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Who is Bako Sahakyan?

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One of the main problems of authors writing on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is the misuse of the terminology. There are different groups who misuse the terminology on the conflict. Some authors in purpose misuse the terminologies like the former US ambassador to Armenia John Evans did. John Evans presented Nagorno-Karabakh as a “legal entity” and Bako Saahakyan as its “legal representative”. And others unintentionally interpret the terms by describing Bako Sahakyan as a “leader of Nagorno-Karabakh”. While the author’s approach in the article is rather different, one can assume that the use of the “Nagorno-Karabakh leader” in the headline is an unintentional misuse of the word. The headlines are very important since they dictate number of people reading the story, when social media could massively spread it out. The headlines shape the way people think about a piece and the way they remember it in the future. Misuse of terminology as a result of information pollution is the main problem of modern international relations. Bako Saakyan neither politically nor legally represents the people of Nagorno-Karabakh region; nor is a leader. To be more precise, Bako Sahakyan is the leader of Armenian separatists in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Firstly, Bako Sahakyan, was born in Khankendi, then the central city of Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) of Azerbaijan. In 1988, before becoming the activists of the separatist movement of Nagorno-Karabakh, Bako Sahakyan held different positions in NKAO. In 1990, he joined Nagorno-Karabakh separatist military movement against Azerbaijan. Sahakyan started his career as a responsible person for smuggling arms for Nagorno-Karabakh separatists from abroad, but he was called back due to embezzlement of some money. As a leader of separatists, he is known for buying ordinary people’s loyalty through cash money or by paying their debt for them.

Secondly, Bako Sahakyan cannot be recognized as the “legitimate representative of Nagorno-Karabakh”, since Azerbaijanis living there were deported from their homelands in between 1988-1994. Even on February 20, 1988, when the parliament of the NKAO voted for the unification with Armenia, the representatives of the Azerbaijani community were absent of this process. As a result of parliamentary meeting, without approval of Azerbaijani population of NKAO, they seceded from Azerbaijan contrary to the constitution of Azerbaijan SSR. After the war, when the illegal and unconstitutional referendum over independence took place in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Azerbaijani population of Nagorno-Karabakh was expelled from the region. Until today, more than 780.000 Azerbaijanis have been deported from the Nagorno-Karabakh region as a result of the Armenia-backed military operations internationally recognized as occupation by the UN Security Council resolutions and resolutions from other international organizations. Because of the occupation, the members of Azerbaijani community of Nagorno-Karabakh remains internationally displaced persons in different regions of Azerbaijan. Thus, the Nagorno-Karabakh region is not consisted of Armenians only, the Azerbaijani population used to live there before they were forcefully left from their homelands.

Armenia and the Armenia-backed separatists captured the management of NKAO through the use of heavy weapons and established their military regime over the civilian population that could not exercise their free will. Not only Azerbaijan, but Armenia itself also suffered from the separatist movement. As a result of this movement, Armenia isolated itself from the regional projects. In 1997, separatists from Nagorno-Karabakh, precisely the so-called “Karabakh Clan” that included Bako Sahakyan as well as the former and current presidents of Armenia Robert Kocharyan and Serj Sargsyan, forced Levon Ter-Petrosyan to resign since he did not share their view of the conflict and expressed his readiness to resolve the conflict. As the President of Azerbaijan Republic Ilham Aliyev put it, “the only reason why Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has not been resolved yet is because Armenia doesn’t want to liberate occupied territories.” Armenia along with occupying Azerbaijani territories, also ruined the prospect of the future development for the Armenian people.

Bako Sahakyan is a representative of illegal entity that occupied the sovereign state’s territories. Nagorno-Karabakh is an internationally-recognized part of Azerbaijan. The issue is not that no country in the world recognizes separatist regime in Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent state; it is merely enough to glance at the map of Azerbaijan on the UN official page. The official website of the US State Department also displays Nagorno-Karabakh as a part of Azerbaijan. And yet, despite the fact that the UN and also the United States recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as a part of Azerbaijan, the US State Department still provided the visa for Bako Sahakyan. By issuing a visa for the separatist leader, the U.S. government indirectly supports the illegal activity of separatists, which killed thousands of people and caused the mass deportation of the civilian population from their homelands.

But right after the referendum was held on March 16, 2014 in Crimea, on March 17, 2014,the EU foreign ministers imposed EU-wide sanctions against Crimean separatists. Washington followed up with a sanction list of its own. On April 12 2014, the US imposed sanctions on high-profile Crimean separatists. On June 20, 2014, the US imposed new sanctions against separatists in Ukraine. The targets included some of the most high-profile figures of separatist movements in the eastern Ukraine. On 26 June, 2018,the Trump administration imposed new sanctions against eleven individuals that were involved in separatist movement in the eastern Ukraine. The list includes individuals such as so-called minister of finance, trade, justice and security in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic in the eastern Ukraine. Until today, the US has imposed four sanctions against the separatists from the Crimea, but no sanctions against the Nagorno-Karabakh separatists, including Bako Sahakyan, who can freely receive visa to the EU countries and the US, in order to legalize the illegal entity. Both in case of separatists in Ukraine and Catalonia, we saw that western countries show rather different approaches to separatist attitudes in the Eurasian region.

To sum up, whether intentionally or unintentionally, misusing the terminology of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict serves the legalization of the illegal entity on the territory ofthe sovereign state, which is totally unacceptable. Officials and experts should be careful in choosing the terminology. Because, separatism is not just a problem for Eurasian geography, but as we have seen in the case of Catalonia, for the whole world. The Catalan case proved that sovereignty of the states should be respected by all the actors and they have to avoid providing direct or indirect support for the legalization of  illegal entities.

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Eastern Europe

Quality of Life in Latvia is not a priority

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Four presidents, 14 governments and eight Seimas have changed in Latvia over the past 20 years. The country joined the European Union and NATO, and then switched to the euro. But have Latvians become better off? Has their quality of life improved? Statistics shows that the general well-being of population remains very low. Political turbulence only worsens the situation.

Thus, according to Numbeo.com portal, one of the largest databases on the cost of living and quality of life worldwide, Lithuania and Latvia are the worst Nordic countries for quality of life.

Quality of Life Index by Country 2019

The leaders of the rating are Denmark, Finland and Iceland. Latvia showed the lowest result, the quality of life index here is 149.15 points. In Lithuania, the result is slightly higher – 156.36 points.
Numbeo experts took into account the purchasing power of the population, safety, health care, the cost of living and some other factors.

It is noted that the world ranking of countries for the quality of life is led by Denmark, Switzerland and Finland. Estonia took 11th place, Lithuania – 29th, and Latvia – 34th.

The more so, experts said that the proportion of shadow economy in Latvia rose by 2.2 percentage point last year to 24.2 percent.

The shadow economy proportion in Latvia has risen for the past two years in a row.

EU-SILC survey gives another frightening indicator. According to eurostat.ec.europa.eu, Latvia, as well as Estonia and Lithuania are top three EU countries in terms of poverty risk among pensioners.

Political and economic short-sightedness has lead to the state when the Baltic States have become the first battlefield in case of war between NATO and Russia.

The United States is preparing for the use of nuclear weapons in Europe along with non-nuclear countries, said Vladimir Ermakov, director of the Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control of the Russian Foreign Ministry. Experts point out that military airfields in the Baltic States and Poland have already been prepared to receive NATO aircraft that can carry tactical nuclear weapons. If take his words seriously, this means the end of the Baltic States’ existence.

The behavior of the authorities guaranteed Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia the status of the first battlefield, despite the fact that in the event of war, economy would be completely destroyed and population would disappear.

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Eastern Europe

How the Caspian Sea joins the Black Sea

Asim Suleymanov

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In the development of international cooperation and the deepening of industrial cooperation, the leading role belongs to the formation of a network of international transport corridors. It has a special place in solving transport problems associated with the expansion of interstate transportation, economic, cultural and other ties, with the creation of an international transport infrastructure that has common technical parameters and ensures the use of a single transportation technology as the basis for the integration of national transport systems into the global transport system.

Developing corridors are to play a system-forming role in the economic and social development of the territories along which they pass. Their creation is directly related to projects for the development of sectors of the economy and social sphere.

If a modern transport corridor connects the Caspian Sea and Black Sea, it will lead to uninterrupted cargo transportation between Asia and Europe. New opportunities for the regional states will be opened up. This was confirmed by the first meeting of the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan, Romania, Georgia and Turkmenistan, held in mid-March 2019 in Bucharest.

According to its results, a political declaration was signed. The document reflects the determination of the four states to implement the project of an international freight route between two seas by joint forces.

As expected, the corridor between the two seas will have a real impact on the standard of living in the participating countries and cause a sharp surge in business activity in neighboring regions.

The idea of the project is to make full use of the geographical proximity of Romania, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, as well as the capabilities of the ports of Constanta in Romania, Poti in Georgia, Baku in Azerbaijan and Turkmenbashi in Turkmenistan.

New transport route will allow establishing a direct connection between the port of Constanta and the Danube River, and then the rivers and canals on the European continent, that will open access to Central and Northern Europe.

In general, the Caspian-Black Sea region is becoming links of a single Eurasian transport network.

The main question is how to direct the necessary volumes of cargo along this route, which would make its work profitable and profitable. To meet these challenges, in the near future four countries have planned to create an expert working group, optimize working procedures, harmonize tariffs, identify remaining infrastructure and legal constraints, and jointly promote the project at the international level, including in the course of interaction with the European Union. But it will not be easy for them to achieve all these ambitious goals.

The closest allies of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Russia, support all the projects aimed at strengthening economic cooperation between Baku and other countries of the Caspian-Black Sea region. Moscow and Ankara are lobbying for the creation of a transport corridor between the two seas.

Azerbaijan once again demonstrates that it is becoming one of the most important transport hubs of Eurasia – a transit hub in which the East and the West are tightly tied.

This country is interested in East and West, not conflicting with each other, but driven forward by the single energy of partnership.

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Eastern Europe

China’s changing interests in South Caucasus

Orkhan Baghirov

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President Ilham Aliyev and Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing Photo: Azertac

On April25-28,“Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation” took place in the capital city of China. From South Caucasus region only Azerbaijan leader Aliyev was in the list of 36 top-Level attendees (Diplomat, April 27).As the Azerbaijan was participating first forum in 2017 on ministerial level, visit of President in second forum demonstrates intention of both sides for close cooperation within the framework BRI.

Despite fact that China’s strong ambition to enter European market through BRI makes Georgia one of the most important players in the region (it has FTA both with China and EU) its high-level officials did not attend the forum (Emerging-Europe, January 3, 2018).

Generally, South Caucasus region was not in the Chinese focus when the BRI project was unveiled in 2013.Its attitude to the region has changed afterwards. Being part of the Central Asia-West Asia Economic Corridor, South Caucasus has strategic importance for China. At the same time, transportation projects such as Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway and Anaklia Deep-Sea Port has increased significance of the region.

From geopolitical point of view stability in Azerbaijan and Georgia’s political problems with Russia creates ground for Chinese presence in Caucasus. It is clear that having political problems with West Russia is not willing to confront China. Therefore, using these opportunities and establishing good relations both with Georgia and Azerbaijan China is able to avoid its biggest rival in Eurasia and use shortest way to European markets (Trend.az, April 10).

Importance of South Caucasus countries within the BRI framework is not same. Armenia has less potential for BRI. It does not have enough transportation infrastructure and its borders with Azerbaijan and Turkey closed. Armenia has a potential to become a corridor to markets of Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and Iran. However, it does not have borders with the members of EEU and  railway project between Armenia and Iran is not viable due its high costs ($3.2 billion) and less importance in commercial means (Vestnikkavkaza, August 25, 2018).Also, China has borders with two biggest members of EEU and could easily reach EEU markets through them. 

In the case of Georgia, China is the biggest foreign investor. China’s Hualing Group controls Kutaisi free industrial zone (FIZ), owns Basis Bank, hotels, wine export enterprise. It also constructs “Tbilisi Sea New City” near Tbilisi Sea in which company has already invested around 150 million dollars (hualing.ge).Another Chinese company CEFC Energy owns 75% of Poti FIZ (Cbw.ge, March 20).

Unlike the Georgia, mostly state-owned Chinese companies have invested in Azerbaijan. One of these companies CTIEC Group constructed biggest cement factory in Azerbaijan in 2014.China also has a great interest on Baku International Sea Trade Port as it is one of the main ports within BRI. Based on intergovernmental grant agreement China transferred $2 million worth equipment to the port (Azernews, April 4, 2018).

Despite fact that Azerbaijan is China’s key trade partner in the South Caucasus (it accounts 43 percent of China’s trade turnover in the region) it has massive investments in Georgia (Azernews, April 25). It mostly related to political orientation of these countries. Georgia follows more western orientation that made it more attractive for China while Azerbaijan implements balanced strategy and it does not want to feel China’s pressure. Besides, Azerbaijan is not in need of financial assistance like Armenia and Georgia as it has enough financial reserves.

However, recent developments of Sino-Azeri economic relations within the framework of the Second Belt and Road Forum creates new perspectives for China’s presence in South Caucasus. During the forum 10 agreements worth of 821 million USD has been signed  (Azvision.az, April 24). These contracts cover different economic spheres of non-oil sector including the construction of a tire factory in the Sumgayit chemical-industrial park, the creation of a 300-hectare greenhouse complex in the Kurdamir region of Azerbaijan, and the construction of agrological industrial parks in the Guba, Goychay and Khachmaz regions (Turan.az April 24).If we take in account that Chinese investors have invested800 million USD in the economy of Azerbaijan since independence, obtained agreements in the forum worth of same amount shows China’s growing interest in Azerbaijan.

Nevertheless, it does not mean that China’s preference of Georgia has changed. Within the BRI project both Azerbaijan and Georgia are of geopolitical importance for China. It is in China’s interest to boost bilateral relations with both of countries. It is apparent that China already has considerable investments in Georgia and now it is time to deepen cooperation with Azerbaijan. At the same time Azerbaijan is not going to cross limits of its balanced policy. Chinese companies that signed agreements in second forum are government affiliated companies as well. It again shows that Azerbaijan is willing to deepen cooperation without creating room for pressure in its domestic economy.

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