South Caucasus Weekly Review looks into major developments in Armenia, Georgia & Azerbaijan
This project of Azernews is designed to cover major weekly developments in the South Caucasus nations.
- Aliyev, Pashinyan, Putin to be able to talk in frames of CIS informal summit – Kremlin
- Foreign nationals buying real estate in Armenia are mainly Russians
- Military aid provided to Azerbaijan is not used against Armenia – US Assistant Secretary of State
- Citizens of Georgia to do mandatory military service
- Exemplary partnership between Georgia, Azerbaijan to contribute to a more stable south Caucasus – Georgian PM
- Gender equality is priority of Georgian government – Vice Speaker
- Azerbaijanis protesting outside Shusha against peacekeepers' inaction over illegal exploitation in Karabakh
- Official: Swiss businessmen interested in Azerbaijani economy
- Azerbaijani top diplomat on vitality of peace deal with Armenia, lauds Baku-Ankara-Ashgabat summit
- Baku hosts annual meeting for military attaches
Aliyev, Pashinyan, Putin to be able to talk in frames of CIS informal summit – Kremlin
Ilham Aliyev, Vladimir Putin, and Nikol Pashinyan are working to set up a trilateral meeting, but they will at least be able to communicate within the framework of the informal summit of the CIS leaders, according to Russian presidential spokesperson Dmitri Peskov.
“You know that an informal meeting of the leaders of the CIS states is expected where at least three leaders will have an opportunity to talk at least in the margins. What will happen then, the work is still in process,” Peskov said.
Late in December, St. Petersburg will host the informal gathering of the CIS leaders.
Foreign nationals buying real estate in Armenia are mainly Russians
In total, 66,486 real estate transactions were recorded in the first ten months of 2022 in Armenia, according to the Cadastre Committee.
The figure is a 3,6% growth compared to 2021’s same period. Demand has increased and it led to the growth of real estate prices.
“In October, average apartment prices in Armenia grew 12,9% compared to 2021’s October. In the provinces the average figure is 19,1%,” Deputy Director of the Cadastre Committee Arman Petrosyan said.
According to Petrosyan, the real estate market is the first to respond to changes occurring in the economy. A 14,1% increase in economic activity over the previous nine months had an effect on the demand for purchasing power. The market is also being impacted by mortgage programs with favorable terms.
"Meanwhile, the inflow of foreigners into Armenia has very insignificant or no impact on the real estate prices in the market. In the ten months of 2022 foreign nationals bought only 1,581 real estate properties. This is only 3,6% of all transactions. The foreign nationals mostly acquired apartments, land areas, or private houses,” Petrosyan said.
Most of the foreign nationals, who bought real estate in Armenia are from Russia, followed by the US and Iran. The foreigners mostly bought real estate in Yerevan, followed by Kotayk.
Selling, inheritance, and mortgages constitute most transactions in Armenia with 38,3%, 19,3%, and 13% respectively. Most transactions took place in Yerevan, with over 53,000 transactions, followed by Kotayk, Armavir, and Ararat. The least real estate transactions took place in Vayots Dzor (2%).
Military aid provided to Azerbaijan is not used against Armenia – US Assistant Secretary of State
"During its contacts with Baku, Washington always raises its concerns about human rights in Azerbaijan," US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Karen Donfried, said during the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on US policy in the Caucasus.
During the hearing, Congressman Jim Costa "raised the issue of the Armenian prisoners of war and the gross violations of human rights in Azerbaijan", asking whether Washington raises these topics during the talks.
“I can assure you that human rights are a critical part of the conversation. It is something we focus on very clearly. I spoke with both foreign ministers last week, and I had a part of my conversation with Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov of Azerbaijan focused specifically on human rights. We always raise our pressing concerns about human rights in Azerbaijan, whether it relates to reports of arbitrary and unlawful killings in police custody, torture and cruel, inhuman treatment, lack of independent judiciary, restrictions on freedom of movement,” Karen Donfried said in response.
Congressman Jim Costa called unacceptable the fact that the US government still continues providing military aid to Azerbaijan despite the human rights violations there.
“I want to be very clear about this: the June 2022 decision to extend the Waiver of Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act was taken following a very close review by the inner agency of US priorities in the region, as well as current and planned assistance to the government of Azerbaijan,” Karen Donfried said, adding that they followed very closely the recommendations.
“And we calibrate all security assistance to Azerbaijan to ensure that it is not used for offensive purposes against Armenia and does not undermine or hamper ongoing efforts to negotiate a long-term political settlement to the Nagorno Karabakh region,” she added.
Karen Donfried said the security assistance given to Azerbaijan strengthens the ability of peacekeeping forces to help secure Azerbaijan’s 475-mile border with Iran and provide security for energy sources critical for US allies in Europe.
“We are providing non-lethal border security assistance,” she said.
Citizens of Georgia to do Mandatory Military Service in MOD
The Prime Minister of Georgia, Irakli Garibashvili stated, that the mandatory military service has been reviewed, and reform will take place, with all persons to undergo mandatory military service only in the Ministry of Defense.
He explained that before this system was scattered and inefficient.
“We had a conversation with the ministries included in the security service and we agreed that the mandatory military service will be completely transferred to the system of the Ministry of Defense. An effective system will be created- a program lasting six, eight, and 11 months. It will be intensive military training. The main goal will be to create a strong reserve,” said the Prime Minister.
As Garibashvili noted, the project will cost more than 80 million GEL.
He pointed out that the recruitment will be carried out by the Ministry of Defense instead of the regional ministry. This process will start in January, but the program will be implemented from January 1, 2025.
Exemplary partnership between Georgia, Azerbaijan to contribute to a more stable south Caucasus – Georgian PM
Georgia and Azerbaijan have solid economic cooperation, strategic partnership, and, most significantly, friendship, said Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili at a meeting of the Georgia-Azerbaijan intergovernmental economic committee at the government administration.
As Irakli Garibashvili pointed out, Georgia-Azerbaijan ties were unique in recent years and millennia.
“We have a strong relationship and excellent neighborly ties. We are grateful for the opportunity to host Ilham Aliyev a few weeks earlier; his visit to Georgia was crucial. We addressed the current strategic projects and set plans we will continue to discuss today.
“I’m happy to say that the joint commission’s sessions have recently grown more active. I had the honour to participate in this commission last year. I’d also want to highlight that this year marks the 30th anniversary of the start of diplomatic relationships.
“Our peoples and countries have perfect understanding and friendship, and this relationship is growing stronger. I must emphasize that, via exemplary partnership, we will contribute to a more stable South Caucasus. This is our shared goal, our shared ambition to see a stable region that will serve as the foundation for better economic development and prosperity for our peoples,” the Prime Minister stated.
The visit of the Azerbaijani delegation to Georgia, according to Ali Asadov, Prime Minister of the Republic of Azerbaijan, would contribute to the continuous strengthening of mutually beneficial cooperation between Azerbaijan and Georgia.
According to him, the relations between Georgia and Azerbaijan have reached the level of strategic partnership today, and relations between the two countries are expanding in all spheres.
“We place a high value on this visit. I think the visit will contribute to the continued building of Azerbaijan and Georgia’s mutually beneficial partnership. The intergovernmental commission meeting is an excellent opportunity to discuss strategies to strengthen our relationships and expand our fields of cooperation. Azerbaijan and Georgia have also cooperated on major megaprojects. We’ll get a chance to talk about it,” Ali Asadov stated.
The history of Azerbaijan-Georgia relations is as centuries-old as our peoples and nations, said Azerbaijan’s Prime Minister, stressing that the Georgian and Azerbaijani peoples are bound by millennia of good neighborliness, mutual respect, and friendly ties.
“Our nations’ relations have now progressed to the level of strategic partnership. Our contacts are growing in all areas, including politics, economy, energy, transportation, culture, education, military, and others. We support each other to improve in various sectors, and our relationships are growing in all areas. I think that the documents signed today with your involvement would speed up these processes even more,” Azerbaijan’s Prime Minister said.
Ali Asadov claimed that Azerbaijan and Georgia have always supported each other on the global level.
“Mr. Prime Minister, we have always backed each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, and our economic relations are flourishing. Georgia is one of Azerbaijan’s primary trading partners; our trade turnover climbed by 3% this year. Of course, given the background of the present pandemic and the issues confronting the world economy, this development demonstrates that there is much more potential between our nations, and we will be able to further strengthen these partnerships,” stated Azerbaijan’s Prime Minister.
For the record, Prime Minister of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ali Asadov is paying an official visit to Georgia.
An official welcoming ceremony was held in the administration of the Government of Georgia.
Gender equality is priority of Georgian government – Georgian Vice Speaker
“Gender equality is a priority of the Georgian Government, the priority of our society. We still witness the challenges and impediments that women encounter at the political theatre, in political life and the elimination of these impediments is our common responsibility,” the Vice-Speaker, Archil Talakvadze stated at the National Gender Equality Conference.
As he noted, the democratic, human rights-based state cannot be built without the participation of the majority of our population – women, and girls.
“Reinforcement of the reforms in this direction has never been as urgent and necessary as today when gender equality is one of the key EU recommendations, necessary for the reception of the EU candidate status. The Parliament, naturally, does and will do all in its power to ensure the fulfillment of the expectations that our compatriots and partners have towards us in high responsibility and with the best European experience. Naturally, the will and ambition of Georgia are to see our country and society European in this sphere,” he added.
The UN Resident Coordinator, as well as the Ambassadors of Sweden, the USA, the EU, the UK and Switzerland also addressed the attendees.
The Conference is being held within the 16-day campaign against violence with the support of the UN Group of Agencies and Sweden.
Azerbaijanis protesting outside Shusha over peacekeepers' inaction over illegal exploitation in Karabakh
On December 12, representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) of Azerbaijan are holding a protest action near a post of the Russian peacekeepers outside Shusha, Azernews reports.
Azerbaijani activists and members of environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are protesting on a section of the road controlled by Russian peacekeepers outside Shusha, calling for an end to environmental terror in the Karabakh economic region.
The protesters demand that the commander of the Russian peacekeeping forces, Maj-Gen Andrei Volkov, come to the area. Tents are being erected in the area by the protesters. In the meantime, the Russian peacekeepers have dispatched troops and military equipment to the region.
One of the protesters, who is currently at the center of events, expressed his opinion on unfolding developments at the venue. "The main purpose of Azerbaijanis protesting near Shusha is to prevent illegal exploitation of the country's natural resources by Armenia," military and political expert Telman Qasimov said.
The crowd, according to Qasimov, who is currently in Shusha among the protesters, is calling for Maj-Gen Andrei Volkov, the commander of the Russian peacekeeping forces in the region, to come to the venue.
"We will not leave anywhere until he arrives," he said.
To recap, following discussions with the command of the Russian peacekeeping contingent on December 3 and 7, 2022, Azerbaijani specialists from the Ministries of Economy, Ecology, and Natural Resources, the State Service for Property Issues under the Ministry of Economy, and AzerGold CJSC were to conduct primary monitoring on illegal exploitation of mineral deposits on Azerbaijani territory. However, the monitoring failed due to provocation.
Official: Swiss businessmen interested in Azerbaijani economy
Swiss businessmen are interested in Azerbaijan’s economy, Swiss Confederation Federal Council for Trade Agreements representative, State Secretariat for Economic Affairs bilateral economic relations department head Erwin Bollinger said, Azernews reports.
He made the remarks during the Azerbaijani-Swiss business forum in Baku on December 14.
Speaking at the forum, he also shared his thoughts on the ways of expanding cooperation.
“Switzerland intends to continue to support the diversification of the Azerbaijani economy,” he said.
Erwin Bollinger noted that over recent years, Switzerland has actively invested in the non-oil sector of Azerbaijan contributing to economic diversification.
“We aim to develop bilateral trade relations, as well as increase the volume of investments. Over the past eleven months, the volume of trade between our countries has reached €365 million,” he added.
Moreover, noting that this year marks the 30th anniversary of establishing bilateral relations between Azerbaijan and the Swiss Confederation, First Deputy Economy Minister Elnur Aliyev spoke about economic and trade relations between the countries.
He stressed that the business forum would contribute to expanding economic partnerships and creating new opportunities.
Further, Azerbaijan’s Small and Medium Business Development Agency (SMBDA) Board Chairman Orkhan Mammadov spoke about the support in the search for local partners and the implementation of joint projects with SMBs. He also briefed about the areas and measures that the agency can provide to foreign entrepreneurs wishing to start a business in Azerbaijan.
“Swiss companies are interested in setting up a business in Azerbaijan,” he said.
In this regard, he proposed creating joint enterprises that bring new technologies and innovations to the business sector and implement a training program jointly with the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs of Switzerland in order to study the Swiss experience.
In his turn, Azerbaijan’s Export and Investment Promotion Agency (AZPROMO) Head Yusif Abdullayev noted the importance of relations between the business communities of Azerbaijan and Switzerland and informed about the measures taken to promote the Made in Azerbaijan brand.
AZPROMO’s Deputy Executive Director Zohrab Gadirov spoke about Azerbaijan's business and investment opportunities.
Likewise, Alat Free Economic Zone Board Chairman Valeh Alasgarov made a presentation on the investment potential of the economic zone.
Additionally, Swiss-Azerbaijani Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Claude Haegi, Swiss Joint Chamber of Commerce Managing Director Dorit Sallis, Head of the Azerbaijan branch of JCC Leyla Bagirzad, ISR Holding Chief Executive Director, SACCI Operations Committee Co-Chairman Rauf Khalilov made reports on cooperation between business people of the two countries.
The forum was held with the support of Azerbaijan’s Economy Ministry in collaboration with SMBDA and AZPROMO.
In addition to officials from both countries, the event was attended by entrepreneurs working in the industry, agriculture, ICT, banking, health, construction, logistics, transport, finance, food, and other sectors.
As part of the forum, entrepreneurs held bilateral meetings and discussions on expanding partnerships and establishing new ties.
Diplomatic relations between the two countries were established on January 21, 1992.
Azerbaijan and Switzerland cooperate in various economic sectors. There is mutually beneficial cooperation between Baku and Bern in the non-oil sector. In addition, Baku will host a meeting of the Commission on Trade and Economic relations between Switzerland and Azerbaijan in 2022.
The trade turnover between the two nations amounted to $457.2m in 2021, with exports accounting for $272.5m and imports for $184.7m.
Azerbaijani top diplomat on vitality of peace deal with Armenia, lauds Baku-Ankara-Ashgabat summit
The Azerbaijani and Armenian foreign ministers are expected to meet in the coming weeks, Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov has said.
The minister remarked at a trilateral meeting with Turkish and Turkmen counterparts Mevlut Cavusoglu and Rashid Meredov in Turkmenistan's Awaza on December 13.
The Azerbaijani minister noted that Baku intends to build bilateral relations with Armenia based on mutual recognition and respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, and inviolability of each other's borders and normal neighborly relations.
"To this end, we have presented the recently updated proposals on the text of the agreement on relations between the two countries to the opposite side, and in the coming weeks, it's planned to hold another meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries for discussions," he said.
Noting Azerbaijan's position is consistent and principled, based on international law and justice, Bayramov expressed hope for Armenia to respond with the necessary political will and practical actions to the steps taken by Azerbaijan to bring about peace.
“An important condition for achieving the logical result of the normalization process is the immediate fulfillment of the obligations undertaken by Armenia, and taking steps to establish normal good neighborly relations," Bayramov added.
Moreover, during the trilateral meeting, the foreign ministers of the three countries reviewed documents on energy, trade, customs, transport, education, and culture, as well as on the trilateral format, which will be adopted at the first summit of the Azerbaijani, Turkish and Turkmen leaders on December 14.
Bayramov noted that the summit will play a crucial role in the development of a trilateral dialogue among the countries. He praised the relations of the three states within international organizations, including the Organization of Turkic States (OTS).
Noting that 2022 marks the 30th anniversary of Azerbaijan's diplomatic relations with Türkiye and Turkmenistan, the minister outlined the development of Azerbaijan-Türkiye-Turkmenistan relations based on the common historical, cultural, linguistic, and religious background of the three nations. He also emphasized the leaders' role in establishing mutual trust among the three countries.
"Close engagements of the leaders determine the dynamics of development of relations, as well as contribute to successful interaction in the international arena. The first summit, which will be held on December 14, is of historical significance. The meeting will be an important stage in the development of the trilateral Azerbaijan-Türkiye-Turkmenistan format, thus complementing the bilateral relations existing between our countries and further developing these ties based on common interests and benefits. The joint statement of the first summit, trilateral documents on energy, trade, economy, customs, transport, science, education, culture are practical steps in this direction," Bayramov said on December 13 ahead of the summit.
According to him, this cooperation continues successfully as part of international and regional institutions. The decisions taken by the presidents during the XI Summit of the OTS held on November 11, 2022, in Samarkand, have significantly bolstered joint efforts.
Further, the official expressed confidence that the trilateral cooperation of Azerbaijan, Türkiye, and Turkmenistan would contribute to the full usage of the regional transport and transit potential, as well as to the strengthening of the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR). It was said that Azerbaijan's activities to establish a new transport infrastructure in the liberated territories, including the opening of the Zangazur corridor, are of particular importance.
The foreign minister also stated that the increasing relevance of energy security against the backdrop of recent global events testifies to the necessity of strengthening efforts in this sector.
Speaking at the meeting, he talked about the reconstruction work carried out by Azerbaijan to eliminate the aftermath of the 30-year-long occupation, as well as to ensure the safe return of the former internally displaced persons (IDPs). He also pointed out the landmine threat impeding the rebuilding efforts in the region, including the peace process.
Baku hosts an annual meeting for military attaches
On December 13, a meeting on the results of 2022 was held at the Department for International Military Cooperation under the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry with the participation of military attachés of foreign states accredited to Baku, Azernews reports per the ministry.
Maj-Gen Huseyn Mahmudov, Head of the International Military Cooperation Department, briefed the military attaches on the activities for 2023 as well as the work done in the outgoing year in the military sector, including tasks carried out in the territories liberated from occupation.
With the largest and most powerful army in the South Caucasus, Azerbaijan is investing huge efforts to upgrade its military potential.
The army-building process is of particular importance for Azerbaijan, as the country is constantly facing military provocations and no peace deal is signed with Armenia following the latter's defeat in the second Karabakh war in 2020. Nowadays, the skills and combat readiness of the Azerbaijani army are growing year by year and the army-building process is progressing as well.
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