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Turkey’s South Caucasus Agenda

Strategically situated as a major conduit for vital energy resources, the South Caucasus has long been an area for competing regional and geopolitical interests. But while competition between Russia and the United States has preoccupied many analysts since 1991 when the three countries making up the region declared their independence from the former Soviet Union, some consider that Turkey could also play an important role in the Caucasus. Despite its well-known problems with Armenia, this is particularly true since tensions between Russia and Georgia culminated in the August 2008 war.

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Following Clashes on the Armenia-Azerbaijan Border, the ‘Tekali Process’ Continues

Recent clashes on the Line of Contact (LOC) separating Armenian and Azerbaijani forces have again raised concerns over the fragility of the 1994 ceasefire agreement. That should have put fighting over the disputed territory of Karabakh on hold, but with a final peace deal still elusive, thousands have been killed in cross-border skirmishes in the eighteen years since. At least three Armenian and five Azerbaijani soldiers died in the latest major skirmishes on the LOC, which reportedly included incursions into Armenia proper, while both sides blamed the other for the violence.

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Armenia-Azerbaijan peacebuilding kicks off in Tekali

The roads have seen better days and probably so too have the villagers, but if events continue to be held in a small ethnic Azeri village in Georgia that might all change. Situated just 10 kilometers from the Georgian border with Azerbaijan, and 29 kilometers from the crossing with Armenia, those attempting to establish Tekali as a regional peacebuilding center certainly hope so. One of them, Armenian theatrical director turned activist Georgi Vanyan has already called on other NGOs to relocate some of their existing and future regional and cross-border projects there. If that were to happen, much needed investment could be attracted to Tekali as well as the surrounding area and involve wider society in dialogue, discussion and debate.

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As tensions mount, plans for an Armenian-Azerbaijan Peace Building Center

This year will mark the 17th anniversary of the 1994 ceasefire agreement which put the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh on hold. Since then, attempts to find a lasting peaceful solution to the conflict, which claimed around 25,000 lives and forced a million to flee their homes, have faltered. Indeed, following less than conciliatory speeches from the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents at the OSCE Summit in Kazakhstan late last year, and with Baku’s military spending set to hit $3.1 billion in 2011, analysts and international observers are now increasingly talking about the need for conflict prevention rather than resolution.

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Budgetary cuts cast shadow over landmine clearance in Nagorno Karabakh

Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a war over Nagorno Karabakh in the early 1990s. Around 25,000 were killed and nearly a million from both sides forced to flee their homes. Although hostilities were put on hold by a 1994 ceasefire agreement, in addition to skirmishes on the frontline, landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) continue to pose a threat to life.

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Concerns raised over extension of Russian military presence in Armenia

The reactions to the signing of the August 20 deal between Russian president Dimitry Medvedev and his Armenian counterpart, Serge Sargsyan, extending Moscow's military presence in its former satellite by more than two decades. The internal and regional scenario, the consequences for the Karabakh conflict.

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Armenia rocked by army shootings

As panic turned to anger following the last front line clash between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces in Nagorno Karabakh, more deaths reported in July rocked the nation. This time, however, Armenian soldiers were apparently killed by their fellow countrymen.

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Nagorno Karabakh: talk of peace, but also of war

Panic reportedly began to spread last week in Yerevan as news of the worst major skirmish between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces on the line of contact in two years was reported by the local media. Ironically, the ceasefire violation occurred just one day after the Armenian president and his Azerbaijani counterpart met in St. Petersburg for talks convened by Russia.

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The Caucasian Eurovision

Oil money and ethnic voting lose out to simplicity in Eurovision

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Rocking and rapping in Azerbaijan

Music in all three republics continues to be dominated by those singers and musicians who are subordinate to nationalist or predominant political interests. But rock and rap bands are starting to speak out, especially in Azerbaijan

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Armenia’s Strategic Lachin Corridor Confronts a Demographic Crisis

The flag of the unrecognized Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh flies over the local administrative buildings in the center of Lachin, the strategic lynchpin connecting the disputed territory with the Republic of Armenia. The town and surrounding area, regarded as vital for Karabakh's security, appear to be experiencing an unsettling demographic shift.

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Lachin: The Emptying Lands

The local residents of Suarassy seem oblivious to the hidden danger as they herd cattle down a road known to have been mined during the Armenian-Azerbaijani war of the early Nineties. Despite the mangled military lorry rusting in a ditch to one side, none of their cows have so far detonated seven anti-tank mines still believed to be buried underneath, so they reckon the road is safe.

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Armenia: Yezidi Identity Battle

Yezidis in the western Aragatsotn region of Armenia have taken a dim view of government efforts, supported by the UN children’s agency, UNICEF, to bolster minority education in the republic. At the beginning of September, at an event staged in the Yezidi village of Alagyaz, government officials said that new textbooks in minority languages would be distributed to schools in minority-populated villages, while UNICEF said it would provide stationary and other supplies.

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A People Divided

Nestled at the foot of Mount Aragats, Armenia’s highest peak, the villages of Riya Taza and Alagyaz hardly merit more than a passing glance from motorists heading north towards the border with Georgia. Elderly women dressed in colourful garb nonetheless line the road, while children play nearby among rusting abandoned vehicles and farmers herd their cattle in the surrounding pastures. Few stop at the makeshift shacks selling basic groceries and provisions on the roadside. In fact, nobody pays much attention at all.

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Azerbaijan: Blowing Up in Their Facebook

When Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli, two video-blogging youth activists in Azerbaijan, were detained on 8 July 2009 on what many believe were trumped-up charges, supporters and friends naturally used Facebook to campaign for their release. However, spreading networks wide in order to disseminate information and updates, there were obviously risks involved. Reports of the security services monitoring Facebook were coming out of neighboring Iran, and there was no reason to think it couldn’t happen in Azerbaijan.

For the two young men’s supporters, however, that didn't matter. What was arguably more important was that Facebook was crucial in the campaign to free them. [...]

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Twitter Diplomacy

With a peaceful resolution to the conflict over Nagorno Karabakh as elusive as ever, Armenians and Azerbaijanis are unable to visit each other’s country or communicate through traditional means such as telephone or mail. However, as the local media usually self-censors or resorts to propaganda when it comes to relations between the two countries, can new and social media step in to fill the gap to break the information blockade?

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A web of Peace

Social media and conflict resolution in the South Caucasus. The opportunities offered to Armenian and Azeri peace activists, the debate in the region.

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Cup of Kindness

In Georgia’s ethnically mixed communities, Azeris and Armenians come together over tea. A Conflict Voices podcast for TOL.

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Class Struggle

In a village school in Georgia, Azeri and Armenian students study in peace but share a common problem – poverty. A Conflict Voices podcast for TOL.

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