On October 26, the 4th Tbilisi Silk Road Forum was held in the Georgian capital, with the participation of Azerbaijani Prime Minister Ali Asadov and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, at the invitation of Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, and offered their country’s viewpoints on regional peace. During the event, Prime Minister Garibashvili expressed Georgia’s commitment to cooperate with Armenia and Azerbaijan to establish lasting peace in the South Caucasus region and within the framework of the forum, the prime ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia hold trilateral meeting with mediation of Garibashvili. Notably, a trilateral meeting between the prime ministers took place behind closed doors. This meeting highlights Georgia’s proactive involvement in the Azerbaijan-Armenia peace negotiations, following the recent statements made by President Aliyev during his visit to Georgia.
On October 8, 2020, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev went on a one-day visit to Georgia, holding discussions with Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili. This marked President Aliyev’s first international trip following Azerbaijan’s launch of an anti-terrorism operation in Karabakh against illegal military forces in the region. After the talks, President Ilham Aliyev expressed his willingness to continue peace negotiations between the two countries in Tbilisi. He extended an invitation to the Armenian side to convene in Tbilisi for discussions. Additionally, President Aliyev expressed readiness to send Azerbaijani officials to Georgia if Armenia shows its willingness for engagement. This approach could potentially facilitate the signing of a peace agreement between the two conflicting states in a neutral third country of the region.
Following the Second Karabakh war, Azerbaijan consistently emphasized Tbilisi’s role as a mediator. Tbilisi has also actively facilitated cooperation between Azerbaijan and Armenia on various matters. Notably, the recent meeting between the prime ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia suggests that Tbilisi will assume a renewed role in the ongoing Azerbaijan-Armenia normalization process.
Despite Azerbaijan’s support for the continuation of peace talks with Armenia with the mediation of Brussels, Baku was dissatisfied with the latest Granada Declaration related to the Armenian-Azerbaijan peace process. The quadrilateral declaration, signed during the European Political Community (EPC) meeting in Granada on October 5, 2023, was signed without the inclusion of Azerbaijan. This idea was backed by France, Germany, and the President of the European Council, Charles Michel. Surprisingly, these four parties anticipated Azerbaijan’s support for this declaration. However, during a phone discussion with Charles Michel, President Aliyev expressed his belief that accepting the quadrilateral declaration in Granada without Azerbaijan’s involvement was inappropriate. As a result, without Azerbaijan’s participation, the declaration was unlikely to lead to any positive results.
Preceding the Granada meeting, Azerbaijan had actively advocated for the inclusion of Turkey, recognizing its pivotal role as an ally of Azerbaijan and a key regional player. Given the direct implications of the Azerbaijan-Armenia normalization process on the Turkey-Armenia normalization process, Turkey’s participation could have significantly broadened the scope of regional reconciliation efforts. However, due to Armenian and French opposition to Turkey’s participation, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev chose not to attend the Granada summit. As a result, the adoption of the Granada Declaration without Azerbaijan’s approval damaged Europe’s position in the Armenia-Azerbaijan peace talks. According to Azerbaijani perspective, the losses in the Brussels process are due to France’s intervention in favor of Armenia, which has harmed the mediation process.
Following Azerbaijan’s absence from the Granada meeting, Charles Michel extended an invitation to the leaders of both countries to convene in Brussels at the end of October. However, no meeting took place. Press reports suggested that Brussels sought to frame this meeting based on the principles outlined in the Granada declaration, which Azerbaijan did not endorse. Consequently, the role of Georgian mediation has become even more crucial in the ongoing peace process.
The diminished efficacy of the Brussels process has elevated Georgia’s position as a promising new negotiation platform. Conducting peace talks in Georgia carries significant implications for regional cooperation and normalization. Georgia has close relationships with both Armenia and Azerbaijan. As a regional state, facilitating the signing of a peace agreement between its neighboring countries is critical not only for regional stability but also for ensuring the harmonious coexistence of Azerbaijani and Armenian communities within Georgia. Notably, Georgia serves as an example of peaceful coexistance between these two ethnic groups. Therefore, the continuation of the peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Georgia may result in the signing of a real peace agreement.
The prospect of both tripartite and bilateral meetings in Tbilisi holds the potential to catalyze Azerbaijan-Georgia-Armenia trilateral cooperation, serving as a robust foundation for fostering enduring peace in the South Caucasus. Azerbaijan has effectively forged various trilateral cooperation formats in its foreign policy, exemplified by the Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey partnership, which have made significant achievements in terms of regional cooperation. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev emphasized this point, saying, “If we are successful in signing a peace agreement with Armenia, a new political situation will emerge in the region.” South Caucasus states may begin trilateral cooperation. It is possible to have energy security, transportation, trade, and mutual capital investment.” Notably, this message to Armenia highlights the prospect of participation in regional energy and transport initiatives, which will serve as a useful stimulus in the event of a successful peace agreement, which represents a significant opportunity for Armenia.
Armenia might learn from the peace and cooperation established between Azerbaijan and Georgia. Azerbaijan for the past 30 years has emerged as a reliable energy partner and investor for Georgia while Georgia has evolved into an important transit country, effectively managing the movement of Azerbaijani energy resources to global markets, thereby creating a strong relationship based on mutual reliance. President Aliyev’s latest speech might be interpreted as Azerbaijan’s serious offering of peace to Armenia. Given the events that have transpired in the Caucasus, it is importand to explore new opportunities for cooperation and normalization in the region. Prioritizing peace and cooperation over war and hatred is essential to ensure a better future for generations to come.