In a podcast with ANN/Groong, Dr. Benyamin Poghosyan, the founder of the Center for Political and Economic Strategic Studies, offered his opinion from Yerevan on the recent teleconference between the Azerbaijani President, Ilham Aliyev, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, French President Emmanuel Macron, and European Council President Charles Michel held on 4 February 2022.
Poghosyan said that he believed the video conference focused mainly on humanitarian issues. This resulted in the return of 8 Armenian detainees held in Azerbaijan and the return by Armenia of the remains of 108 Azerbaijanis from the Karabakh war of the early 1990s. He also said that he did not exclude the possibility that there was a follow-up on discussions and agreements made at the previous Sochi and Brussels meetings.
In a video released prior to the teleconference, Macron stated that it was important to do this after Brussels. Poghosyan believes that this related to the construction and reconstruction of the Soviet-era railway connecting Azerbaijan through Armenia to Nakhichevan, Armenia to Iran via Nakhichevan, and the potential connection from Armenia to Russia via Azerbaijan.
When asked if the announcement of a €2 billion assistance package to Baku was an attempt by the EU to create its own separate format with Armenia and Azerbaijan away from Moscow, Poghosyan believes that it was not. Macron and Michel continue to confer with Russian President Vladimir Putin before meeting with Aliyev and Pashinyan, he said. They all want peace and stability in the South Caucasus region, Poghosyan noted.
“Franky speaking I don’t believe we have competition,” he said. “I believe that at least from France and the European Union perspective there is no competition, somehow to create an alternative platform, try to replace Russia, or thwart Russian efforts, but I have an understanding that there is some preliminary agreement or at least discussed policy or strategy implemented by Russia and the European Union.”
He also highlighted how neither the €2.6 billion for Armenia nor €2 billion package for Azerbaijan are direct financial aid. Providing the example of Armenia’s package, he said that Yerevan will only receive €40 million financial aid per year for 5 years, making €200 million in total. The remaining €2.4 billion will take the form of either loans or guarantees for loans from other financial donors for specific projects.
Poghosyan believes this will be similar for Azerbaijan’s financial assistance package. Though in both cases the actual amount could therefore turn out to be less, Restart Initiative welcomes these developments and hopes that they can contribute to the necessary process of post-war reconstruction and development.