Welcome to the #RestartConnects weekly digest on the main developments in the South Caucasus for the period August 31-September 5, 2022.
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Restart Initiative at the CuDi Conference in Berlin
On September 3, 2022, Restart Initiative co-founder and chairman Emin Milli took part in the Cultural Diplomacy to Counter Disinformation (CuDi) conference organized by the Berlin-based CRISP non-governmental organization. The event, funded by the German Federal Foreign Office, was held at the Europäische Akademie Berlin and included lectures, workshops, and panel discussions with participants from European Union Eastern Partnership countries.
Emin Milli spoke on a panel on the opening day about the work of Restart Initiative. “In a way, I see ourselves as software engineers and we need to find a way to communicate between Armenia and Azerbaijan,” he said after the event. “In both countries, when the media invites one or the other side, there are sometimes certain questions that are asked and only on one issue, but there are 99 other issues that we don’t speak about.”
“We don’t want to know each other and the questions we ask are designed to confirm stereotypes about each other. Instead of trying to talk, discover, and learn about each other, we focus only on that,” he says. “This was the message I was trying to convey at the event and how we are trying to break it through our dialogue series on some of those other issues of mutual concern, interest, and yes, mutual future.”
STARMUS VI Festival in Armenia
The STARMUS International Festival is being held this year in Yerevan from September 5-10, 2022. The event, which aims to bring science and music together, was founded by Queen guitarist Brian May and Spanish-Armenian astrophysicist Garik Israelian in 2011. It has been described as bringing together "the greatest minds in space exploration, astronomy, cosmology, and planetary science for a week of incredible talks, sharing of information, and appreciation of the knowledge we have of space and the universe." Armenian Media reports that scientists, astrophysicists, Nobel laureates, and astronauts have arrived in Yerevan to participate in the event. “STARMUS is in Armenia because I believe that science and technologies are the future of a small country like Armenia,” said Israelian. “STARMUS is here to inspire the new generation of the Armenian technological giants and startups.”
Armenian and Azerbaijani Leaders Meet in Brussels
On August 31, 2022, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev met again with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on the initiative of European Council President Charles Michel, following a tense month of escalations in the region in August. It was the fourth in this format and a follow up to their last meeting in May. In an official statement released afterwards, Michel said the exchanges between the sides were open and productive.
Further, it was decided to accelerate work on an eventual peace treaty between Armenia and Azerbaijan. To this end, Michel also announced that the Azerbaijani and Armenian Foreign Ministers would meet again in September to work on drafting the relevant text. Other issues discussed included humanitarian issues such as detaining, the remaining detainees, and the fate of missing persons. The next meeting of the Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders will take place in Brussels and it was also announced that the Azerbaijani and Armenian border commissions will also meet there the same month.
In related news, on 3 August, the British Guardian newspaper also revealed that Michel planned to invite the Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders to a summit on the formation of a new pan-European security body to be held in Prague on October 6, 2022. Other invitees will be EU countries, those non-EU countries that are part of the single market, and nine EU-member aspirant countries, including Georgia.
Aliyev in Italy, Says Azerbaijan-Armenia Peace Deal Possible in Months
On September 1, 2022, at the invitation of his counterpart, President Sergio Mattarella, Ilham Aliyev paid an official visit to Italy timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. In addition to meeting with high level Italian officials, Aliyev also spoke on Azerbaijan’s role in Energy Security at the International Cernobbio Forum.
In an interview with the Italian “Il Sole 24 Ore” newspaper during his visit, the Azerbaijani president also spoke optimistically about the possibility of signing a peace agreement with Armenia within months. “I think this is realistic if the Armenian side expresses the same will, because we introduced five basic principles, which a peace agreement should be based on and Armenia accepted them,” he said.
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