Georgia Positions Itself as Mediator Between Armenia and Azerbaijan

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 20 Issue: 175

(Source: Prime Minister of Georgia)

On October 26 and 27, Tbilisi hosted the fourth annual Silk Road Forum. The forum brought together about 2,000 guests from 60 countries to discuss global economic challenges and prospects for cooperation (,  October 26). International interest in the event skyrocketed after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, which has upended major routes for east-west transit. The conflict has elevated the South Caucasus as a potential hub for trade between Europe and Asia. Georgia, in turn, has elevated its position as a regional leader in facilitating economic cooperation and a potential mediator in peace talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

The theme of this year’s forum, “Connecting Today Resilient Tomorrow,” reflected efforts to reach a lasting reconciliation between Armenia and Azerbaijan following Baku’s lightning military operation to restore full sovereignty over Karabakh (see EDM, September 20;, November 1). The first high-level talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia since then took place on September 19 and 20. Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashivili served as the mediator in the meeting between his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts, Nikol Pashinyan and Ali Asadov, respectively  (ARKA, October 27).

Pashinyan’s panel comments made headlines and represented an important step in normalizing relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia. The Armenian premier presented his plan, “Crossroads of Peace,” for improving regional communication and cooperation, including the opening of seven custom checkpoints on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and two on the Armenian-Turkish border. Pashinyan also presented plans to construct some of the missing links in the regional railway network. According to Yerevan, all regional infrastructure—roads, railways, and pipelines—will be under the sovereignty and jurisdiction of the countries they pass through (Turan, October 26). Pashinyan emphasized that open roads are necessary for the South Caucasus to attain a lasting peace and that the project “will benefit all countries of the region.” Baku noted that, for the first time, the map used in the presentation followed Azerbaijani toponyms, which highlighted a possible reconciliatory tone from Yerevan (ARKA, October 26).

Pashinyan’s choice to present the plan in Tbilisi seemingly signals an openness to Georgia’s mediating role. As some experts have noted, Georgia is the best positioned to play the role of an unbiased mediator—a role that has been discussed for quite some time. In the past, Georgia has been the site of major public diplomacy projects that involved hundreds of peace activists, experts, and journalists from Azerbaijan and Armenia. During the 44-day war in 2020, the Georgian government, on several occasions, expressed its willingness to negotiate a ceasefire (, September 30, 2020).

Baku supports Tbilisi taking the lead in facilitating peace talks. During his visit to the country in early October, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev claimed that Georgia is “the most correct option” in hosting negotiations in response to Garibashvili’s offer to be a mediator. Aliyev emphasized that this approach would contribute to the peace and prosperity of the wider region (Aze.Media, October 10). The Georgian premier reiterated his country’s commitment to facilitating peace talks following the trilateral meeting at the Silk Road Summit (Hetq, October 27). In the immediate aftermath of the Garibashvili-Aliyev meeting, the Armenian side expressed its skepticism regarding the “Tbilisi platform,” mentioning other mediators, notably the European Union. Pashinyan’s latest remarks, however, seem to indicate that Yerevan’s position has changed, especially given the canceled meeting in Brussels.

Tbilisi is genuinely invested in Azerbaijani-Armenian reconciliation, as it has much to gain from regional peace. Sustainable stability will reduce Russian influence over the region and boost Georgia’s security. The Georgian government’s development strategy has relied heavily on joint projects with Azerbaijan and Türkiye. As a result, both countries have invested much in Georgia’s security and reaped significant economic benefits as a result (, October 11). In the case of reconciliation, Armenia might also become more involved in regional cooperation, which would facilitate economic growth, improve the region’s investment prospects, and enable the countries of the South Caucasus to fully capitalize on the transit and trade opportunities arising from the West’s sanctions on Russia (see EDM, September 19).

Georgia is also home to significant Azerbaijani and Armenian minorities. These groups constitute more than 10 percent of the country’s population (Indexmundi, accessed October 29). Their bicommunal settlements in southern Georgia also provide inspiration for confidence-building and peaceful coexistence. Moreover, Tbilisi’s successful mediation between Baku and Yerevan could significantly boost its international reputation and perhaps push the global community to take its calls for the reintegration of Abkhazia and South Ossetia more seriously.

Tbilisi is one of the few possible mediators considered acceptable by both Azerbaijan and Armenia. Baku has consistently supported the idea of resolving regional issues with regional solutions (see EDM, October 25). Azerbaijan has been disappointed by some Western countries’ approach to conflict resolution in the South Caucuses. Many in Baku worry that these governments have been heavily influenced by the Armenian diaspora and geopolitical considerations of certain countries (e.g., France) that have taken a biased anti-Azerbaijani stance. Georgia is an ideal compromise. Tbilisi fits well with Baku’s traditionally balanced foreign policy aimed at keeping equidistance from centers of power and could help prevent the peace process from falling victim to geopolitical polarization (see EDM, February 14).

For Yerevan, negotiating peace through Tbilisi can be seen as the “lesser evil” among possible mediators. Entrusting Georgia, a historically Christian country, will once more emphasize that the Karabakh conflict should not be treated as part of the proverbial “clash of civilizations.” Armenia has had a falling out with Russia in recent months, making Moscow an undesirable mediator (see EDM, September 19). As Pashinyan becomes more focused on finding regional solutions, that may also mean Brussels and Paris will become less attractive as interlocutors.

The time may finally be right for Georgia to mediate between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Tbilisi stepped in intermittently in the past. In June 2021, Azerbaijan handed over 15 Armenian servicemen to Armenia and Yerevan sent maps of minefields to Baku via Tbilisi’s mediation (Hetq, October 27). On September 25, 2021, Garibashvili stressed that Georgia stood ready to host an international gathering in Tbilisi to discuss the prospects of the Peaceful Neighborhood Initiative (Georgian Institute of Politics, May 11, 2022). In July 2022, the Georgian government hosted a meeting of the Azerbaijani and Armenian premiers in Tbilisi. Georgia has not been the central mediator thus far due to geopolitical considerations, as both Armenia and Azerbaijan had hoped to involve major powers to pursue their respective positions and potentially gain certain advantages. As the international community becomes more focused on the large-scale conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza, the importance of regional actors like Georgia in facilitating peace will continue to grow.