The Region in Brief

March 8, 2023 - March 15, 2023


Armenia’s former Deputy Health Minister and current Deputy Mayor of Yerevan Gevorg Simonyan is being held in pre-trial detention after being arrested last week on charges of embezzling funds. Investigators from Armenia’s Anti-Corruption Committee allege that Simonyan worked with the head of a local medical center to embezzle 119 million dram ($300,000) from government funds allocated for patients with COVID-19.


The factions of the National Assembly of the Republic of Artsakh released a statement on March 14 demanding that the Armenian government “adhere to the decision of the RA Supreme Council of July 8, 1992 and not to question the right to self-determination of the people of Artsakh.” The statement also affirmed that the “Karabakh conflict” should be resolved through international mediation, in particular through “the involvement of the Minsk Group co-chair countries.” The Free Motherland, United Motherland, Justice, Democratic Party of Artsakh and Armenian Revolutionary Federation factions confirmed their dedication to the will of the people of Artsakh as the blockade by Azerbaijan reaches 100 days.


Azerbaijan is accusing Armenia of transporting arms and troops to Artsakh, which is still under blockade by Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan’s Commission for Human Rights Sabina Aliyeva says Armenia is sending “weapons, ammunition and other military equipment, including mines, fuel and troops” to Artsakh. Officials in Yerevan have denied these rumors, but they are anticipating that Azerbaijan may launch new military operations. Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense has threatened “decisive necessary steps.”


Lawmakers in Georgia decided to drop a foreign agent draft bill that had sparked mass protests in the capital Tbilisi. The proposed legislation, which lost the support of the ruling Georgian Dream party on Friday, would have required non-governmental organizations and media outlets that receive more than 20-percent of their funding from abroad to register as “agents of foreign influence.” Even after their defeat in parliament, Georgian Dream officials still lauded the necessity of the bill for its transparency and ability to track down critics of the Georgian Orthodox Church. Both the US and the EU welcome the government’s decision.


Tensions between Greece and Turkey have simmered down since last month’s deadly earthquake, according to Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. “The deadly earthquake brought our two peoples closer together on a human level,” he said this week. Turkey, for its part, says it is open to peaceful dialogue, underscoring a division of wealth in the Aegean, according to Defense Minister Hulusi Akar. The NATO member countries are longtime rivals over drilling rights and natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean. Both countries are also holding national elections this year.

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