Azerbaijan-Armenia rapprochement, Ukrainian commander-in-chief’s trick, situation in Guyana
    Caliber.Az analyzes key events of past week

    ANALYTICS  10 December 2023 - 12:56

    Murad Abiyev
    Caliber.Az

    Caliber.Az presents the next issue of the “Events” show with Murad Abiyev, which tells about the main news of the week related to Azerbaijan and other countries.

    Azerbaijan – Armenia

    The past week was full of events. The Azerbaijani presidential administration and the Armenian prime minister’s office issued a joint statement on December 7 on the agreement reached to take significant steps to strengthen trust between the two countries. Proceeding from the principles of humanism and as a gesture of goodwill, Baku released 32 Armenian servicemen while Yerevan - two Azerbaijani servicemen. The matter rests in those two servicemen who, having gotten lost, entered the Armenian territory, and criminal cases were fabricated against them. Then the sides made another important gesture, having agreed to support each other’s candidacies on some international platforms.

    It is possible to say that there is a breakthrough in direct bilateral negotiations between Azerbaijan and Armenia. There is no doubt that this is a breakthrough. The only question is how significant it will be, and whether Yerevan will retreat from it later. However, in any developments, this agreement clearly confirms that Azerbaijan and Armenia can promote the peace process without intermediaries more effectively.

    Another significant event was Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s order to hold snap presidential elections on February 7, 2024. This is an unexpected step, however, it is significant. After Azerbaijan’s sovereignty over Karabakh was fully restored on September 20, 2023, Azerbaijan is completing a long-term struggle for territorial integrity. This stage of our history is over and there are new opportunities for Azerbaijan. The big changes in world politics pose new, important challenges for Azerbaijan. Amid new challenges and new achievements, Azerbaijani society needs a renewed social treaty. In this sense, snap presidential elections will serve as an excellent basis for an effective renewal of Azerbaijani society and political system in a new era.

    From this point of view, it also seems natural to hold an international forum in Baku entitled “Karabakh: Back Home After 30 Years. Accomplishments and Challenges”. President Aliyev took part in the forum and answered foreign experts’ questions for several hours. Questions, and accordingly answers, mainly related to the peace process, restoration of liberated territories, and development of routes in the South Caucasus and Central Asia region. President Aliyev thoroughly described the current situation and declared Azerbaijan as a country that has restored justice and is open to international cooperation. While speaking about the peace process, the president once again stated the inadmissibility and uselessness of the biased anti-Azerbaijani position of some mediators.

    As for the intermediaries, Spokesman for the US Department of State Matthew Miller said at a briefing that the US does not intend to sever relations with Azerbaijan and confirmed the visit of US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs James O’Brien to Baku. O’Brien almost a month ago announced a severance of relations. O'Brien arrived and was received by President Aliyev, as well as Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov.

    A joint statement by Baku and Yerevan was published on the next day. Enviers immediately began to say that this happened because the US put pressure on Azerbaijan. What can we say? What is unfavourable in this agreement for Azerbaijan that pressure was required? You think that the US put pressure on Baku to finally get its detained servicemen, do not you?

    Moreover, these types of agreements cannot be drawn up in one day. They are usually prepared over a long period of time. Moreover, if Washington had initiated this agreement, it would inform about it. It is the usual practice of mediators, is not it?

    There is one golden rule in logic - after does not mean as a result. That is, the sequence of events does not mean a logical connection between them. Let us assume that there is such a connection. Even if there is some pressure from Washington on Baku, the joint statement of Azerbaijan and Armenia was adopted in spite of this pressure rather than thanks to it.

    If so, then what made Armenia make this breakthrough? After all, we have recently seen several statements and actions by the Armenian leadership aimed at rapprochement with the West, and refusal to negotiate without the patronage of Western countries. Maybe Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has finally taken the responsibility to act in line with the sovereignty of the country he leads? We hope for this.

    Euronews TV channel published an interview with President Aliyev on November 23. This interview served as a main topic for President Aliyev’s own speech at the above-mentioned forum at ADA University. President Aliyev informed the Western audience about the essence of Azerbaijan’s peace policy, determination to reintegrate those Karabakh Armenians who want to obtain Azerbaijani citizenship, and at the same time once again rejected the possibility of any speculation on the rights of Karabakh Armenians outside the Azerbaijani sovereignty and legislation. As for Azerbaijan’s international position, the president noted that Azerbaijan protects itself from any confrontation between major powers and makes efforts for multilateral cooperation. “If you consider the transport sector, you will see that both corridors - North-South and East-West - cross Azerbaijan, and our neighbours and many countries in different regions benefit from this,” President Aliyev said.

    Middle East

    The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) announced the beginning of the third phase of the operation in the Gaza Strip – expansion of the ground operation. In the south, the Israelis surround the Khan Yunis city. The intensity of hostilities reached its maximum. Apparently, Israel is trying to complete the operation as quickly as possible. This is required by the US. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has recently criticised Israel's actions in southern Gaza, saying there was a "gap" between Israel's intention to protect civilians and the current situation.

    The US says that the military operation in the south cannot be carried out in the same way as in the north and that it must be completed by January. In general, the rapid implementation of a military operation is Washington's main demands towards Tel Aviv. However, a logical question arises. Accelerating a military operation envisages increasing the intensity of strikes. This means attracting more troops, using more weapons, and as a result, more casualties among the civilians. This is a terrible logic, a terrible situation.

    Meanwhile, constant skirmishes are underway on the Israeli-Lebanese border. There, the Hezbollah group fires at Israel, while the IDF attacks its positions on Lebanese territory.

    The Wall Street Journal, citing anonymous US officials, reported that the Israeli army has plans to flood the Hamas tunnel system with sea water. For this purpose, the IDF installed special pumps in the Gaza Strip. The weak water pressure will allow Hamas to evacuate the hostages if they still remain there.

    Meanwhile, the issue of the future of Gaza also remains one of the main topics of discussion and even disagreement between Israel and the US. According to Biden's plan, Gaza should come under the control of the Palestinian authorities after the end of hostilities. However, Tel Aviv is already talking about creating buffer zones in Gaza.

    If we remember that the Gaza Strip is a very small plot of land, then allocating part of its territory to a buffer zone will actually mean an end to the prospect of jurisdiction of the Palestinian state over this territory. Moreover, the US will object to the creation of a buffer zone inside the Gaza Strip, Spokesman for the US Department of State Matthew Miller said at a briefing on December 6.

    Ukraine

    The Ukrainian Armed Forces continue their assaults near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, and are holding back the Russians in the direction of Avdiivka. In the direction of Kherson, the Defence Forces hold their positions on the left bank of the Dnieper.

    It is difficult for Ukraine to wage war as there are few weapons and ammunition. The foreign countries do not inspire optimism among Ukrainians either. The US Senate rejected a bill that included $61-billion-aid to Ukraine. Republicans blocked it, insisting that the package include amendments to improve security and tighten immigration policy on the border with Mexico.

    So, the decision to assist Ukraine is postponed. Meanwhile, not only the Ukrainian army but also the social system, including the payment of pensions and benefits, depends on US assistance. This, in turn, threatens to further aggravate the growing internal political crisis in the country, especially given that European assistance of 50 billion euros ($53 billion) is still blocked by countries opposing the conflict with Russia.

    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that due to the interrupted arms supplies, the West should expect bad news from Ukraine.  Ukraine will have to make difficult decisions. There is a key question of whether complex decisions will turn into complex strategic decisions.

    The Washington Post published an article about a gigantic investigation into the unsuccessful counter-offensive of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and aggravated the situation by this article. The point of the article is that Kyiv did not follow the counteroffensive strategy proposed by Washington. Instead of making a powerful push in one direction, namely from the Zaporizhzhia region towards the Sea of Azov, the Ukrainians used their forces to attack in different directions.

    Meanwhile, Ukrainian public figure Oleksiy Arestovich put forward a version that in fact, Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Valerii Zaluzhnyi outsmarted everyone. Seeing that the US plan for a breakthrough in the south threatens the Ukrainian Armed Forces with huge losses, and even this does not guarantee success in combating the Russian army, Zaluzhnyi, if I correctly interpret Arestovich’s version, imitated a counter-offensive, which made it possible to achieve the main thing for the country – to save most of the servicemen.

    Venezuela

    A country that many people, most likely, have never heard of has been finally mentioned in the world news. The matter rests in Guyana, which is located in northern South America. President of Venezuela Nicolás Maduro, announced the inclusion of the oil-rich and disputed Guayana Esequiba region, which is about two-thirds of Guyana's territory, into Venezuela. Some 90 per cent of participants in the national referendum in Venezuela voted for this decision. Only 10 per cent of the country's population participated in the plebiscite and this does not bother Maduro. He has already ordered the state oil company to issue licenses for the development of oil fields in the region and proposed that the country's National Assembly pass a bill to include this territory into Venezuela. However, it is not enough to announce annexation; it should be implemented. The terrain between the countries is almost impassable, and it is necessary to use Brazilian territory to quickly move troops. Brazil has already sent troops to the border with Venezuela. Guyana is still a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, although, being a republic, it does not recognise the authority of the UK’s king. In this regard, several questions arise. Can Venezuela’s actions be called a move by the Global South to the offensive, or is it acting itself? What are Maduro’s further claims, and most importantly, what will be the UK’s response? However, that's not all. The Americans, following the Monroe Doctrine, consider the entire Western Hemisphere to be a sphere of US interests, and if they find the Eastern Hemisphere’s trace in the actions of Caracas, and for some reason it seems to me that they will find it, they will perceive it as a challenge to the US hegemony. Moreover, they have the rights to develop large big oil reserves in the waters of the disputed territory.

    As for the UK, the question arises. Has the US remained the same US as it was in the early 1990s, when it punished Saddam Hussein for aggression against Kuwait? Maybe the reason is that Maduro took this step because the answer to this question is negative at least in the near future, when the Democratic administration is not willing to interfere in another conflict on the eve of the elections. There is also a question of whether Venezuela will respond if the UK and the US take tough measures against it. However, physical annexation has not occurred yet. Perhaps Maduro will act gradually taking into account Saddam’s experience.

    Caliber.Az

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