictions, the head of the Czech legislature should have asked when Armenia will stop territorial claims to its neighbors as stipulated by its constitution and legislation,” was the response of Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman Aykhan Hajizadeh to the Chairperson of the Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Parliament Marketa Pekarova Adamova, who earlier said that “Azerbaijan is avoiding negotiations with Armenia.”
● Azerbaijan is considering withdrawing from the Council of Europe, and high-level discussions have taken place to explore the political and legal aspects of such a withdrawal, news agency TREND reported, citing an informed source. This is “in response to to the biased attitude towards Azerbaijan and unfounded accusations in PACE”.
● Samed Seyidov, Head of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Relations and Interparliamentary Relations, recommended U.S. Senator Ben Cardin focus on “corruption, bribery and other such illegal activities rooted in the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee” instead of commenting on Azerbaijan.
● The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Azerbaijan has launched the “E-Polis” mobile application, allowing citizens to digitally apply for various certificates, including on vehicle damage, compulsory insurance, criminal record, etc.
● Azerbaijan Railways is upgrading platforms for Swiss Stadler FLIRT trains at various stations, adapting them for both double-decker Stadler KISS electric trains and new single-decker FLIRT trains.
● The Baku Zoo celebrated the birthday of bear cubs Danny and Janie.
Thursday, February 1, Georgia. The accounts of the pro-Russian party "Alt-info" may face seizure.
● Opposition Georgian journalist and founder of the popular Mtavari Archi TV channel Nika Gvaramia, who recently announced he was entering politics, commented on the possibility of opposition unification in this year’s upcoming parliamentary election. “My support is for broad alliances on the pro-Western opposition wing. I’ve had many proposals, but I’m not going to join anyone. And I’m certainly not going to say, ‘Here I am, join me.’ I think that’s wrong. The alliance should only be everybody with everybody.”
● 2 facts of baby swapping in a maternity hospital were registered in 2023, the Interior Ministry said. JAMnews wrote about a large-scale scheme of baby swapping and selling in Georgian maternity hospitals here
● The accounts of the pro-Russian “Conservative Movement,” better known as “Alt-info” in Georgia, face potential seizure if a court-imposed fine for concealing donation information is not paid. Party leader Zura Makharadze sees this as an attempt to neutralize the Conservative Movement ahead of the election.
● In further Alt-info news, party-affiliated blogger Beka Vardosanidze has been detained for allegedly sending false messages about planted explosives to law enforcement agencies.
● The Speaker of the Georgian Parliament said that the opposition – namely the Lelo party – suffers from “chihuahua syndrome.”
“You know that a Chihuahua is a small-sized dog, but it has an exaggerated idea of its size and therefore sometimes bullies animals of other sizes,” he said.
● Due to snowstorms and limited visibility, traffic restrictions are imposed today on the Mtskheta-Stepantsminda-Lars section of the international highway, as announced by the Roads Department.
Wednesday, January 31, Azerbaijan. Today, the Armenian-Azerbaijani border delimitation commissions will meet
● The upcoming session of the commissions for delimitation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border is scheduled for today.
● Azerbaijan has delivered another 25 trucks of humanitarian aid to Ukraine, consisting of equipment for the restoration of energy networks. This assistance was confirmed by the Ministry of Energy of Ukraine.
● Switzerland has purchased around 1.1 thousand tons of peeled hazelnuts from Azerbaijan, amounting to 6.2 million euros in 2023. This reflects a 5.2-fold increase compared to 2022, as reported by the Swiss customs office.
● Baku has hosted the presentation of a collection of stories by national writer Maksud Ibrahimbekov, titled “The Last Night of Childhood.” The collection, featuring 12 stories, is available in Russian, Azerbaijani, and English languages.
Wednesday, January 31, Armenia. "Azerbaijan is converting an Armenian church into a mosque," - reported the state council for the protection of the cultural heritage of Karabakh
● The upcoming meeting of the commissions on the delimitation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border is scheduled for January 31, as confirmed by the office of Armenia’s Deputy Prime Minister to Public TV.
● The Armenian Amberd Fortress (pictured) has been included in the European shortlist of 7 monuments at risk of extinction.
● “Azerbaijan is converting the Armenian Church of Holy Resurrection in Berdzor [Lachin] into a mosque,” the State Council for the protection of the cultural heritage of Karabakh, operating in Armenia, reports. According to the agency, the church is currently covered with camouflage nets, and construction activities are in progress at the site.
● Tigran Hakobyan, head of the TV and Radio Commission, informed journalists that Armenia’s ministry of “hitech” has acquired jammers for radio frequencies in foreign languages. The focus is primarily on Turkish frequencies, which often interfere with the broadcasts of radio stations in the country’s regions.
● The Central Bank Governor predicts that inflation in Armenia will stabilize at 4% in the medium term.
● Rex Kalamyan, the coach of the Armenian national basketball team, is set to work in the NBA. He will serve as an assistant to Milwaukee Bucks head coach Doc Rivers, according to the Basketball Federation of Armenia.
Wednesday, January 31, Georgia. Georgia lost three points in the Corruption Perceptions Index but still outperforms six EU members and all candidate countries
● In the Corruption Perceptions Index for 2023, Georgia experienced a three-point decline, earning 53 points and securing the 49th position. Transparency International-Georgia, the publisher of the ranking, notes that while the country remains the leader in the region, it has not received such a low score since 2015.
● “We are doing well” – Georgian Parliament Shalva Papuashvili dismissed Transparency International’s concerns, suggesting to focus on the fact that Georgia surpasses six EU member states nine NATO member states, and all EU candidate countries instead.
● Opposition party “Lelo” presented a “9 Steps Towards Europe” program in Parliament, outlining legislative initiatives and reforms to implement the European Union’s nine recommendations for Georgia integration.
● The revised government lineup is set to be approved next week. This follows the recent exchange of roles between the country’s two prominent leaders on January 29, with Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili assuming the position of the ruling party’s chairman, and the current chairman, Irakli Kobakhidze, likely to become the new prime minister. There is widespread belief in Georgia that Garibashvili’s resignation is a personal decision by oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili.
● At the 74th Berlin International Film Festival, the National Film Center of Georgia will have an unprecedently large delegation of 32 members, including Guri Sultanishvili from the ultra-conservative pro-Russian channel POSTV and journalist Salome Gobronidze. Journalists and a cameraman from the pro-government Imedi TV station are also part of the delegation.
● In 2023, Georgia welcomed 7.1 million foreign visitors, marking a 30.9% increase from the previous year, the Georgian National Statistics Service reports. Russia accounted for the largest number of visitors (1.2 million), followed by Turkey and Armenia.
● Georgia is sending back a shipment of approximately 20 tons of contaminated potatoes to Russia, intercepted at the Verkhny Lars checkpoint, as reported by the Finance Ministry’s revenue service.
Monday, January 29, Armenia. The Armenian and Azerbaijani border commissions will meet before January ends to discuss state border demarcation
● The meeting between the Armenian and Azerbaijani commissions on the demarcation and delineation of the state border is scheduled to take place before the end of January, as reported by the government office’s press service.
● Yerevan has yet to sign the final CSTO documents adopted at last year’s CSTO summit in Minsk. Deputy Foreign Minister Vahan Kostanyan informed reporters that they are currently under discussion.
● The preservation of Armenian cultural heritage in Nagorno-Karabakh remains a pressing issue, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
● Young Armenian athletes secured eight medals in Moldova, winning 4 gold and 2 bronze at an international freestyle wrestling tournament.
● Renowned Russian entrepreneur in the field of artificial intelligence, David Yan, is visiting Yerevan. During his meeting with Nikol Pashinyan, discussions revolved around the implementation of programs in this field, personnel training in Armenia, and global achievements in high technology.
● Pashinyan discussed plans to increase mutual trade turnover with Advisor to the Supreme Leader of Iran, Kamal Kharazi, in Yerevan. The parties also addressed the situation in the South Caucasus, the bilateral agenda, and the Crossroads of the World project.
Tuesday, January 30, Azerbaijan
●Ilham Aliyev received former Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, who is in Baku. They discussed cooperation in military sphere, defense industry, security and other areas.
● Azerbaijan’s CEC has already registered 800 international observers for the presidential election. This list includes representatives of OSCE, CIS and other organizations, Chairman of the Commission Mazahir Panahov specified. In total, about 80,000 observers have been registered and more than 6,300 polling stations have been set up.
● “The Armenian Prime Minister’s recent statement is intended to divert attention from the process on the draft agreement on peace and establishment of interstate relations with Azerbaijan,” the Foreign Ministry said. Earlier, Pashinyan suggested “signing a non-aggression pact if the peace treaty process drags on.”
● The situation with measles and “jaundice” in Azerbaijan is stable. There is no increase in the number of suspected cases of these diseases, the Health Ministry said.
Monday, January 29, Georgia. Government and opposition representatives will discuss implementing nine EU recommendations for Georgia's candidate status
● Today, a working meeting will be held in the parliament building to discuss the prospects of implementing nine recommendations given to Georgia as conditions for being granted candidate status for EU accession. Opposition representatives are expected to participate. Read more about the conditions here
● Abkhazian authorities rejected a visit from Toivo Klaar, the EU’s special representative. Klaar expressed regret over “Abkhazia closing,” emphasizing it should not become a victim of Russia’s war against Ukraine. Read more here
● Protests in Tbilisi demand the release of professor Akaki Chikobava and graduate student Giorgi Khasay, Protests in Tbilisi demand the release of professor Akaki Chikobava and graduate student Giorgi Khasay, both in pre-trial detention, facing charges related to violence and property damage during protests on January 23 against the eviction of a family due to an unpaid bank loan. Read more here
● Georgian Dream Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze urged against criticizing the church, stating “it weakens the country.”
● Republican Hospital employees in Tbilisi continued their protest against the closure and demolition project. Authorities plan to replace it with a new medical center, offering compensation and employment to all staff.
● Azerbaijanis in Georgia rallied at the EU office, urging an end to perceived “Western discrimination and double standards towards Azerbaijan.” The protesters also chanted slogans “against Armenian terrorism.”
● A man, armed with a knife, who attempted to rob the Bank of Georgia building in Senaki on January 26, was charged by the prosecutor’s office.
● In Khashuri, a 51-year-old man was arrested and accused of raping a minor. The suspect denies guilt. His lawyer stated that the only evidence in the case is the testimony of the victim.
● Emergency services rescued about 90 people from the snow over the weekend in the Dusheti region, where cars were stranded on roads blocked by snow.
Monday, January 29, Azerbaijan. "Relations between Baku and Paris are at the lowest level," - Foreign Ministry
● “Relations between Baku and Paris are at the lowest level,” stated Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov. He emphasized France’s role in systematic actions against Azerbaijan and pledged an adequate response, asserting that Azerbaijan will not leave such actions unanswered.
● This morning, another 27 families of internally displaced persons (115 people) relocated to the city of Fizuli for permanent residence. To date, 527 families (1,958 people) have been provided with accommodation in Fizuli.
● After four months in a coma, Azerbaijani soldier Gadzhiali Gasimov, wounded during an anti-terrorist operation in Karabakh in September 2023, passed away.
● Azerbaijanis in Georgia held a rally at the Tbilisi EU office, demanding an end to discrimination and double standards. They also chanted slogans against Armenian terrorism.
● In the Jalilabad district, a 4-month-old boy died from complications of measles, diagnosed with unspecified pneumonia.
● FIDE recognized Azerbaijani specialist Grandmaster Jahangir Agaragimov as the coach of the year in the category “Best Coach of the Year for Teenagers.” Agaragimov’s students achieved success as winners and medalists in various age groups at the European Championship.
Monday, January 29, Armenia. "Yerevan invited Baku to sign a non-aggression pact if the peace treaty signing takes longer than expected," - Nikol Pashinyan
● Armenia celebrated Army Day, with the leadership visiting the Yerablur military pantheon on the 32nd anniversary of the army’s creation, laying flowers at the Karabakh war memorial (pictured).
● “We offered Baku to sign a non-aggression treaty if signing a peace treaty takes longer than expected,” said Nikol Pashinyan.
● Baku confirmed receiving the eighth package of peace treaty proposals from Yerevan.
● Fitch agency projects Armenia’s economic growth at 6% in 2024 and 4.9% in 2025, highlighting geopolitical risks amid contentious issues between Yerevan and Baku.
● The first court hearing challenging the legality of Tigran Avinyan’s assumption of the Yerevan mayor’s office is scheduled for March 5. Avinyan, an ally of the current prime minister, took office in October 2023 as the sole candidate. He is accused of assuming the mayoral position in Yerevan in the absence of a quorum in the Council of Elders that elected him.
Top stories in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia from January 22-26, 2024