Armenia: Can protests bring change?
Starting on April 13, Armenia has witnessed massive demonstrations after Serzh Sargsyan, who previously served two terms as a President, was appointed Prime Minister. Back in 2015, a referendum called by Sargsyan approved constitutional changes transforming the Armenian political system from a Presidential to a Parliamentary republic, making the prime minister the most powerful figure. The protests were fuelled by widespread dissatisfaction with Sargsyan and the Republican party, corruption, low economic growth and resentment against Sargsyan’s policies.
Interesting interview with one of the organizers of the Armenian protests discussing their strategy and tactics and why they think they worked, by @KarenaAv for @opendemocracyru: https://t.co/YLVCnv7rkN
— Joshua Kucera (@joshuakucera) April 30, 2018
The protests were led by parliament deputy Nikol Pashinyan, one of three leaders of the opposition bloc “Yelk”, which aims for greater pro-Western orientation of Armenia and leaving the Eurasian Economic Union. He called for an “unconditional capitulation” of Sargsyan’s Republican Party. Sargsyan resigned from the post of the Prime Minister after 11 days of protests, and his deputy Karen Karapetyan was named the acting PM. The Parliament was scheduled to elect a new prime minister on May 1 and the Republican party announced that it will not nominate a candidate. After hours of tense debate, the Republican majority voted down Pashinyan and protests resumed in Yerevan.
Even if the opposition successfully gains power, it is still unlikely it will affect Armenian relations with Russia or the war with Azerbaijan in any significant way. While Moscow backs Karapetyan (who is the deputy of the Republican Party), Pashinyan clearly distanced himself from any anti-Russian “colour revolutions” or Ukrainian Maidan and declared that there will be “no geopolitical shifts”. Russia considers the protests Armenia’s internal affair and called for a peaceful transition, indicating that it will not intervene. Internal and external pressures will probably force Pashinyan to continue in the general course of Armenian politics and foreign relations. The only risk is that Azerbaijan may attempt to exploit the instability in Armenia to gain an upper hand in the Karabakh conflict.
— Каспер⚡Привидение? (@vnf_m) April 23, 2018
Beginning of a new era in Korea
Last week, the seemingly impossible became reality on the Korean peninsula. After decades of a animosity and distrust, the leaders of the North and South Korea agreed to meet on a diplomatic summit. Both politicians, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the president of South Korea Moon Jae-In, met in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) which separates the two countries. Kim Jong Un is the first leader, who stepped in the DMZ after decades, since the armistice agreement from 1953.
Although the political relationship between these countries is generally known to be colder than cold, both leaders were willing to find compromises in the mutual discussion and set a common goal – to finally end the Korean War. Other topics like denuclearization, improvement of the mutual relations or even the possibility of the unification of both countries came up during the summit.
Finally, the negotiations appear to be successful – a new declaration was signed. It is a new peace treaty, which officially ends the Korean war and also promises to pursue a complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Moreover, North Korea should seek a multilateral collaboration with the US or other countries.
Without doubts, this summit marked the world history. After more than sixty years of political tensions, it seems that the Korean peninsula has finally reached a chance for peace. The (until now unthinkable) treaty is signed, everybody is now waiting to see the real results.
VIDEO: #SouthKorean soldiers removing loudspeaker near inter-Korean border
— The Voice of America (@VOANews) May 1, 2018
Turkey: Coup trials continue
A Turkish court sentenced 13 journalists and executives of opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet last week on terrorism-related charges. The defendants – consisting of journalists, managers and lawyers – have been arrested during the 2016 crackdown after a failed coup. The prosecutor accused Cumhuriyet members of supporting terrorist organizations: the Kurdish separatist movement, the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (an extreme left party) the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and Fethullah Gulen. The last named is accused by the Turkish government of spearheading the failed coup in 2016.
#TURKEY BY NUMBERS (since July 2016)
50,000+ ppl imprisoned
107,000 public sector employees dismissed
1,300+ NGOs shut down
845 ppl detained for social media posts since start of #Afrin
120+ journalists jailed
180 media outlets shut down#FreeTurkeyMedia #WPFD2018 pic.twitter.com/8yos2NgIKi
— FreeTurkeyMedia (@FreeTurkeyMedia) April 28, 2018
The accusations are generally believed to be fabricated, as journalists were critical of the mentioned organizations. One of the convinced, investigative reporter Ahmet Sik, well-known as a critic of the Fethullah Gulen’s movement, was given a sentence of seven and half years. Most of the defendants have been released during the trial even though they were sentenced from 2 to 7 years in prison. While their cases are appealed they are allowed to remain free.
According to the defendants, Erdogan made up the process to silence his critics. Journalists resist and are not going to stop criticizing. “You will be shamed in front of history”, declared the newspaper’s website after the judgement. “This neither scares me nor Cumhuriyet newspapers”, said the newspaper’s editor in chief, Murat Sabuncu. “We can go to jail one more time if necessary. We will go on doing journalism with courage,” he added.
The trial brought international spotlight and outraged many human rights groups and groups protecting journalists, which accused Turkish government of suppressing the media. Currently, over 160 journalists are imprisoned, most of them arrested after the failed coup in 2016.
Weapons smuggling into Azerbaijan through Slovakia
Czech journalists revealed how Czechoslovak howitzers and rocket launchers make their way illegally into Azerbaijan. The story originally broke out after the Azerbaijani Army showcased the weapons in a promotional video, despite the fact that weapon exports to Azerbaijan are banned, due to the conflict with Armenia
The weapons are produced by the Czechoslovak Group holding, owned by Czech armourer Jaroslav Strnad. According to the report, the old weapons are first disassembled and then restored with new facilities: navigation, camera, and communication systems purchased from Israel. They are then flown into Tel Aviv from Bratislava airport and directly to Azerbaijan from there. Israel meets the export criteria, but Azerbaijan does not.
Although the company rejects the claims, shortly after breaking the story one of its employees provided details of the whole process. The Slovak Economy Ministry has asked the licence holder to comment on the information. The company said that the end user and customer was an Israeli company.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons | Ավետիսյան91 (CC BY-SA 4.0)
STRATPOL Memos is a project which on a bi-weekly basis provides a short overview of the most important selected moments of Euro-Atlantic security and related areas. Our goal is to provide brief and informative comments with short analysis putting news into broader context.
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