Last week, EurasiaNet.org reported on plans to turn breakaway Nagorno Karabakh into a correctional facility for Armenian convicts. To some, mindful of Armenia's extensive presence in and support for the predominantly ethnic Armenian territory, that may bring to mind the colonial-era relationship between Great Britain and Australia, the British Empire's convict colony of choice. But the Australia references do not end there.
Just as was the case with British convicts in Australia, outcasts from Armenia can also find ostriches in their new homeland. These are not going to be the squint-eyed Australian emus, but, rather, their taller African cousins.
Karabakhi entrepreneur Ararat Bagirian imported the birds from Kenya last August and plans to farm them for eggs, meat and feathers, the Russian news agency Regnum reported. New businesses in Karabakh are not a dime a dozen, so, to encourage the venture along, the de facto government gave Bagirian a 25-million-dram (about $65,000) credit for his new business.
After all, as the saying goes, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
Azerbaijan continues to take the flak for roughshod treatment of the media and political critics. But sitting on an embarrassment of hydrocarbon wealth, the country is in no hurry to change its ways. Behind the maquillage of spruced-up buildings and streets in Baku, rights groups see a ruling political dynasty plagued by rampant nepotism and corruption.
Georgia has released its new "National Security Concept" document, updating it from the 2005 version which said there was “little possibility of open military aggression against Georgia." Now, unsurprisingly, Russia dominates the document (pdf): of the twelve "Threats, Risks and Challenges to the National Security of Georgia" it identifies, ten are tied to Russia and its role in the breakaway territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Equally unsurprisingly, the U.S. tops the list in the document's section on "Strengthening foreign relationships." But the rest of the list is interesting to peruse. Ukraine is the second country mentioned, ranking as a "strategic partner." Turkey is next, as "Georgia’s leading partner in the region," with cooperation in trade, energy and military spheres. It then cites the importance of relations with "Central and Southeast European and Scandinavian states," as well as Moldova and Belarus, but for whatever reason doesn't mention Western Europe at all (though of course the EU and NATO as organizations are prominently featured). There is a whole paragraph on Latin America and the Caribbean, but no mention of France, Germany, the UK? No doubt the Western European reluctance to admit Georgia into NATO is the major factor there.
Selective birth control, a practice sometimes termed gendricide, is widespread in the South Caucasus for a mix of economic and cultural reasons. Armenia is believed to have the region’s highest rate of female foeticide. The gender ratio at birth is as high as 120 boys to 110 girls, 20 percent above the accepted norm, according to UNFPA's Armenia office. The ratio is lower, but also skewed in neighboring Azerbaijan and Georgia.
“Every year, Armenia is losing about 1,400 potential mothers [because of prenatal sex selection],” said the country’s gynecologist-in-chief Razmik Abramian. “In 10 to 20 years from now, we will face a deficit of women,” UNFPA Armenia official Gagik Hairapetian told a Yerevan press-conference, AFP reported.
The Global Gender Gap report put Armenia in second place after China in terms of the most distorted gender ratios. Azerbaijan and Georgia came only three countries away from Armenia on that list.
The saga of the mysterious drone shot down over Nagorno-Karabakh keeps getting more and more intriguing. You'll recall that the Armenian de facto authorities of Karabakh released photos of the downed UAV and claimed that the drone was from Azerbaijan. Makes sense: Azerbaijan operates drone similar to the one shown in photos, with which they try to surveil the area of the line of contact between them and the Armenians. Azerbaijan's state news agency countered with another theory: that the drone was actually Israel's. That was last month, and the story has gone cold since then.
But now, an Israeli website, DEBKAfile, has a new scoop/conspiracy theory: it was Russia! Their take:
Western sources believe Moscow had the Azerbaijani drone shot down as a one-off incident for four objectives:
1. A hands-off road sign to Israel to stay out of the Caspian Sea region and its conflicts. Moscow has taken note of Israel's deepening economic and military footholds in four countries: Azerbaijan, which is the largest, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Georgia, and regards its supply of arms to these countries as unwanted interference in Russia's backyard.
2. Revenge for Israel reneging on its 2009 commitment to build a drone factory in Russia. Moscow decided to confront Israeli drone technicians with Russian antiaircraft crews with an unwinnable ambush.
3. Moscow was also telling Tehran that it was serious about cooperating with Iran to safeguard its rights in the Caspian Sea and willing to use diplomatic, military and intelligence means to halt the spread of Azerbaijani and Israeli influence in the region.
The strange case of the Armenian-Moldovan-Libyan-Latvian arms deal has reached a sort of conclusion: Moldova's ambassador to Baku has apologized for the deal, reports News.az:
'Those responsible for arms sale have been called to the Security Committee of Moldova and commission for security issues of the parliament and brought to responsibility. Though no sanctions have been applied in Moldova related to arms sales to any country, it was politically incorrect to sell arms to Armenia. We will try not to tolerate such cases anymore', the ambassador said.
That's some pretty serious groveling. At least from the official Azerbaijani perspective, relations between them and Moldova are not all that strong, with just $1 million in trade: "The products imported into Moldova from Azerbaijan were natural juice and medicines." They do have a common cause as countries with territories occupied by another country. But there is likely some nuance to Moldovan-Azerbaijan relations I'm missing, that would explain why it is so "politically incorrect" to sell arms to their neighbor. Anyone with the answer, let me know.
Ex-Chief of General Staff of the Moldovan Army, Iurie Dominic, sacked after an arms deal with Armenia
Armenia has bought some weapons from Moldova, and Azerbaijan is not happy about it, reports RFE/RL:
Azerbaijan has expressed serious concern over Armenia’s reported purchase from Moldova last month of rockets and other weapons worth millions of dollars, saying that it will complicate a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Elnur Aslanov, head of an analytical unit at President Ilham Aliyev’s administration, on Friday described this and other arms acquisitions by Yerevan as a “serious destabilizing factor” in the region.
“The policy on Nagorno-Karabakh pursued by Armenia testifies to the destructive position of that state in the region,” Russian and Azerbaijani news agencies quoted him as telling journalists in Baku. “Any arms acquisition, any increase in the number of weapons in the region certainly does not lay the groundwork for establishing peace and stability and, on the contrary, impedes that.”
The three-meter-tall wall will stretch three kilometers across the conflict line to shield nearby Azerbaijani-controlled villages from sniper bullets. The wall starts in Ortagervend, a village where an eight-year-old boy was shot to death six months ago.
The chronic sniper exchange between the Azerbaijani army and separatist Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenian forces has often turned deadly and threatened the return of all-out hostilities in the area. Azerbaijani authorities said that the sniper fire is driving the civilian population away from the villages.
In a rare sign of approval of an Azerbaijani initiative, separatist officials welcomed construction of the wall as a way to solidify the border of the disputed enclave.
Georgia often comes off as the teacher’s pet compared with Armenia and Azerbaijan. International monitors regularly assign it better grades in terms of business-friendly reforms and democratic freedoms. But it also turns out to be the most suicide-prone student in the South Caucasus class.
The war-scarred country leads the regional suicide chart with a rate of 4.3 officially reported suicides per 100,000 people, according to the World Health Organization, which released the world suicide rates on October 10,International Mental Health Day.
Armenia, the poorest of the South Caucasus trio, came a distant second with a rate of 1.9. Azerbaijan, the richest, biggest and most autocratic of the three, is the least suicide-disposed, as its 0.6 rate suggests.
As tends to be the case elsewhere in the world, South Caucasus men are more vulnerable to suicide than women; especially in Georgia, where the male suicide rate (7.1 per 100,000) is nearly seven times that of the female rate (1.7 per 100,000).
Country statistics suggest that the age of suicide has grown older in both Armenia and Georgia. However, the WHO list, based on national statistics from different years, does not provide for a full and precise comparison.
The situation in the three countries is still incomparably better than in infamously depressed Russia and, the world’s most suicidal nation, Lithuania.
After the Armenian government in Nagorno Karabakh said they shot down an unmanned Azerbaijani drone last week, Baku quickly denied that it was theirs, but didn't provide any additional information. But then the state news agency APA came out with an explanation that, to be charitable, we can call "elaborate." Approvingly citing a Turkish tabloid report, APA suggests that the drone may have in fact been Israeli:
The anonymous sources close to Turkish diplomacy claim that the pilotless jet belongs to Israel.
The newspaper says that according to the diplomatic office, the pilotless jet belongs to the Israeli air forces: “The jet ascended from the military base located in Armenia or occupied Karabakh to make the reconnaissance flight related to Iran. Thus, the occupied lands of Azerbaijan are used not for the drug transit and as a terror base but turned into a military base for the secret operations and military reconnaissance”. The source also said that Israel currently holds reconnaissance operations by means of pilotless jets over Middle Eastern countries.
If Armenia really were allowing Israeli UAVs to spy on Iran from its territory, why would they be based in the disputed territory of Karabakh, rather than closer to the Iranian border in Armenia proper? And why would Armenia -- which has good relations with Iran -- allow such a thing in the first place? As this fascinating Wikileaked cable describes, it's in fact Azerbaijan that has a close relationship with Israel -- based in part on their similar perception of the threat from Iran: