The main topics of the day: what is happening in Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, 17-21 April, 2023
What is happening in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia – кey headlines from local media 17-21 April, 2023
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Friday, April 21, Georgia. "Out of 12 EU recommendations, only one has been implemented"
● Nine leading Georgian nongovernmental organizations have been highly critical of the authorities’ implementation of the EU recommendations so the country can have candidate status. “Only one of the 12 recommendations has been implemented so far,” their report ‘Candidate Status Meter’ said. The report also stated that the ruling party has further increased its anti-Western rhetoric. Late last year, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili stated that Georgia has fully implemented all 12 EU recommendations and now awaits the EU’s decision.
● The majority from the ruling party has for the third time denied the opposition the opportunity to vote in parliament to establish an investigative commission to investigate corruption in the judiciary. Such a decision requires a quorum. But the ruling party deputies are not registered, canceling the vote.
● U.S. Ambassador Kelly Degnan met with the staff of Georgia’s Constitutional Court and declared its special importance to the country on its path to democratization (pictured). “The U.S. remains committed to working with Georgia,” the U.S. Embassy’s Facebook page reads.
● The Coalition for Independent and Transparent Justice (which unites about 40 NGOs) said the ruling party protects the so-called “judicial clan,” a group of judges who have been accused of systemic corruption for years.
● Major bank TBC warns its clients that it will close their accounts without warning if it finds any transactions that violate international sanctions against Russia.
● Georgia’s foreign trade turnover in the three months of this year was a record $4 billion 784 million. However, imports are much higher than exports. But the main article of both exports and imports are cars. Main trading partners are Turkey, Russia and China. Armenia and Azerbaijan are in the first two places in terms of exports.
● The Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili met with representatives of Muslim community and congratulated them with the holy month of Ramadan. There are about 400,000 Muslims in Georgia, the second largest religious group after Orthodox Christians.
● “38 percent of children in Georgia experience material and social deprivation,” according to a new study conducted by Sakstat with support from the UN Children’s Fund.
● Today will be the second day of protests by parents of children with achondroplasia, who are sleeping outside the government building and demanding funding for Voxzogo, a very expensive and life-saving drug for their children.
● A man who attacked two teenage girls because of the color of their hair and piercings was sentenced to 2.6 years in Batumi, the Batumelebi newspaper reported. This is the first time such a sentence has been handed down in Georgia.
Friday, April 21, Azerbaijan. Lost connection with Azerbaijani near-Earth satellite Azersky
● The Ramadan holiday has begun in Azerbaijan. The holiday will last four days – until April 25.
● The Azerbaijani Embassy in Moscow sent a note of protest to the Russian Foreign Ministry about the “unacceptable statements” of State Duma deputy Oleg Matveichev. The Russian MP said in an interview with an Armenian news agency that “Baku and Ankara are provoking Armenia to continue the conflict”.
● Ilham Aliyev congratulated his Iranian counterpart Ibrahim Raisi on Ramadan, ISNA Iranian news agency reported.
● A suspect in desecration of Christian graves in Baku cemetery has been detained. The 34-year-old cemetery worker Seymur Dakhilov vandalised the cemetery because “he was not paid for the work he had done.” A criminal case has been opened against the man: the maximum penalty under the article is imprisonment for up to 2 years.
● Communication with the Azerbaijani Earth observation satellite Azersky was lost. Azerbaijan’s first Earth observation satellite completed its mission a year ahead of its design life, i.e., in its 9th year of operation. “Azerskosmos and the satellite’s manufacturer tried to restore communication with it, but failed”.
● Ilham Aliyev and Mehriban Aliyeva attended the reopening of the Juma Mosque in Baku.
Friday, April 21, Armenia. Aram Nikolyan, who set fire to the flag of Azerbaijan in Yerevan, was banned from entering state structures
● Aram Nikolyan, who set fire to the Azerbaijani flag in Yerevan, will be banned from entering state institutions.
He cannot even enter the territory of the Public Television of Armenia, where he works.
● The problem area near the Tegh village has shrunk by another 1.4 kilometers. “We hope that the remaining 3.6 km will be clarified and the issue will be closed,” said Nikol Pashinyan.
● The first trilateral political consultations between the foreign ministries of Armenia, Iran and India have been held in Yerevan. They discussed economic issues and regional communications.
● The European Union has proposed Maragos Vasilis as the new ambassador to Armenia. Vassilis is currently head of the Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo section in the EC Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, where he previously headed the Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus and Eastern Partnership section.
● The ruling party in Armenia is starting the process of declaring a vote of no confidence in the head of the Commission for the Protection of Human Rights, Taguhi Tovmasyan, who yesterday held a protest in Parliament and said she would not leave the rostrum. Opposition MPs joined the action. As a result, opposition MPs were violently escorted out of the session hall by security guards.
● The road to Nagorno-Karabakh via Kornidzor and Tegh will be ready by the end of May, according to the Ministry of Territorial Administration
● Catholicos of All Armenians: Cooperation between the Church and the authorities is not at the desired level.
Thursday, April 20, Georgia. “The authorities have the opportunity to investigate allegations of corruption in the judiciary, which have been known for many years”
● Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has met with US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Erica Olson. The sides discussed strategic partnerships and the situation in the region. It was not reported whether there was also any discussion concerning US sanctions against Georgian judges.
● “The authorities have an opportunity to investigate allegations of corruption in the judiciary, which have been known for years,” US Ambassador to Georgia Kelly Degnan said after the ruling party derailed a vote in parliament on establishing an interim commission of inquiry into these sanctions for the second time.
● Ambassador Degnan also commented on Georgian authorities’ claims that someone had misinformed the State Department. “There is no mistake. The US is absolutely convinced that these four judges were involved in corrupt activities,” the Ambassador said.
● Georgian Foreign Minister Ilya Darchiashvili gave European Union Ambassador Pavel Gerchinsky a report on the steps Georgia has taken to get closer to Europe. The document consists of 35 chapters and describes the activities undertaken by Georgia over the last year regarding rapprochement with the European Union and the progress made.
● Georgian writers and illustrators of children’s books have called for the introduction of free meals in schools. “How can we safely continue to write and draw when we know our little readers are hungry?” the statement said.
● A gruesome murder in Terjol district – a young man has hacked his father to death with an axe.
● The EU has announced new visa-free entry rules for citizens of 63 countries, including Georgia from 2024. Prior to travel, online registration with ETIAS will have to be done and it will cost €7.
● The case of child abuse in the Ninotsminda boarding school has been sent to the Strasbourg Court.
● About 30 Georgian citizens are still unable to leave Sudan because of the ongoing fighting there. “From our window, we can see shops being looted,” Georgian pilot Mamuka Markozashvili, one of those forced to stay in Khartoum, told the Georgian edition of Radio Liberty.
Thursday, April 20, Azerbaijan. Vandalism at the Russian cemetery in the Baku settlement of Zabrat
● The protest by Azerbaijani activists on the Lachin road continues for the 130th day. The protesters demand a meeting with the commander of the Russian peacekeeping contingent in Karabakh, as well as the opportunity for Azerbaijani specialists to monitor the local gold and copper deposits. So far none of these demands have been met.
● In Azerbaijan a special quarantine regime has been extended for two more months. The land borders have been closed since March 2020.
● “The Armenian side not only obstructs the negotiation process under various pretexts but also tries to include in the text of the peace treaty issues that directly contradict the principles of international law, thereby delaying the process,” a statement of the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said. “The fact that Armenia has not provided any comments on Azerbaijan’s proposals on the peace treaty for the last 43 days is an example of the country’s disinterest in result-oriented negotiations,” the Ministry said.
● Ilham Aliyev received US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Erica Olson. They exchanged views on normalising relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan and negotiating a peace treaty.
● Ilham Aliyev received Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen for a visit. The two sides discussed the fight against terrorism and the expansion of security and economic cooperation between the two countries.
● The Azerbaijani Ombudsman met with the parents of Azerbaijani servicemen held captive in Armenia. Sabina Aliyeva condemned the arrests and informed the parents that an appeal on the issue has already been submitted to the relevant authorities.
● The Russian embassy in Azerbaijan has condemned the act of vandalism at the Russian cemetery in the Baku settlement of Zabrat, which damaged about a hundred graves. “It’s sad that this happened in Azerbaijan, which pursues a policy of tolerance and multiculturalism. The nature of what was done allows expecting a public official assessment,” the diplomatic mission said. Unknown people destroyed dozens of Christian graves in the cemetery. The Azerbaijani presidential aide went to the scene and an investigation is underway.
Thursday, April 20, Armenia. Until the investigation is over, the return of Azerbaijani soldiers to Baku is ruled out
● The issue of Nagorno-Karabakh is not Azerbaijan’s internal affair. Such an answer was given by the Armenian Ambassador on special instructions to Ilham Aliyev. Edmon Marukyan said that the countries co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group: Russia, USA and France have not been dealing with an internal matter, but have been negotiating on a conflict settlement for decades. President Aliyev’s recent speech on the subject is here
● Until the investigation is over, the return of Azerbaijani soldiers to Baku is ruled out, one of whom is accused of manslaughter. Even when considering the possible exchange of these prisoners for Armenian soldiers, it is necessary to first investigate all the circumstances of the crimes committed by them and only then discuss such agreements, said the deputy of the ruling party Armen Khachatryan. Read more about it here
● Arsen Harutyunyan has won the title of three-time European wrestling champion. In the fight for gold in the finals of the tournament in Zagreb, he proved to be stronger than Albanian Zelimkhan Abakarov, winning with a score of 5:2.
● Next year, Armenia is preparing to implement an electronic system for booking museum tickets.
● Armenia will apply for the inclusion of Vishapakars (“dragon stones”) in the UNESCO World Heritage List. These are huge zoomorphic monuments, between two and five meters high, that date to the Bronze Age, 2 millennia BC. e (pictured ).
Wednesday, April 19, Georgia. “The speed of progress towards the European Union depends on the implementation of key reforms”
● “The speed of progress towards joining the European Union depends on the implementation of key reforms” was the response of the European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, Olivér Várhelyi, to Georgian NGOs who wrote to him asking for an interim assessment of Georgia’s candidacy status.
● Tbilisi City Court fined Zurab Vardiashvili, director and journalist of the independent online publication Publika, 2,200 lari (about $800). He was detained during the March 2 rally in front of the parliament. He was charged with petty hooliganism and disobeying police demands.
● The founders of Formula TV revealed that David Kezerashvili has handed over half of the controlling stake in the channel to the team. Founders of the channel Zuka Gumbaridze, Giorgi Liponava and Misha Msvildadze clarified at a joint briefing that as a result of the consultations a new model will be set up and the process will be as transparent as possible.
● Children who will be 6 years old by November 1, 2023-2024 school year, will now be able to enrol in the first grade, according to new amendments to the Law on General Education.
Wednesday, April 19, Azerbaijan. “Armenians in the Karabakh region must choose whether to accept Azerbaijani citizenship or look for another place to live”
● In an interview with state television Azerbaijani President, Ilham Aliyev, claimed: “Armenians, who are living in the Karabakh region, need to choose: accept Azerbaijani citizenship or search for another place to live.”
● A civilian was injured as a result of a mine explosion in the Terter region. “Mines planted by Armenia continue to kill and maim Azerbaijanis,” the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said. Since the end of the 44-day war, the number of mine victims has reached 291.
● Defense ministers of Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan discuss cooperation in the military sphere.
● A training camp for scripts is held in Azerbaijan. The main objective is improving combat skills, military qualifications and experience, and familiarizing the new soldiers with modern weapons and equipment.
● Azerbaijan won two gold medals at the European wrestling championship in Zagreb. For Aliabbas Rzazadeh this is the first gold medal at the continental championship, and for Haji Aliev it is the fourth.
● Mass poisoning of pupils took place in Baku school No. 149. 15 schoolchildren have been taken to hospital. All children have been discharged after medical examination and procedures. It is yet unknown what exactly the students were poisoned with, an investigation is underway.
● Azerbaijani students studying in Turkey have been allowed to cross the land border of Azerbaijan. Until May 10 they will be able to enter the country with their student ID card.
● Four more Nepalese and Sri Lankan nationals were detained while illegally crossing the Azerbaijani border towards Georgia.
● An international airport is being built very quickly in Lachin (pictured).
Wednesday, April 19, Armenia. Azerbaijani serviceman who ended up on the territory of Armenia charged with murder
● The parents of 15 servicemen officially killed in a fire have blocked the Yerevan-Sevan highway. They do not believe the official version of how their children died. They demand a meeting with Prime Minister Pashinyan and Defence Minister Papikyan and an explanation as to why the crime has still not been solved.
● Anahit Manasyan, the Ombudsman of Armenia, met relatives of the soldiers missing in the 44-day war. A number of questions related to DNA identification, information on the progress of the preliminary investigation, and the recognition of relatives as victims in criminal proceedings were raised.
● Hussein Akhundov, an Azerbaijani serviceman who was found in Armenia, was charged with the murder of a watchman at the Zangezur copper and molybdenum plant.
● In Armenia, 53 people are accused of treason. Nikol Pashinyan told parliament that most were military and high-ranking officers. They passed information about the location of their positions to the enemy for money.
● Former Armenian Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan is accused of money laundering, abuse of power and illegal entrepreneurship. According to investigators, he was involved in the management of a sand mining company, legalizing illegally obtained property through it. The case concerns the legalisation of almost $600,000.
● “The signing of a peace agreement with Azerbaijan will be realistic if the two countries clearly and without ambiguities recognize each other’s territorial integrity and undertake not to present territorial claims to one another neither today nor ever in the future,” said the Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. Read more here:
Tuesday, April 18, Georgia. The authorities are trying to organize the evacuation of about 30 Georgian citizens caught in the epicenter of the fighting in the capital of Sudan
● The Georgian authorities are trying to organize the evacuation of about 30 Georgian citizens caught in the epicenter of fighting in the capital of Sudan, Khartoum, the Foreign Ministry said.
● “If we get permission to fly, we will be able to take out not only all citizens of Georgia, but also others, in general we can take on board about 100 people,” Geo Sky said. Some of the Georgian citizens who are now there are employees of this airline, pilots, crew members and engineers.
● Continued split in the United National Movement, which was considered the leader of the opposition. Its former chairman, Nika Melia, announced the opening of a new office, parallel to the main one, and attributed this to “dishonestly conducted elections in the party, which practically split it.” The current leadership of the party has categorically criticized Melia’s decision and called it “an attempt at separatism.” Read more about the problems in the Georgian political opposition here
● The government has decided to dismantle old non-functioning buildings built during the Soviet era. It is planned to demolish 372 objects, for which 5 million 635 thousand lari (almost $2 million) is allocated from the budget. But the tender for the selection of the contractor will not be held, the Batumelebi newspaper writes. This is due to the need for urgent action, because due to their condition, these objects may collapse in a short time.
In the photo “Batumelebi”: Dilapidated buildings in the village of Supsa in the Adhara region
Tuesday, April 18, Armenia. Armenian and Austrian organizations will engage in joint exploration of Mars
● Gor Sahakyan (67 kg) has become the European weightlifting champion. He was the best in snatch and jerk. “The responsibility was high, but I believed in winning,” said 19-year-old Gor Sahakyan.
● U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Erica Olson asked about the opening of the Armenian-Turkish border. She discussed the normalization of relations between Yerevan and Ankara at a meeting with Ruben Rubinyan, deputy speaker of the parliament and special representative in the dialogue with Turkey.
● The Party of Armenia’s first president have proposed creating a public platform for the resignation of the parliament speaker. They believe that Alain Simonyan’s dismissal after the incident when he spat in a citizen’s face should have been the task not of the public or the media, but of the ruling party, which has remained silent.
● Pashinyan has been shown sketches of the new uniforms for Armenian police officers.
● Former Armenian Prime Minister Vazgen Manukyan will not be arrested. The prosecutor has asked the court to fine him $1,200.
The politician is accused of publicly calling for violence to change the constitutional order at rallies.
● The Armenian Aerospace Agency and the Austrian Space Forum have signed an agreement to conduct research about the exploration of Mars.
The research will take place next year, about 200 scientists from different countries will come to Armenia for this purpose.
Tuesday, April 18, Azerbaijan. "Zangezur corridor can become the safest China-Europe transit route"
● The creation of the Zangezur corridor is not only in the interests of Azerbaijan, said Ramil Usubov, Secretary of the Security Council of Azerbaijan. According to him, the Middle Corridor can become the safest China-Europe transit route. “The profit, which the countries located in this region will receive after the implementation of the project, shows how important the Zangezur corridor is on a global scale,” he noted.
● Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen will visit Baku today. He will take part in a meeting of the Azerbaijan-Israel intergovernmental commission. Israeli media have also reported on President Yitzhak Herzog’s expected visit to Azerbaijan in May.
● Prospects of the negotiation process for a peace agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia were discussed by Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov and US State Department Chief Adviser for Caucasus Negotiations Louis Bono. Bayramov stated that Armenia “does not fulfill its obligations, does not fully withdraw its troops from the territory of Azerbaijan, occupies eight Azerbaijani villages and continues military and political provocations.”
● Azerbaijani servicemen will take part in military exercises in Kars, Turkey. The main purpose of the exercise is to ensure coordination of troops during the battle, improve management, exchange experience and increase professionalism, the Defense Ministry said.
● The Cabinet will soon decide on the fate of the “quarantine” in Azerbaijan. The issue of opening the land borders with Turkey and Georgia is on the agenda. Last time this was discussed the quarantine was extended until 06:00, May 1.
● Azerbaijan has the highest average monthly pension among post-Soviet countries. It is $249. The top 3 countries with the highest pensions also include Kazakhstan ($244) and Russia ($238).
● In Baku the citizens of Pakistan were kidnapped by their own countrymen. Khushnam Ali and Shahzad Ali told the police that upon their arrival in Baku, they were met by three compatriots and taken to an apartment in the Binagadi district. There they were tied up, beaten and robbed of $1500 and €400. In exchange for their release, they demanded another $20,000 from them. A criminal case was opened against them.
Last year Azerbaijan exported cigarettes worth $4,766,000. The main buyers of Azerbaijani tobacco products were Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Oman.
● In Baku real estate continues to rise in price. In March, the demand for both private houses and apartments in buildings increased. Prices for private houses and land plots rose by 6.2%, for apartments in buildings and non-residential premises by 3.5%.
● “The realities of Baku. Persimmon for those keeping the Muslim fast and kulichi for those celebrating Easter,” Toral Agayev, press secretary of the Apostolic Prefecture of the Catholic Church in Azerbaijan, posted on his social networks.
Monday, April 17, Armenia. "Arrested Azerbaijani soldiers do not complain about of any torture or mistreatment"
● An Armenian ombudsman has met with arrested Azerbaijani soldiers. She claims they had not complained of any torture or mistreatment, including psychological pressure.
● The Catholicos of all Armenians, Garegin II, held a memorial service in memory of the Armenian soldier killed near the village of Tegh. A comment from Yerevan on these events is here. Comment from Baku – here
● “Аrmenians should stop perceiving taxes as money going into a stranger’s pocket. It is a mechanism for moving money from the right pocket to the left.”: Nikol Pashinyan
● The Armenian representative, Arthur Davtyan, has won gold in the vault at the European Artistic Gymnastics Championship in Antalya, Turkey.
● The Yerevan mayor has released the details of a new unified ticket system for the city’s transport. There will be 4 methods to pay: QR code, bank card, transport card MIFARE, and also by phone.
● Armenia is ranked 4th in the world in terms of economic growth for 2022, Nikol Pashinyan said at the second meeting of the Economic Policy Council, referring to the rankings of international organisations. The Prime Minister also stressed that the indicator of economic activity in the first three months of this year is over 10%, but Armenia still faces economic challenges.
Monday, April 17, Azerbaijan. The foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Iran have called for the third time in recent days.
● Ilham Aliyev and Mehriban Aliyeva congratulated the Turkish weightlifters who won gold and silver at the European Championships in Yerevan. They also expressed gratitude for the fact that the athletes dedicated their victories to Azerbaijan.
● The foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Iran have called for the third time in recent days. Jeyhun Bayramov and Hussain Amir Abdullahian discussed bilateral relations, and stated the need to continue talks and the possibility of mutual visits if necessary.
● A mine explosion in the Khizi district has killed two people. The explosion occurred when three residents of Sumgayit removed the fuse from a mine they had found. Two of them were killed and another was injured.
● A man who escaped from Azerbaijan was detained in Belarus. Zamik Hashimov was wanted by Interpol. Efforts are underway to extradite him to Azerbaijan. Gashimov is accused of embezzlement.
● A large consignment of drugs was found in Nakhchivan, transported from Iran to Turkey. Customs officers seized almost 72 kg of heroin from a truck driver transiting through Azerbaijan.
● An Azerbaijani citizen tried to bring 17 kg of gold from Istanbul to Baku. The valuable cargo was found in the passenger’s hand luggage during security checks at Baku airport.
The main topics of the day: what is happening in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, 10-14 April, 2023