Armenia's political crisis risks deepening internal divisions and security challenges. External actors should be prepared to offer support but avoid actions that risk the crisis transforming into a broader geopolitical contest.
Parliament voted May 8 to appoint former protest leader Nikol Pashinyan as PM, after initially voting against him May 2; Pashinyan appointed new cabinet consisting largely of allies, including pro-Western ministers for foreign and defence portfolios and defence ministry’s chief of general staff; is also expected to replace regional govt heads. Challenges include former ruling Republican Party majority in parliament, potentially blocking moves to introduce promised anti-corruption and electoral reforms; continuing pressure from public calling for punishment of corrupt officials and economic reform, with small protests continuing across country; and uncertainty over anticipated snap elections. Protesters stormed Yerevan’s city hall May 16 demanding mayor’s resignation. Pashinyan met Russian President Putin 14 May in margins of the Eurasian Economic Union summit in Sochi. For his first official visit Pashinyan 30 May went to Georgia, aiming for closer economic and political cooperation.
Armenia and Azerbaijan are once again on collision course along increasingly active front lines in and around Nagorno-Karabakh. Mediators Russia, France and the U.S., should pressure Yerevan and Baku to tone down inflammatory rhetoric, agree to talks and take steps towards peace.
Stronger international engagement is needed to help prevent the deadly conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan from escalating gravely at a time of internal political tensions in both.
Unless Armenia’s next presidential election is fair and gives its winner a strong political mandate, the government will lack the legitimacy needed to implement comprehensive reforms, tackle corruption and negotiate a peaceful end to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Escalating front-line clashes, a spiralling arms race, vitriolic rhetoric and a virtual breakdown in peace talks increase the chance Armenia and Azerbaijan will go back to war over Nagorno-Karabakh, with devastating regional consequences.
Turkey and Armenia are close to settling a dispute that has long roiled Caucasus politics, isolated Armenia and cast a shadow over Turkey’s European Union (EU) ambition.
Armenia’s flawed presidential election, the subsequent lethal crackdown against a peaceful protest rally, the introduction of a state of emergency and extensive arrests of opposition supporters have brought the country to its deepest crisis since the war against Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh ended in 1994.
The [Armenian] government generally supports a deeper militarization of society. The reforms discussed plan to merge everyday life with military service – the so-called 'army-society' model.
Azerbaijan regards Armenia’s “velvet revolution” as both hopeful and worrying. Baku hoped Yerevan’s new leadership might bring a fresh approach to negotiations over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. But, thus far, to many Azerbaijanis that leadership sounds less flexible than its predecessor.
A rare meeting between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan on 16 October 2017 could lead to a breakthrough. But the two countries have very different ideas on how to reconcile their competing narratives and goals in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Originally published in JAM News
Originally published in Factor
Unresolved conflicts and breakaway territories divide five out of six of the European Union’s Eastern Partnership countries, most of them directly backed by the Russian Federation. But a policy of isolating the people living in these conflict regions narrows the road to peace.