Geopolitics of the South Caucasus: conference minutes

“You have chosen to address very difficult questions … What you are doing, as a think tank, addressing these pressing and complex issues and putting in touch the people who think and the people who do – it is very important. Congratulations to the organisers and to this high-quality gathering of panelists and listeners for a lively and positive discussion.”

Henry Zipper de Fabiani, Ambassador (r)
Senior advisor on international affairs
Oeuvre d’Orient, Aesma Group, Hestia Group

Did you miss it? On April 28, and its partner Caucasus Initiative held their first joint international conference, “EU-Russia: Overcoming the zero-sum game in the South Caucasus?”  (full program here) at the Sorbonne University in Paris.

The South Caucasus, a region at the very intersection of the Eurasian and the Euro-Atlantic communities, is both a central and non-salient item of the relationship between Russia and the EU. It is a complex region, riddled with challenges and tensions but also a dynamic region rich in opportunities. Because of its – discrete, but pivotal – geopolitical significance, the South Caucasus republics’ agency in shaping their own destiny is often understated, and reduced to a choice between two “blocs of influence” or ideological communities. Last Friday, we put Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan back to the centre of a multilateral, multi-stakeholder discussion.

Watch the opening statement (or scroll down for other abstracts):

Opening statement by Morgane Fert-Malka, co-founder of, co-organiser of the conference

In the first academic presentation, Sophie DEYON from the think tank Caucasus Initiative, presented the results of her field research on Syrian refugees in the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh and their political instrumentalisation in support of the separatist entities (scroll down for further abstracts):

Sophie DEYON (Caucasus Initiative), on the instrumentalisation of refugees in the South Caucasus

Following Ms Deyon’s presentation, the centerpiece of the conference was a high-level debate with Nicu POPESCU (EUISS), Sarah PAGUNG (DGAP Germany), Tatevik BIJOYAN (HSE Russia), and Laurent LEYLEKIAN (Eunoos Public Affairs), moderated by Randolph Wallace RHEA (Centre for Peace Studies, UiT Norway). Despite the unfortunate lack of Azeri panelists (who were invited too late to be able to make arrangements), the roundtable was very successful. The panelists managed to identify and address the most important issues, to structure the problem in a workable way and to propose concrete directions. Some common misconceptions were corrected and avenues for future discussion were highlighted. The audience then engaged with and challenged the speakers, creating a rich discussion in a mutually respectful and positive atmosphere.

Rountable: “Old and new geopolitical actors in the South Caucasus: influence, peacekeeping and risk reduction”. From left to right: Laurent Leylekian, Sarah Pagung, Randolph Wallace Rhea (moderator), Tatevik Bijoyan, Nicu Popescu.

Finally, Sophie CLAMADIEU from Caucasus Initiative presented on the potential political consequences of the legal recognition of Abkhazia by the international community, sparking a lively debate during the Q&A:

Sophie Clamadieu (Caucasus Initiative), “Geopolitical and Legal consequences of the recognition of Abkhazia” and Caucasus Initiative would like to thank all participants for this successful conference. See you at our next event!

To read the full conference program, click here.

Photo gallery (Google Drive)

Full video recording (YouTube)

This event was organised by Morgane Fert-Malka, Juliette Faure, Mihail Presle, Benjamin Hirsch ( and Michael Lambert (Caucasus Initiative), with support from Sorbonne Universités, Sciences Po Paris, Human Faces of Conflict, University in Tromsø and Aesma Group. Barbare Asanidze, Andrey Birg, Bettina Richman, Eliis Otti and Michail Schuch participated in the organisation.

To contact

To contact Caucasus Initiative:

See also: 

“Can the EU and Russia work on a common strategy for the South Caucasus?” –’s framework research project

J. Faure and M. Fert-Malka (ed.), B. Richman, M. Schuch, A. Birg, E. Otti, B. Anidze (authors) “Situational analysis: EU and Russian influence in the South Caucasus” – report (forthcoming)

M. Fert-Malka and M. González-Piloyan (, “The Eastern Partnership in the South Caucasus: a case of flawed EU policymaking”,  Armenian Journal of Political Science, 1(4), 84-91, 2016

From our partner Caucasus Initiative: 

CLAMADIEU Sophie, LAMBERT Michael, “Du Kosovo à l’Abkhazie : L’utilisation de la reconnaissance étatique comme élément de guerre hybride”, Sécurité Globale, France, To be published November 2017.

LAMBERT Michael, “Quelle stratégie pour Moscou vis-à-vis des Etats de facto pour donner naissance au processus de Guerre hybride ?”, On Track, CDA Institute, Canada, 2016.

CLAMADIEU Sophie, DEYON Sophie, LAMBERT Michael, “L’Abkhazie tente d’attirer l’attention de la Communauté internationale”, Institut de Relations Internationales et Stratégiques (IRIS), France, 2016.

CLAMADIEU Sophie, DEYON Sophie, LAMBERT Michael, “Le Kremlin renforce sa présence militaire en Abkhazie et menace l’équilibre dans le Caucase”, Institut de Relations Internationales et Stratégiques (IRIS), France, 2016.

LAMBERT Michael, “Les réfugiés comme nouvelle arme de guerre”, CDA Institute, Canada, 2016.

LAMBERT Michael, “Entre géopolitique et Droit des peuples à disposer d’eux-mêmes : l’épineuse question de la reconnaissance du peuple abkhaze par l’OTAN”, CDA Institute, Canada, 2016.

LAMBERT Michael, “Les stratégies arméniennes pour garder le contrôle du Haut- Karabakh”, On Track, CDA Institute, Canada, 2016.


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