“Snatching the maximum from Armenia”: opinions on the escalation on the border with Azerbaijan
Armenian-Azerbaijani escalation in Sotk
Tensions remain on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. On May 12 the Armenian Ministry of Defense reported in the afternoon that the Azerbaijani Armed Forces again violated the ceasefire in the direction of Sotk by using a UAV. Two Armenian soldiers were wounded. Then shelling of Armenian positions was reported around village of Kut, Gegharkunik region, at about 16:50. As of 20:00, units of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces continued shelling Armenian positions located in the Kut and Sot directions.
Armenian analysts believe that the escalation is an instrument of pressure on Yerevan before negotiations, the purpose of which is to achieve additional concessions. Azerbaijanist Tatevik Hayrapetyan explains the logic behind the actions of the Azerbaijani authorities as follows:
“They say we are going to negotiate, then they change the situation on the ground, and then change the nature of the talks.”
On March 11 the Armenian Defense Ministry reported an intensive shelling of its positions in the direction of Sotk from artillery and mortars. The ambulance transporting the Armenian wounded was also fired upon. Four Armenian soldiers were wounded. Azerbaijan reported on May 11 one dead and one wounded. After noon, the situation had relatively stabilized. However, in the evening, the Armenian Defense Ministry again reported shelling from the Azerbaijani side using mortars and artillery in the direction of three border settlements. There were no significant ceasefire violations during the night.
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“High risk of larger military action”
Azerbaijan expert Tatevik Hayrapetyan says that Baku is resorting to escalations to change the content of the negotiations and advance its interests:
“When Azerbaijan understands that, for example, Armenia is ready to recognize Artsakh as part of Azerbaijan, and the Armenian authorities openly declare this, Azerbaijan thinks of how to snatch even more from Armenia.
“There is a high risk that after the elections in Turkey, in the event of a possible re-election of Erdogan, Azerbaijan will undertake more large-scale military operations.”
On May 14, the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan will meet in Brussels through the mediation of the head of the European Council, Charles Michel. Five-party talks are scheduled for June 1 with the participation of the President of France and the Chancellor of Germany. Negotiations are planned with the mediation of Russia. On May 19, a meeting of the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan is scheduled in Moscow.
“Azerbaijan intends to take over the gold mine in Sotk”
This is the opinion of MP Tigran Abrahamyan, secretary of the opposition parliamentary faction “I have the honor”. Reminds that Baku began to interfere with the work of the mine a month ago. According to him, the Azerbaijani side is trying:
- to shut down the mine,
- take full control of the mine.
In his opinion, having gained full control, Azerbaijan will try to use the mine both to meet the needs of its own economy and to “create a more difficult military situation”:
“These heights are very important, the control of Azerbaijan here can create a much more difficult situation in this direction.”
According to the deputy, it is also problematic for the Armenian side that Azerbaijan is trying to present Vardenis and a number of other settlements in the Gegharkunik region as the so-called “historical Azerbaijan”.
“I think this is being done not just for the sake of propaganda, it is preparing the ground for resorting to aggression in this direction at some stage,” Abrahamyan asserted.
“Azerbaijani statements do not convince mediators”
From Azerbaijan they report that “Armenia went on a provocation”, and this became the reason for the shelling of Armenian positions. Political scientist Tigran Grigoryan says that even in Azerbaijan such statements are not taken seriously. He believes that they do not convince the countries mediating the negotiations either:
“Baku’s attempts to legitimize its actions are failing. It is clear that with the existing military-political balance, Armenia logically cannot take such steps. Armenia does not have such opportunities to escalate the situation or try to get some dividends by escalating the situation on the ground.”
He also believes that the purpose of the escalation on the eve of the negotiations is to put pressure on Yerevan, to force Armenia to make concessions on the main issues on their agenda.
“EU monitors could not react in any way”
Commenting on Azerbaijan’s actions around Sotk, Deputy Foreign Minister Paruyr Hovhannisyan said that the mission of EU civilian observers deployed on the Armenian border to monitor the situation could not react in any way. It acts within its mandate, that is, regularly visits the border areas and prepares situation reports:
“Their presence is already an investment in terms of improving the situation. This creates a psychologically safer atmosphere at the border.”
The diplomat said that escalating tension prior to negotiations is “not a new way of doing things for Azerbaijan”:
“I have been working in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 1995 and I do not remember a single round of negotiations without such provocations before or after the meeting. Unfortunately, such a tradition has developed.“
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Armenian-Azerbaijani escalation in Sotk