Armenia increases international support for Georgia as Yerevan charts path to West

Author: Chai Khana,

Photographer: Leli Blagonravova


In June, Armenia cast its first vote in support of Georgia’s resolution in the United Nations General Assembly to return all displaced people to Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Yerevan’s vote is the latest move by Armenia to distance itself from Russia’s policy in the South Caucasus, according to analyst Arsen Kharatyan, the founder of Aliq media. 

The vote also underscored the growing disconnect between Georgia’s traditional international partners, which supported the measure, and the ruling Georgia Dream’s new allies: China, the country’s most celebrated new “strategic partner,” abstained from voting at all. 

The resolution, a cornerstone of Georgia’s efforts to secure international recognition for the occupied status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, has been gaining international support since it was first proposed in 2008. In the latest vote on June 4, 103 countries voted in favor—an increase from last year’s 100. Nine, including Russia and Belarus, voted against and 52, including China and Iran, abstained. 

The Armenian vote was heralded a “historic moment” by the Georgian media, which largely tied it to Yerevan’s growing efforts to break with Russia, its long-time strategic partner in the South Caucasus. Analyst Kharatyan noted, however, that the Armenian decision to support Georgia at the United Nations General Assembly was the result of several changes in Yerevan’s domestic and international policies.

He cautioned, however, that in terms of Yerevan-Moscow relations, the United Nations General Assembly vote was less important for Armenia than other positions it is taking these days in Russian-led international platforms. 

I think that Armenia's behavior in our bilateral relationship with Russia and in Russian-dominated structures is so much more relevant… We are in fact freezing our participation in the [Russian-led] Collective Security Treaty Organization and Commonwealth of Independent States. Those steps are much more important than votes in multilateral spaces, but I believe it is likely that in the near future… Russian official institutions will address this…because however we perceive Armenian-Russian relations from our perspective,[the vote] actually shows that Russia is gradually losing its influence in this region,” he said. 

“But I have an impression that we disagree with Russia on so many serious issues that this vote can be barely of much importance both in our and their discourse.”

In the past, however, Kharatyan explained, Armenia’s policy was to—if not support, at least not antagonize Russia at international platforms. So prior to this year, Armenian delegates even once resorted to “bathroom voting:” leaving the room before the vote to avoid voting for or against the proposal. 

Now, he said, several “circumstances” led Yerevan to change its vote this year.

“There are several circumstances: First, in Armenia, after Artsakh [Karabakh] people were forcibly displaced, the matter of the refugees’ return has changed. Second, Armenia is supporting Georgia more directly, and, third, Armenia is no longer afraid to make decisions against Russia, in a multilateral space…This is the first that we ever voted for the resolution, and that means to be directly against Russia. … I am happy that Armenia voted for the resolution.”

Kharatyan underscored, however, that the vote was more important for Georgia and the ruling party than Armenia.

“It is very important for Georgia that the states in the region support it, but that also depends on which media you read. ‘A historical event happened’, I am confident that was the headline used by the pro-government media, because relations with Armenia are very important for the Georgian government,” he said. “Armenia is perceived as a state that is on the path to democracy, and taking into account the internal developments of Georgia, it is important for them [the ruling Georgian Dream] to have good relations with Armenia, and the fact that Armenia supports Georgia in this particular case… gives them additional legitimacy. It might seem surprising, but that is how it is.”

Kharatyan added that closer relations with Yerevan are particularly important for the Georgian Dream in the context that it has the support of Armenia, “the most pro-Western country” in the region—one that is in conflict with Russia. 

For many years, Georgia proudly wore the label as the region’s most “pro-Western” country. It was the first to receive EU candidate status and was widely anticipated to start accession negotiations in 2024. The Georgian Dream’s anti-Western trajectory took a sharp turn in April, however, when the party revived the “Foreign Agents’ Law,” a Russian-inspired piece of legislation designed to undermine civil society and independent media. In response, Georgia’s traditional strategic partners—the EU and the United States—have threatened the ruling party with sanctions and some EU members have proposed suspending Georgia’s visa liberalization regime or even its EU candidacy.

Even as the Georgian Dream has been distancing itself from its traditional, Western partners, however, it has taken pains to publicly align its policies more closely with China, Iran, as well as Armenia and Azerbaijan. Kharatyan noted the signing of a strategic partnership between Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and then-Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili earlier this year. 

But he cautioned that Yerevan is also concerned about the Russian-inspired law, adopted in May, and the Georgian Dream’s anti-West trajectory. 

In Armenia, we are also concerned about what is happening in Georgia. I believe Georgia remaining faithful to the integration processes with the democratic West is important for us because if we ever have deeper relations and cooperation with the European Union and the West, it will be very important for us that Georgia remains faithful to that path,” he said. 

Kharatyan noted, however, that he remains pessimistic about Georgia’s democracy in the short term.

I am happy that Armenia voted for the resolution. That means that conceptual changes are happening, but we still need to be consistent… we will see of course how it will develop,” he said. “[T]he situation [in Georgia] is really bad, and it will get even worse. I do not believe that Georgia will turn into Belarus, it is not possible, but that the situation might stay in the hybrid way for some time, that is for sure.”

In any event, he underscored that good bilateral relations between Armenia and Georgia are important, noting there has been concrete progress bringing the countries closer since the strategic partnership was signed this year. 

“[S]starting a strategic dialogue with Georgia in February this year is very important…For instance, it is now possible to travel with Georgia with domestic ID cards, which means that we are creating common databases,” Kharatyan said. “Those are security-related issues, meaning they tend to raise confidence. In the institutional sense, the deepening of the cooperation of the states is very important and this kind of vote [in the United Nations General Assembly] can also contribute.”

Arsen Kharatyan is the founder and editor-in-chief of Armenian-Georgian media-platform Aliq Media. He served as an advisor on foreign policy issues to Armenia’s Prime Minister during the first 100 days after the Velvet Revolution of 2018.

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