Main topics of the day in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, 13-17 February, 2023
Friday 17th February, Georgia
●”The Ivanishvili regime is killing Mikheil Saakashvili so that Europe will forever close the door on Georgia. The authorities will do everything they can to achieve this goal,” said the imprisoned director of the opposition TV channel Mtavari Arkhi, Nika Gvaramia (pictured).
●“It doesn’t matter how many MPs pressed the button [during the vote in the European Parliament]. It’s about truth and lies,” Speaker of the Parliament Shalva Papuashvili commented on the resolution of the European Parliament, which recommended pardoning Saakashvili and imposing sanctions against Ivanishvili.
Friday 17th February,Azerbaijan
●On the 39th day of his hunger strike, arrested activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev has refused water. He was forbidden from meeting with his mother, and was also refused the right to send letters to government agencies. This was announced by his lawyer Agil Laij.
●Qarabag football club beat Belgian Gent in the first playoff match of the UEFA Conference League in Baku 1-nil. The second leg will take place on February 23 in Ghent.
● The Ministry of Emergency Situations set up a camp of 300 tents in Turkey’s Kahramanmaras, which suffered from devastating earthquakes on February 6 (pictured).
● 50,000 mines remain uncleared in the villages of the Aghdam region. The Azerbaijan Mine Clearing Agency says the area must be completely cleared to ensure that life can be lived safely. According to him, in Aghdam alone in the past two years there were 64 cases of mine explosions.
● In Azerbaijan, under the guise of “seismic resistance”, prices have been artificially inflated in the housing market. In recent days, special tags about the seismic resistance of private houses put up for sale have been appearing on classifieds websites. Sellers cannot explain how the “seismic resistance” of a house is determined, Xəzər TV reports.
Friday 17th February, Armenia
● Nikol Pashinyan held an informal meeting with Charles Michel around the Munich Security Conference.
● Armenia’s Foreign Minister alleged that the risk of inciting a new escalation from Azerbaijan remains high.
● The US State Department urged Armenia and Azerbaijan to ease tensions. Efforts must be made “to put this back on a path towards a comprehensive and lasting peace,” said Ned Price.
● Former Minister of Defence Vigen Sargsyan (2016-2018) has been put on the wanted list. He stands accused of allocating apartments to people who were neither military personnel nor even registered with the military.
He says that what is happening to him is a “a manifestation of political persecution.” His location is unknown, but some journalists suggest that he is in Russia. His predecessor, Seyran Ohanyan, who was the Minister of Defence of Armenia from 2008 to 2016, is also on trial for corruption.
● PACE co-rapporteurs will visit Armenia on a fact-finding mission from 17 to 20 February.
● The Armenian government has allocated almost $400,000 in aid to the victims of the earthquake in Syria and Turkey. Previously, Armenia sent almost 200 tons of humanitarian aid to the victims.
● The police will introduce a new certification system, according to the results of which employees will be entitled to a bonus.
● The Road Department of Armenia has called for more caution on the roads of Tavush in connection with the “roaming” deer from the Dilijan National Park.
Animals have gone astray and may end up on the most dangerous sections of the road (pictured).
● The police evicted residents from the former building of the Ministry of Defence. Law enforcement officers state that it is dangerous to live there. About 20 people were detained during the eviction.
Thursday, 16th February, Armenia
● International politicians are calling the visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia to Turkey “historic.” Ararat Mirzoyan is visiting Ankara for the second time, this time to express support for Turkey after the earthquake. After a meeting with Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, the parties announced that they agreed to jointly restore the border bridge in Ani and speed up the resolution of issues regarding roads leading to the border.
● 15 police officers from Germany will take part in an international mission to maintain the ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Unarmed law enforcement officers will patrol the border from the Armenian side, according to German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit.
● Representatives of the Kurdish community of Armenia protested in front of the UN office in Armenia. They demanded that the international community put pressure on Turkey so that the Turkish authorities release political prisoner Abdullah Ocalan, co-founder of the PKK. They also requested assistance to the Kurds affected by the devastating earthquake.
● The LastQuake earthquake alert app is already available in Armenian, stated the Ministry of Emergency Situations.
● The import of Georgian poultry is creating unequal competitive conditions in the Armenian market. The Union of Poultry Farmers has put a rule in place that the quotas that are given to importers for duty-free imports of chicken are clearly identified.
Thursday, 16th February, Georgia
● Keta Gabiani, a Tbilisi resident, has been fined $700 (equivalent in lari) for publishing a critical post about Culture Minister Tea Tsulukiani on Facebook. The court found Gabiani guilty under article 151 of the criminal code, which means a threat to kill. The minister herself (pictured) announced this on her social media.
● Chairman of Georgian Dream Irakli Kobakhidze compared the resolution of the European Parliament demanding the release of Saakashvili from prison for medical treatment with the decisions of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR.
“They would also envy [the wording of the EU],” Kobakhidze said.
● “These resolutions have a straw price,” said Kakha Kaladze, reacting to the same resolution.
● The Personal Data Protection Service has begun checking the disclosure of information about Saakashvili’s personnel.
Thursday, 16th February,Azerbaijan
● The President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy had a phone call with Ilham Aliyev and expressed gratitude for Azerbaijan’s support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of his country, and for its humanitarian assistance. Prospective cooperation on international platforms was also discussed, the press service of the President of Azerbaijan reports.
● An Azerbaijan Coordination Centre has been established in the Turkish province of Adiyaman to distribute humanitarian aid sent to Turkey with the support of businessmen, NGOs and under the control of the Turkish Ambassador to Azerbaijan Cahit Bağcı.
● Ilham Aliyev has been announced as a participant in the Munich Security Conference, which is scheduled for February 17-19. Yerevan put forward that Prime Minister Pashinyan would also participate in the conference. Some in the media propose that an informal or formal meeting of the two leaders in Munich is possible.
● The Foreign Ministry called Armenia’s “interference” in the process of reintegrating Armenians living in Azerbaijan “unacceptable.”
This comes in response to the Secretary of the Security Council of Armenia, which stated that the draft peace agreement with Azerbaijan should include a provision “on the establishment of an international mechanism to discuss the rights and security of Armenians living in Karabakh.”
● “There are no grounds for allegations of a tense humanitarian situation in the region,” Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister said in a telephone conversation with US Assistant Secretary of State Karen Donfried.
“In accordance with the tripartite statement, Azerbaijan has guaranteed the safety of citizens, vehicles and cargo on the Lachin road. However, Armenia is abusing the road for illegal economic activities, rotation of the Armenian military, and transportation of mines,” Jeyhun Bayramov alleged.
● Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will arrive in Azerbaijan at the end of February.
●Azerbaijan and Russia increased trade turnover in January 2023 by 62.4% – up to $336 million and 282 thousand. The export of Azerbaijani products is significantly less substantial than the import of Russian products – $68 million 488 thousand against $267 million 794 thousand. In January, Russia ranked third among Azerbaijan’s trade partners, following only Italy and Turkey.
● Last year, 35,97 drug addicts were registered in Azerbaijan. Of these, 572 were women, said the Director General of the Republican Narcological Centre Orkhan Jafarov.
● The Azerbaijan Demining Agency (ANAMA) has purchased 24 ambulances to provide first aid and evacuate injured sappers. Medical transport will be used during demining in the field.
Pictured: the presidents of Ukraine and Azerbaijan. This photo was taken in Kyiv in January 2022
Wednesday,15th February, Georgia
● The Patriarchy of Georgia is demanding an immediate replacement of a set of restorers of the Gelati temple with another, “more qualified” foreign group due to the deterioration of the temple.
“Due to incorrect restoration work, unique frescoes are dying. The situation in the monastery complex is not only serious, but critical,” the Patriarchate’s public relations service commented.
●“Most likely a similar bill should be created for the oligarch [Bidzina Ivanishvili] himself,” said MEP Miriam Lexmann, reacting to the new initiative of a group of deputies who formally left the ruling Georgian Dream.
Prior to this, they announced that they are submitting a draft law on foreign agents to the Georgian parliament, with which they propose to consider all media and non-governmental organizations with foreign funding of more than 20% of the budget as foreign agents. Read more about the scandalous bill here: https://cutt.ly/13OClM6
● Kutaisi city court sentenced a citizen of Georgia to 20 years in prison for the premeditated murder of his ex-wife under aggravating circumstances. In July last year, he killed her on the street in the centre of Kutaisi.
●MEP Andrius Kubilius: “We are observing how the Georgian Dream treats Saakashvili, and this will affect the country’s outlook.”
Pictured: Gelati monastery complex
Wednesday, 15th February,Azerbaijan
● We have reached the 38th day of the hunger strike of arrestedactivist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev. The court once again elected not to change the measure of restraint against him. Journalists managed to photograph Hajiyev, who has visibly lost a lot of weight, in handcuffs (pictured).
● The bodies of four Azerbaijani students have been found under the rubble in Malatya, the search for which had been ongoing since the tragic earthquake in Turkey.
●Today Azerbaijani and Turkish TV channels will produce a joint telethon. The televised campaign aims to help victims of the earthquake in Turkey under the motto “One Heart”, and starts at 21:00 Baku time.
● Azerbaijan will build a town for 1000 containers in Adiyaman, Turkey, which was badly damaged by the earthquake. All necessary social facilities will be located on its territory. Azerbaijan also plans to build similar towns in Khatai and Kahramanmarash.
●Putin and Aliyev had a phone conversation to discuss projects in energy and transport. It is reported that they also discussed the importance of stabilization on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and agreed to continue contact on this matter and more.
●Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov met with Special Representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry Igor Khovaev. They discussed the normalization of Azerbaijani-Armenian relations, as well as the situation on the Lachin road.
●The Prosecutor General of Iran informed his Azerbaijani counterpart about the progress of the investigation into the terrorist attack at the Azerbaijani Embassy. Details have not yet been released. Azerbaijan demands a full and comprehensive investigation into the causes and circumstances of the terrorist attack.
●From today, citizens will have to pay for plastic bags in stores: for small ones just 3 qepiks, and for large ones 5 qepiks (about 2 and 3 cents).
● Eight taxi drivers were detained in Baku for harassing their passengers. They were brought to administrative responsibility.
Wednesday, 15th February, Armenia
● Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan departs for Turkey today. He is scheduled to meet with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu in Ankara. This is Mirzoyan’s second visit to Turkey: in March last year, he participated in a diplomatic forum in Antalya, where he also met with Cavusoglu.
●Armenia is ready to open the border and regulate relations with Turkey at any time, said Secretary of the Security Council Armen Grigoryan.
●Grigoryan also revealed that Armenia is working on the text of a peace treaty and will soon hand it over to Azerbaijan.
● “Sometimes the principle of “do no harm” has to work”, commented the head of the CSTO Joint Staff, responding to the outraged claims in Armenia that the Russian-led military alliance offers no help.
● Armenian volunteers held a rally near the government building. They are outraged that the authorities are reducing their allowances and intend to carry out certification. Many of them are already elderly and in poor health, but say that they want to serve their Motherland.
●A number of Armenian rescuers, having completed their work in Syria, returned to Yerevan.
●There are about 27,000 illegal buildings in Armenia, of which more than 16,000 are in Yerevan.
Tuesday, 14th February, Georgia
● French President Emmanuel Macron awarded former Georgian Ombudsman Nino Lomjaria with the National Order of Merit “for the important role she played as the head of an institution that is one of the pillars of Georgian democracy.” The French Embassy in Tbilisi shared this news in a statement.
● A rally in support of Saakashvili took place in New York.
● The actions of artist Sandro Sulaberidze were not a criminal offence, the Association of Young Lawyers says.
A week ago, during an exhibition at the National Gallery, Sulaberidze removed his painting from the wall and in its place painted with spray paint “Art is alive and independent!”.
A criminal case was brought against him under the article of”theft”, and he faces a possible prison sentence. Many have speculated that his performance was directed against the Minister of Culture Tea Tsulukiani, who has repeatedly been accused of repression and persecution of critical opinion.
● In protest against the criminal prosecution of Sulaberidze, several artists – Saba Gorgodze, Shota Aptsiauri and Andro Dadiani – have appealed to the Gallery demanding that their works are also removed from the exhibition.
● A worker fell from a construction site in Gori and died.
● The European Parliament is preparing to adopt a resolution demanding the transfer of ex-president Saakashvili for treatment abroad.
●A delegation of the Georgian Embassy in Turkey visited the disaster zone in Turkey.
● A potential strengthening of support for Georgia and Moldova, Bosnia and Herzegovina will be discussed at today’s meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels, according to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
● Pope Francis on Georgia: “A country with an ancient history, a land blessed by heaven.”
Pictured: ex-Ombudsman Nino Lomjaria and French Ambassador to Georgia Sheraz Gasri
Tuesday, 14th February, Azerbaijan
● The children who arrived in Baku from Turkey are in satisfactory condition. Following examination they will be sent to an orphanage together with their parents, the Ministry of Health of Azerbaijan reported. Overall 6 families, consisting of 10 children and 12 adults, have been delivered to Azerbaijan.
● “An earthquake in Turkey will not lead to lower prices for high-rise buildings in Azerbaijan. Traditionally, only a small number of people want to buy private houses,” said real estate expert Elnur Azadov.
● Chairman of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation Valentina Matviyenko suggested opening a Russian consulate general in Azerbaijan to deal with issues such as issuing a passport, marriage, birth registration and issuing visas to foreign citizens.
● Speaker of the State Duma of the Russian Federation Vyacheslav Volodin spoke out against the involvement of the European Parliament and PACE “in the resolution of the Karabakh problem.”
At a meeting with the speaker of the Azerbaijani parliament, he warned against attempts to involve European structures in resolving the situation in Karabakh. “Let’s proceed from the fact that there is a decision taken at the level of the heads of state – Azerbaijan, Armenia and the Russian Federation. We will be guided by this and, for our part, will do everything to ensure that these agreements are implemented. And those who make statements in the direction of European institutions can simply lose the country,” he said.
● The Italian Iveco is setting up a truck-producing enterprise in Karabakh. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev discussed this fact at a meeting with Adolfo Ursa, Minister for Enterprises and Made in Italy Products of Italy.
● The Azerbaijan Seismic Service urged citizens not to believe speculation about upcoming strong earthquakes across the country.
Tuesday, 14th February, Armenia
●The unrecognized NKR is still under blockade. Yesterday, 20 people were transported there from Armenia and 23 people were transported from there to Armenia, in a bid to reunite people with their families.
● The Presentation of the Lord (Trndez) was celebrated with traditional round dances around the fire. The main celebrants are boys, girls, newlyweds, and couples looking to start a holiday. The most iconic symbol of the holiday is a fire over which young couples jump (pictured).
● According to preliminary data, 13 Armenians died in the earthquake in Syria and Turkey.
● The number of Armenian repatriates to Armenia is growing. So far, more than 25 thousand applications for citizenship have been submitted.
● Armenia has no preconditions for organizing a trilateral meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Armenia, Russia and Azerbaijan. Yerevan is ready to consider the proposals of any of the mediators, and Tbilisi’s efforts are positively assessed, said head of the parliamentary commission on foreign relations Sargis Khandanyan at a briefing.
● The Foreign Minister discussed an Armenian-Azerbaijani settlement and the consequences of the Lachin blockade at a meeting with Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office Andrzej Kasprzyk.
Monday, 13th February, Armenia
● 63 days have passed since the Lachin corridor closed and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh is still under blockade.
● Armenia has sent humanitarian aid to victims of the terrible earthquake in Turkey through a closed land border. Trucks crossed the Margara Bridge at the border for the first time in 30 years (pictured).
● The international rating agency Fitch has changed Armenia’s outlook from “stable” to “positive”. According to the rating organization, Armenia is seeing its highest growth in 15 years (11.6%).
● The Armenian government paid compensation to five families from Gegharkunik for stolen cattle. This region borders Azerbaijan, and Armenia has accused people from Azerbaijan of stealing livestock. Compensation amounted to $700 (equivalent in drams) for each missing cow.
● After the deterioration of Armenia’s position in the anti-corruption rating, Pashinyan has instructed that focus be put on the development of specific standards and a new anti-corruption strategy.
Monday, 13th February, Azerbaijan
● It is the 64th day of the Azerbaijani picket on the Lachin road.
● Baku has retaliated to Yerevan’s statement about “Azerbaijan ignoring the letter of the UN Human Rights Council.” The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry called it “another example of the hypocrisy of Armenia, which uses the request of UN mandate holders in a distorted form to Azerbaijan in order to hide its war crimes and divert the attention of the international community.”
● Immediately after a visit to Turkish Kahramanmarash, where Jeyhun Bayramov met with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister took a trip to Cairo. In Egypt, Bayramov will take part in the high-level international conference of the League of Arab States “Support for the city of Jerusalem and its population.”
● Parliament Speaker Sahiba Gafarova is on a visit to Moscow.
● The loading of Azerbaijani oil on tankers at the Ceyhan terminal in Turkey has been restored. The operation of the Turkish oil terminal was suspended due to the discovery of an oil leak at one of the oil piers after a strong earthquake.
Monday, 13th February, Georgia
● According to geomorphologist Lasha Sukhishvili, earthquakes registered in Georgia over the past 24 hours should not be cause for panic. Strong earthquakes in Turkey also did not affect the territory of Georgia in terms of seismic hazard.
● The Seismic Monitoring Centre has urged the population not to believe in or to spread false information about earthquakes, which causes fear and panic.
● “Georgia is continuing to kill Saakashvili. This hinders its European prospects,” stated Zelenskyy’s advisor Mykhailo Podolyak.
● #SaveMisha – rallies in support of Saakashvili will be held on February 20 in 10 countries around the world.
In the photo: Fair on the Dry Bridge in Tbilisi