Lawrence Sheets, South Caucasus Project Director, talks about International Crisis Group’s work in the South Caucasus, promoting communication across the lines of the region’s most intractable conflicts.
Showing posts tagged as "armenia"
Showing posts tagged armenia
A Leadership Opportunity | Huffington Post
By Nancy E. Soderberg
Recent unrest in the Middle East highlights the importance of our strategic relationships in the region. A steadfast ally of the United States is Azerbaijan, and the United States must redouble its efforts to promote peace in this critical but unstable South Caucasus region.
Bordered by both Iran and Russia, Azerbaijan has offered close logistical cooperation to our military commanders in Afghanistan. For instance, over-flight clearance from the Azerbaijan government alone reduces our Air Mobility Command medical evacuation flight times by nearly two hours, saving lives. Of course, this doesn’t endear Azerbaijan to its neighbor Iran, nor does its reliable support for Israel. Peace in this region is essential for regional energy security, especially for Europe. Azerbaijan itself provides about a million barrels of oil a day to the world market, including more than 40 percent of Israel’s oil.
But several factors threaten stability. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan has been locked in a bitter dispute with neighboring Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh territory. In the 1992-1994 conflict, ethnic Armenian forces took control of the area, along with considerable Azeri territory before a shaky peace took effect in 1994. Azerbaijan insists that the region is part of its territory, a position shared by the United Nations; Armenia argues that the Armenian majority living in Nagorno-Karabakh has the right to self-determination and independence.
Photo: Utah National Guard/Flickr
Armenia Accuses Neighbor of Stoking Conflict | Wall Street Journal
By Joe Parkinson
YEREVAN, Armenia—Armenia’s president is increasingly concerned about what he sees as neighboring Azerbaijan’s willingness to engage in armed conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, he said in an interview, warning that Armenian forces would deliver a disproportionate blow should conflict erupt between the neighbors.
Photo: Davit Hakobyan
Drone violence along Armenian-Azerbaijani border could lead to war | Global Post
By Nicholas Clayton
YEREVAN, Armenia — In a region where a fragile peace holds over three frozen conflicts, the nations of the South Caucasus are buzzing with drones they use to probe one another’s defenses and spy on disputed territories.
The region is also host to strategic oil and gas pipelines and a tangled web of alliances and precious resources that observers say threaten to quickly escalate the border skirmishes and airspace violations to a wider regional conflict triggered by Armenia and Azerbaijan that could potentially pull in Israel, Russia and Iran.
Photo: Defense Images/Flickr
Ax Killer’s Pardon Reignites War Fears in Oil-Rich Caucasus | Bloomberg
By Zulfugar Agayev and Henry Meye
Azerbaijan’s pardon of a convicted murderer who killed an Armenian army officer with an ax risks reigniting a 20-year-old war between the two foes in the energy- rich South Caucasus.
Ramil Safarov, who was serving a life sentence for slaying Gurgen Margaryan in Budapest in 2004, was pardoned by Azeri President Ilham Aliyev and promoted after Hungary transferred him home Aug. 31. Armenia’s parliament will hold an emergency session today, while Europe, the U.S. and Russia have expressed “deep concern” about regional stability.
Photo: Yerevanci/Wikimedia Commons
"There is an awareness among government officials, both in the United States, Russia, and among European officials, that this conflict is getting worse. There should be something done to stop it."
—Sabine Freizer, Crisis Group’s Europe Program Director, on rising tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan, in “Ax murderer’s pardon stirs fears of war”, CNN
Ax murderer’s pardon stirs fears of war | CNN
By Joe Sterling
An ax murder. Then, jail time. Sounds like a morbid crime story.
Yet this tale has taken a sudden and unexpected twist: The killer got a pardon and a hero’s welcome.
That has stirred fears of a war.
Photo: Nicholas Babaian/Wikimedia Commons
Brussels is focusing on Georgia’s internal politics | Democracy and Freedom Watch
Interview of Alain Deletroz by M. Gagua and L. Tughushi
“The only thing I can say is that whenever you have an electoral process it brings up the tension in the country. I think it is normal whenever you have presidential elections. The main political parties have to take positions on a variety of issues, and sometimes they take positions, which go over or a bit further than the position they will actually represent once they are in government. So I think in Georgia you are already feeling this pressure boiling.”
Armenia in the vice: Prisoner of history | The Economist
ARMENIA tends to feature in the news because of its problems (history, geography, demography and economics to name but a few. But a new report from the International Crisis Group (ICG) says not all is doom and gloom. The parliamentary elections in May showed significant improvement. Media coverage was more balanced, and the authorities permitted greater freedom of assembly, expression and movement than in previous years. Like Georgia, Armenia has a class of “30-something” technocrats, whose western education and global outlook means they are less rooted in the Soviet mentality than their elders. That bodes well for the future.
The economy is still recovering from the global financial crisis, which saw GDP contract by 14.2% in 2009. In the same period, the construction sector contracted by more than 40%. Remittances from the diaspora dropped by 30%. That led Forbes magazine to label Armenia the world’s second worst performing economy in 2011–much to Yerevan’s irritation. Although official statistics claim 8 percent unemployment, 48% of respondents told a recent survey they were looking for a job. Over one-third of the country lives below the poverty line. Complaints of corruption are widespread, and inflation is high.
Armenia: An Opportunity for Statesmanship
Yerevan/Tbilisi/Istanbul/Brussels | 25 Jun 2012
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.
Armenia: An Opportunity for Statesmanship, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines the challenges before a pivotal presidential vote early next year that will determine whether the country has shed its more than a decade and a half of fraud-tainted electoral history. Whoever is elected must accelerate implementation of much-needed governance and economic reforms and help restore momentum to diplomatic efforts to tackle the long-running territorial conflict with Azerbaijan that poses a danger to regional stability.
“Another election perceived as seriously flawed would further distract from peace talks and severe economic problems”, says Lawrence Sheets, Crisis Group’s Caucasus Project Director. “The likely consequences would then be even more citizens opting out of democratic politics, as well as increased emigration”.
May’s competitive parliamentary elections produced positive signs, with more balanced media coverage and widely respected rights of free assembly, expression and movement. They also exposed longstanding issues. Widespread abuse of administrative resources; inflated voters lists; vote-buying; lack of sufficient redress for election violations; and reports of multiple voting have damaged trust in government bodies and institutions. It is crucial that the February 2013 vote, in which President Serzh Sargsyan will likely seek a second term, becomes “the cleanest elections in Armenian history”, as he had already promised the 2012 polls would be.
Though the president initially took bold steps, most noteworthy among them an attempt to normalise relations with Turkey, broader change has been slow. Political courage is needed to overhaul a deeply entrenched system in which big business and politics are intertwined, and transparency is lacking.
The economy remains unhealthily reliant on financial remittances from Armenians abroad. Rates of emigration and seasonal migration out of the country are alarmingly high. There have been few serious efforts to combat high-level corruption. The executive branch still enjoys overwhelming, virtually unchecked, powers. The judicial system is perceived as neither independent nor competent, and mechanisms to hold authorities accountable are largely ineffective. Media freedom is inadequate, with a glaring lack of diversity in television, from which most Armenians get their news.
To address these shortcomings and establish the basis for a free and fair election, the president should take the lead in encouraging authorities to pass a new criminal code, hold officials involved in corruption and elections abuses to account and increase civilian control of the police and independence of the judiciary. International partners should provide technical and financial assistance and hold the government accountable for any backsliding in reform.
“President Sargsyan has a window of opportunity, in advance of the 2013 elections, to demonstrate statesmanship and make Armenia a better place to live”, says Sabine Freizer, Crisis Group’s Europe Program Director. “A failure to embrace both immediate and long-term structural reforms would neither capitalise on Armenia’s strengths nor make for a good presidential campaign strategy”.