Fierce competition between Russia and the West in the Caucasus

Monday, 25 July 2022 - 17:43
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The head of the US Central Intelligence Agency went to Armenia on an unannounced and unexpected trip and met with the country’s officials. Three days later, the head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service also visited Armenia. Considering the recent developments in the region, it seems that the political and military competition between Russia and the US has been extended to the Caucasus.

The CIA chief’s visit to Armenia

On July 15, William J. Burns, the head of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), visited Armenia without prior notice. This news was published by the Russian Sputnik news agency. No information has been released about the details of Burns’s meetings with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and high-ranking Armenian officials.

Russia’s concern about the presence of the CIA chief in Yerevan

Three days after the visit of the head of the American Central Intelligence Agency to Armenia, Sergey Naryshkin, the head of Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, visited Armenia. On Monday, July 18, Sergey Naryshkin held separate meetings with the Prime Minister and Armenian officials.
The visit of the head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service to Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, is considered very important. The details of these meetings are not known. The media evaluates this meeting as Russia’s reaction and concern about the influence of US security serviced in Armenia.

Meeting of foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia

Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, Jeyhun Bayramov and Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Armenia, Ararat Mirzoyan met and discussed with each other in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. A wide range of challenges of both sides have been discussed in this meeting. Demarcation, reopening of access routes from Azerbaijan to Nakhchivan, the date of withdrawal of the remaining Armenian army forces from Nagorno-Karabakh, the fate of Armenian prisoners of war in Azerbaijan and the fate of Armenians in this region were among the issues discussed by the two sides. The most important issue facing this negotiation is the Zangezur Corridor in the south of Armenia, which is the main demand of Azerbaijan from the Armenian side for the normalization of relations.

This is the first meeting of foreign ministers after the second Karabakh war. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken evaluated this meeting positively in a tweet, which shows how valuable the compromise between the two countries is for the US.

Announcing the date of withdrawal of the Armenian army from Nagorno-Karabakh

The Secretary of the Security Council of Armenia, Armen Grigoryan, has announced that the remaining forces of the Armenian army and the Armenian militia will leave the areas under their authority in Nagorno-Karabakh (Nagorno-Karabakh/Dagliq-Karabagh/Artsakh) by the end of September this year.
The announcement of the withdrawal date of the Armenian army has worried the officials of the de facto Armenian government and the people of this region.

Great Return plan in Karabakh

On July 19, the government of Azerbaijan has started the resettlement of 58 refugees from the Karabakh war in Zangilan district, which borders Iran. The government of Azerbaijan has promised that 41 families of two villages in this region will return to their homes and has named this project the Great Return. The place of residence of the returnees is also the smart villages that Israeli companies have reconstructed.

Zangilan, with a population of about 30,000 people, borders Armenia and Iran and is located in the southwest of Nagorno-Karabakh. It is worth mentioning that this area was surrounded by the Armenian army and Armenian militia during the 1993 war after the support lines were completely cut off; Then, the Azeri defenders and the people survived for several months with the help of Iran. And finally after the collapse of the defensive positions, Azerbaijani civilians, militiamen and soldiers came into Iran with the support of the artillery of the Islamic Republic of Iran Army by crossing the Aras River.

Azerbaijan’s energy shock to Russia

Azerbaijan has signed its first energy contract with the European Union in the new year. Ms. Ursula von der Leyen, the German President of the European Commission, signed the gas contract during her visit to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. According to this agreement, Azerbaijan will increase gas exports to Europe to 20 billion cubic meters per year by 2027. The European Union will import 10 billion cubic meters of gas from Azerbaijan every year from 2020. Apart from this amount, Bulgaria is also a customer of one and a half billion cubic meters of Azerbaijan’s gas.
The increase in Azerbaijan’s gas exports has sounded the alarm for the exports of the Russian Federation. Russia exports 60 billion cubic meters of gas to the European Union every year, and Azerbaijan’s action is considered to be the acquisition of a third of the Russians’ share in the European Union market.

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