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georgia’s potential role in south caucasus peacemaking

Georgia’s Potential Role in South Caucasus Peacemaking

Image source: President of the Republic of Azerbaijan

After a years-long security breakdown of Armenian Karabakhi forces, Azerbaijan reclaimed the entirety of its Karabakh region in September. Now, in the process of ending the decades-long conflict, leaders of the South Caucasus must officially reconcile their differences and implement a lasting written peace agreement. While Armenia and Azerbaijan will ultimately be the signatories and implementors of any peace agreement, Georgia has stepped forward to take on a mediating role to promote regional cooperation and help Armenia and Azerbaijan on the road to a sustainable peace agreement. 

On October 8, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev met in Tbilisi to discuss regional security. A central topic of conversation was the pressing regional security concerns arising from recent clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh. During the meeting, President Aliyev expressed a strong willingness to initiate immediate peace talks with Armenian leaders, proposing to conduct these crucial negotiations in Georgia: “As a country that is ready for this, and if Armenia agrees, the heads of our relevant authorities can immediately come to Georgia for both bilateral and trilateral meetings,” Aliyev said in a joint press statement following the meeting. “We are still committed to our role in establishing this mediation or friendly format. Tbilisi is always ready to take part in this process,” Garibashvili said. 

The third-party offer could prove especially useful in light of President Aliyev declining to attend a scheduled meeting with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan during a European leaders' summit in Grenada, Spain, on October 5, citing the desire for Türkiye's participation and concerns over “the well-known position of France,” alluding to perceived bias toward Yerevan as reasons for his decision not to engage in those particular talks.

While Georgia maintains a closer economic relationship with Azerbaijan, primarily through energy trade, Tbilisi fosters strong diplomatic and economic relationships with both Baku and Yerevan. On July 7, Garibashvili met with Pashinyan in Batumi to discuss their bilateral relationship and shared concerns about regional prosperity. In September, as the situation in Karabakh became critical, the two leaders reconnected for a phone discussion over conflict diffusion. Unlike some other regional actors, such as Russia, whose ulterior geopolitical agendas have tainted peace processes, Georgia's role would be that of an impartial neighbor—one with a vested interest in promoting regional security.  Both parties, Armenia and Azerbaijan, are more likely to engage in substantive negotiations facilitated by a country that is not seen as favoring one side over the other. 

As a country sharing borders with both South Caucasus countries, Georgia possesses an understanding of the regional nuances and complexities of the conflict. Its proximity to both Armenia and Azerbaijan allows Georgia to employ its historical, cultural, and geopolitical understanding that underpins the disputes in the region—knowledge that could be instrumental in fostering trust and dialogue between the conflicting parties.

Gharibashvili's meeting with Aliyev is not the first time Georgia has expressed interest in facilitating peace processes. In 2021, Garibashvili announced the launch of the Peaceful Neighborhood Initiative to promote stability in the South Caucasus, stating that through the micro-level tripartite discussion platform, Georgia “will facilitate dialogue and confidence-building, and lead to the implementation of practical solutions to regional issues of common interest with our U.S. and EU partners.” Georgia has repeatedly expressed readiness to continue and facilitate peaceful negotiations with its neighbors, and Garibashvili has particularly stressed the need for the two South Caucasus countries to have input throughout the peace process so that it’s not tailored only by foreign parties.

Georgia’s involvement could also be a significant opportunity for regional cooperation and empowerment. In Sunday’s press conference, Garibashvili conjected that “all three countries in the South Caucasus should be able to resolve the issues of the region and our further development."  

“Several countries and also some international organizations are trying to support the normalization process between Armenia and Azerbaijan today. We welcome that,” Aliyev said after their meeting. At the same time, he emphasized that Georgia could play an important role in the peace talks that other international parties might not be able to offer. “Taking into account both the historical relations and the geographical factor, the most correct option in this field would certainly be Georgia,” stating that if Armenia agrees, negotiations could commence without delay. 

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